Aug 14, 10
Read from July 17 to August 12, 2010
The Pint Man is the first novel by Steve Rushin, a former long-time columnist for Sports Illustrated. For anyone who read his columns, they knew of Steve’s love of wordplay. That love continues in Rushin’s first novel.
Like many first time novelists, Rushin writes what he knows, which usually makes the writing semi-autobiographical. Rodney Poole, the book’s protagonist, is clearly based on the author himself, a quiet but quick-witted aspiring writer. Rushin skewers this in fact in one of the best parts of the book when Rodney discusses with Mairead (rhymes with parade), his main love interest, how many of the protagonists in famous novels are aspiring writers. Of course they are, because the authors wrote what they knew.
Not unlike when I used to read his SI column, “Air and Space”, I sometimes found his word play a little self-indulgent. In fact I would have half-expected his main character’s name to be some anagram for Steve Rushin. The incessant wordplay does not take away from the humor, warmth and realness of Rushin’s writing however. Rodney Poole manages in just 259 pages to become a fully realized character, with both good and bad characteristics. And for anyone who has meandered through the confusing phase between adolescence and full-blown adulthood, Rodney’s trials and tribulations, ups and downs become endearing.
Those ups and downs include Rodney trying to find a job, since he is currently unemployed, seeing his best friend Keith about to move to Chicago and get married, and trying to court Mairead. Through those ups and downs, the constant in Rodney’s life is his local bar, Boyle’s, which he considers an important part of who he is and where he goes to celebrate the triumphs and commiserate the tragedies in his life. Of course, many of the constants in his life – including Boyle’s – go through a series of upheavals through the course of the book. Much of the change that results is good, no matter how much Rodney may initially rail against it.
As a New Yorker, I enjoyed the book on another level since Rodney lives in Manhattan, specifically the Upper West Side. Rodney visits places I know well, like the Strand bookstore and the Old Town Bar, as well as other places on the UWS I hope to also know soon having just moved to that neighborhood myself.