Review, Uncategorized

3. BLACK GUM By J David Osborne

First of all, let me just say the cover of this book is absolutely fucking sexy. It doesn’t just look good, it also feels good. When I first got the book, I kept touching it because it’s so soft and the print is prominent.

Anyway, book molestation aside, this is a pretty solid one. J David Osborne nails it once again, with his gritty, desiccated style, telling a story so engaging I finished it in two sittings (and that’s saying a lot as it takes me months to get through a book usually.)

Not to give away too much, this is about a man having the worst possible kind of rebound. A good man doing bad things in an act of desperation, ending up meeting the most complex, most interesting, and scariest kinds of people. It’s weird, sad, funny, and different. Imagine Mike Patton, but a book.

What I admire about it is that it respects the readers’ intelligence. There’s no tedious character introduction or in-depth description of scenes and atmosphere, because everything is already clearly established in the author’s head –it’s all raw and real, you’re right there where everything’s going on without the author boring you with minor, easily deducible details.

The only reason I’m giving it a 4.5 and not five stars is because the ending kind of fell flat. I was expecting some kind of climax but it felt so lukewarm that if there was one, I clearly missed it. Rounding it up to 5 on Goodreads though because 1) Holy shit, Danny Ames! and 2) This bit made me genuinely chuckle:

“What’s these teardrops mean?”
“Means I’m super sad.” –p.27




A journey into the life of Alexander Portnoy, peeking inside his head as he goes through the hilarious and yet tragic events of his life. Despite how aberrant the events were, I found them all too relatable. I believe whoever lived in a strict household, or an uptight culture that brainwashes its young, would easily relate to this. The protagonist diligently –beautifully, even– showed that no matter how big he got, how smart, and how respected, he was still too small. He was and always will be the dirty little kid his mother warned him of being, so much that he foreboded instant punishment or retribution for the tiniest of pleasures he sought.

Philip Roth is, to put it simply, a brilliant writer. His prose reminds me so much of Nabokov, except the dark humour is more abundant –he’s absolutely hilarious. The book even ends was a punchline, making it seem like the protagonist’s life, all his pains and tribulations, his dreams of salvation trying to find home as far away from his own as possible, all of this is just one sick joke. And how apt is that, considering it’s exactly what he had been thinking anyway.

If I were to describe this book in brief, I would say, imagine Gregor Samsa if he never turned into a cockroach, instead he’s living his whole life believing he is one monstrous vermin who one day will be exposed to the entire world. Portnoy is riddled with stifling insecurities, and yet he believes the world owes him something. He’s a narcissistic, envious, sanctimonious pervert, but I couldn’t help loving him.

Great book, highly recommended.