Bob Smith’s New Novel, Remembrance of Things I Forgot, is Superb.

Posted on June 9, 2011
Filed Under Book Review, Strong Recommendation | 1 Comment

What is it about time travel that is so attractive to us?  Is it nostalgia?  Or is it the existential desire to free ourselves from time–the one element that defines our life experience as finite?  For Bob Smith, author of the just published novel, Remembrance of Things I Forgot, the answer seems to be, quite simply: the desire to fix things.  When the main character, John Sherktson, accidentally finds himself inside a time machine wittily labelled the Finney Room he makes the decision to transport himself back to the mid-nineteen-eighties, in order to stop George W. Bush from being president and to prevent his sister from committing suicide.  It says something about the quality of Mr. Smith’s writing that he manages to somehow balance these two: historic political satire and compelling family drama. Because while there is no denying this is all a lot of fun–the plot to entrap a young George W. Bush in a photographed sex act is delightful–the primary motivation of John is serious.  For this queer reader, the net result is a novel that is frequently humorous, a genuine page-turner and surprisingly moving.

As queer readers will recall, Mr. Smith is the author of the humorous novel, Selfish and Perverse. He was also the first openly gay comic to appear on the Tonight Show.  And he wrote for MadTV for a few years.  In short, he is a very funny man.  And he has fun with the idea of time travel.  As when he explores the idea of flirting with his twenty years younger self.  Yes it’s easy to crack up someone who you know will definitely get all the jokes.  But that doesn’t make it any less fun.

This is is a rare novel in that it gets better as it goes along.  As the novel progresses, more characters are introduced and they are all well-rounded, complex and yes, frequently funny.  I particularly enjoyed John’s mother, whose sense of humor is skeptical, even cynical.  Her aversion to politicians is summed-up succinctly:

Politicians.  Sometimes I think we need freedom from speeches.

His conspiracy theory-believing father is also very interesting.  And Mr. Smith renders John’s Republican boyfriend as a multi-faceted character.  He may be a Republican, but he’s also a mensch. And there’s always the possibility that something might happen in the book that will actually prevent him from becoming a Republican. We can always hope. And that’s what this novel is all about: hope.

I strongly recommend this book.

Bob Smith’s new novel Remembrance of Things I Forgot is published today.

University of Wisconsin Press.

UPDATE July 18, 2011:  Check out the new promotional video for this book.   One of the many highlights: Lea Delaria reading the Dick Cheney part.

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