By Lydia Millet
I heard Millet was a funny writer to watch out for, so I picked up a used copy for a read n’ see. It was amusing for sure, but it mostly felt like the novel was trying to be a quirky indie film (perhaps directed by David O. Russell) about a bunch of disparate oddballs n' freaks in L.A. who humorously intersect in one way or another. The main character, Dean Decetes, a porn flick reviewer (as well as chronic masturbator and loser), reminded me too much of Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, with his unkempt appearance, penchant for lofty language and delusional god complex.
And Dean’s living and freeloading off of his devout spinster sister, Bucella, is a setup very similar to Ignatius’ relationship with his poor, Irene. Dean is always getting himself into trouble and/or embarrassing her with his drunken rampages, and Bucella is getting tired of looking after her younger brother. There’s only one little tender exchange between Dean and Bucella, where he tries to convince her to bail him out one more time by reminding her of how, when they were little, he used ro sneak food to her when their abusive father locked her in the bathroom for two weeks. That was one of few genuine emotional moments in the novel.
But overlooking the somewhat hackneyed setup and borrowed influences, Everyone’s Pretty is a light quick entertaining read with some genuinely funny moments. Dean Decetes may talk like Ignatius Reilly but the words that spew from his mouth are pretty clever. Take the scene where he’s arrested for drunk driving, and while sitting in the back of the police car, he attempts to converse with the rookie about value systems:
-Are you of the Pentecostal persuasion? he asked. –Your brother or father handle snakes? Snake-handling in the family? I handle one myself. Frequently.
Millet also loves to poke fun at religious ignoramuses, such as Philip Kreuz, Bucella’s coworker at Statistical Diagnostics. A misguided Christian Scientist who married a dim-wit for the purpose of converting her, Phil has some very laughable views about Catholics (notoriously flighty and given to weeping and gruesome depictions of the Crucifixion), the Three Tenors (he would not be surprised if the one with the beard soiled innocent children on a regular basis… too fruity even for the other Sodomites), and Murder She Wrote (a virtual Gomorrah of prime-time indecency in which females far past their prime rudely rejected appropriate modes of behavior and seldom if ever acknowledged their spiritual debt to the savior).
I read in an interview that it was Millet’s desire to make Dean Decetes sympathetic despite his outrageous defective character traits. The problem is that I failed to identify with any of the characters. All in all, it made for an amusing but ultimately forgettable read.