From Publishers Weekly
From one perspective, mail can be seen as merely the humble ebb and flow of letters, bills and advertisements. From another perspective, it is the cosmic principle of life itself: "Every datum is addressed with the name of its beloved: the pheromone finds its receptor, the dog roots out its bone, the sentence seeks the period at its end: and it is all mail." Lennon's protagonist, Mailman, aka Albert Lippincott, oscillates between this postal version of the sublime and the ridiculous. The novel unfolds from June 2, 2000, when someone on Albert's mail route, Jared Sprain, in Nestor, N.Y., commits suicide. On that night, Albert is caught by one of Jared's neighbors delivering a letter to Jared's box. The neighbor thinks there is something irregular about Albert's activities, and she is right: his dirty secret is that he reads, copies and sometimes doesn't deliver his mail. She apparently reports him, for Albert is suddenly taken in by Post Office inspectors for interrogation. After he is released pending further investigation, he skips town, heading vaguely for his retired parents' place in Florida. Lennon (The Funnies, etc.) lays out Albert's life in big blocks of introspections and reminiscences. Albert harbors a semiconscious sexual longing for his sister, Gillian, who is an actress; retains violent memories of his mother, a slutty singer, and more pathetic memories of his father, a chemist. Albert is sensitive to odors, subject to mental dissonance, angry, and feels alternately trapped and comforted by his routines. He's both Everyman and Nobody. As with one of Chuck Close's blown-up photo-realistic portraits, we feel both confronted and fascinated by Albert's sheer materiality. This is an intermittently brilliant text-with long, maddeningly tedious patches-and will surely be much noted this fall.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Albert Lippincott--Mailman--is an odd choice for an everyman character. A loner who reads the mail before delivering it, he's obsessive, depressive, and sexually confused. He struggles with the women in his life and fights with the cats they leave behind. The narrative begins with a letter delivered too late to a suicide and a woman who reports Mailman to the dreaded postal inspectors. As external events precipitate internal crisis, Mailman scrutinizes his past, searching for meaning in a world that tolerates him at best. Lennon performs a book-long balancing act, slowly letting us into this complex character's interior life. And Mailman is
a complex character: Is he misunderstood or is he a liar? Is he persecuted or justly punished? Is the lump under his arm a bruise or a tumor? Did he really try to bite out a professor's eyeball? But because his neuroses are rooted in hopes and fears we all understand, this mumbling, lurching oddball, this guy we'd all walk past on the street, becomes someone we know and care about--and maybe recognize in the mirror. Lennon's fourth novel is emotionally engrossing and intellectually stimulating, full of humor, pathos, and surprises. To choose only one word: magnificent. Keir GraffCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved