Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Reliable 21st Century Companion

Menopause Mana review of Menopause Man 
USA Today by Grady Harp


"Mel Mathews is a sensitive observer of the human condition, with an emphasis on the Male Human Condition of our time. He has created a character in Malcolm Clay that is a baby boomer Holden Caulfield, a variation on John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom, and he manages to take us by the hand and lead us through the bumpy terrain of current interpersonal relationships as well as anyone writing today.

"We first met Malcolm Clay in Mathews' first novel 'LeRoi' as a middle aged man trapped in a successful but boring occupation who becomes stranded in a dusty little truck stop where he is forced to slow his pace to adjust to the fertile characters he created there. Well, now Malcolm is living in Carmel, California, having been divorced, forgoing his childhood entrapping religious heritage, traipsing through many brief and physically oriented affairs while deciding to change his life as an alcoholic tractor salesman to that of a reformed AA writer ('..he didn't think anyone should be called an addict, alcoholic, codependent, or any other of the pathologized clinical diagnosis that propelled a person into another lie'). His existence is populated in this gorgeous coastline area of California by all manner of women and men whose connection to life is through tenuous strings tied to fairly shallow buoys. Most of the novel is conversational, with Malcolm discovering the intrinsic personality defects of characters ranging from his landlady Mrs. Shams to men on the make to physical therapist Jenny who manages to keep a physical distance between the lusty but controlled Malcolm and her fragile, purging diet, Zen-like self.

"What Malcolm discovers in this 'quasi-rake's progress' is his inner feminine 'who has been waiting for me to come for her so that she can breathe new life into me, animate me, and give me a new meaning.' Women 'never lied because of the devastating moral injustices it caused. Instead of lying, they just accidentally forgot to tell the important stuff'. All this is a journey so well written that the novel calls for pause to enjoy the sheer ebullience of the verbiage. Mel Mathews is a fine writer, finding his way through life in these times. He is a reliable companion on the trek we all are taking. And now on to the next volume in the series, 'SamSara', addictively!" by Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA)

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