Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgotten Books: Baby, Come On Inside by David Wagoner

David Wagoner is a celebrated poet who has written a number of novels. My favorite is Baby, Come On Inside for the simple reasons that it's so instructive aout the male ego. It also deals well with the spiritual meaning of the so-called mid-life crisis.

The fifty-year-old pop singer Popsy Meadows couldn't exist today. He's a lineal descendent of Sinatra and all the other bar room crooners who came after. But back when the book was new in 1968 crooners could still be seen all over TV variety shows and making major bucks in Vegas.

Popsy has big problems. He's afraid he's losing his voice and he's sure he's losing his mind--the booze has caught up with him and he finds it difficult to remember exactly what has been happening to him. Desperate, he returns to his home town in search of The Perfect Girl and to resolve his bitter relationship with his parents.

Popsy rents the entire floor of a hotel and invites many of his show biz friends--including some of his wives--for a drunken binge that will certainly never be forgotten by this burg. Wagoner deftly finds the sorrow in all the excess as his foolish and forlorn Popsy attempts the impossible--to not be so "Popsy" any more.

For me the seminal scene is when Popsy goes to visit his parents in the dingy bar they run. The extended scene reminds me of a similar one in Jim Thompson's Texas By The Tale. Bleakness and anger played off the seeming frivolousness of much of the book. One critic at the time compared the novel to a Preston Sturges movie and that is an apt comparison.

I've reread this two or three times over the years and it always gives me pleasure. Wagoner knows almost too much about fractured people and how they delude themselves. He also knows how to show the reader a hell of a good time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David Wagoner pubbed a poem of mine too many years ago, and I knew he wrote fiction. I'll look for this one. Thanks for the heads up, Ed.

Ed Lynskey