Benjamin Cheever has a hard act to follow, but after The Plagiarist, his wildly funny first novel, any fair-minded person will compare him, not unfavorably, with that handful of established American writers of humor rather than with his illustrious father.
Arthur Prentice, a pathetically paid writer for a suburban newspaper, is the only son of Icarus Prentice, a cruel wit, an alcoholic, and a celebrated writer rather like you-know-who. He is also husband to Faith, a beautiful woman only marginally more sympathetic than Lady Macbeth. As soon as the opportunity arises, and he works hard to make sure it does arise, Arthur makes a Faustian pact and goes to work for The American Reader, a huge and sinister publication that bears a marked resemblance to Reader’s Digest. The machinations within the huge corporation, run by a generous but softheaded founder/dictator, are described with perception and humor. There are minor flaws in the ending, and Arthur’s devotion to Faith becomes unsympathetic. Nevertheless this novel is unusually well written and marks the debut of a major new comic writer. A-