I have been a big Steve Rushin fan ever since I discovered his Air and Space column in Sports Illustrated. I became an even bigger fan when I found out that the short schlubby guy was able to talk to talk the statuesque Rebecca Lobo to marry him. That was when i knew his glibness went beyond just clever,
In this, his first book, Rushin employed his knowledge and passion for words and made words and language the centerpiece of his novel. The premise of the story does not sound promising. A story about an unemployed wordsmith, spending his substantial down time in his favorite bar, enjoying his Guinness and indulging in his word play games with the other denizens of the bar.
The story itself is rather thin and the characters were not all that well developed, except maybe for the main character: Roddy Poole and his love interest Mairead. Everyone else was dealt a short and compact history as well as the necessary accoutrements so that the story moved along at a pace that served the story.
The key to this book is what happens between the character development and the plot evolution: the space between the notes, the time between actions, the bassline of the tune. Rushin filled it up with ruminations and pontifications about words, logic, trivia, and anything else involving the English language. So much so that the conversations became the focus and the reason for reading. The structure of the conversations drew me back, time and again. The discussions of the random facts stand seductively on the pages, where as the usual centerpieces: the characters and the plot became the window dressing. It is a bravura performance of the usage of the English language while in an alcohol soaked environment.
I actually liked the book, a lot. The romance portion of the plot was sweet and vulnerable but the defining theme was a bit thin, but I didn't really care because the word, ah the words were so abundant, rich, and savory that I didn't much care about anything else. Well, actually I did care about the little romance. In the end Roddy Poole did end up getting his Rebecca Lobo. Just like in real life.
on April 27, 2010
I've been a big Steve Rushin fan for 20 years, dating back to his early years as one of Sports Illustrated's most gifted story-tellers. "The Pint Man" was my first experience reading Rushin as a novelist and I was not disappointed. He creates, more than ever, like a kid in a sandbox, with each pebble a letter and no limitations about what may be lurking behind the next pebble.
For laugh-out-loud humor, plot twists, engaging pop culture references, periodic etymological lessons, trivia fodder, and just plain-old mind-blowing wordplay, "The Pint Man" is a bulls-eye.
While, yes, it is a novel, it also serves as an encyclopedia, history lesson, trivia treasure trove, and insightful commentary on a wide range of fronts. And of the many masterfully told scenes here, perhaps my favorite parts involves a guy, and an act, by the name of "Hookslide."
Rodney, a thirty-something year old man who has not yet fully grown up, is in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. Six weeks ago, he lost his job in 'corporate communications' for Talbott's when he wrote a speech for the CEO of the company and missed what proved to be a very embarrassing typo, and his search for a new job can hardly be called serious. On the personal side, his best friend Keith is moving to Chicago to get married and start a new job. But happily, there is still one constant in his life, his favorite neighborhood bar, Boyle's.
"Rodney has read a book called The Great Good Place, by an urban sociologist named Ray Oldenburg, who coined the phrase "the third place" to describe informal public gathering spaces-bars- that are neither home nor job. Rodney had no work and home was a way station, where he kept his books and his bed. For him, bars were his first. Home was the second. There was no third."
Yes, Boyle's plays a very important role in his life and in this book, but it is not the only thing. He has all those books...
"He kept every book he has ever read. Until there were just too many, he had them all on shelves, their spines displayed as trophies, like the taxidermied heads of big game he had bagged."
And now he has met a smart, beautiful woman, Mairead, "rhymes with parade", who shared his love of wordy banter...oh yes, it may be love!
On the surface, this book is a glimpse into Rodney's life and the love triangle he is caught in, between his bar and this delightful woman he has just met. While that is a fine story, with some very amusing incidents, the real attraction for this reader is Rodney's love of words...palindromes and witty banter, puns and spoonerisms, and endless examples of amusing trivia.
"Some people have a mind like a steel trap. Rodney had a mind like a lint trap. It retained only useless fluff: batting averages, ancient jingles, a slogan glimpsed once, years ago, on the side of a panel van, for an exterminator ("We'll Make Your Ants Say Uncle") or a window treatment specialist ("A Couple of Blind Guys") or a septic tank specialist ("Doody Calls")."
A man who love crossword puzzles and puns, who actually reads books and, most of all, could write an essay on what makes a good pint of Guinness...he may just be the perfect man...lol
While this is Rushin's first novel, he is a very experienced writer. After graduating from college in 1988, he joined the staff of Sports Illustrated, where he was a senior writer until 2007. He has written three previous non-fiction books, including The Caddie Was a Reindeer, which was a semifinalist in 2004 for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. I suspect there is a bit of an autobiographical element to this book, at least in his love of Guinness and banter. I find Mr. Rushin a very amusing writer and I thoroughly enjoyed this wordy romp of a novel.
on April 8, 2013
Rushin has created characters a typical guy in his mid-thirties can easily spot, whether it's themselves or their friends. It's difficult to find a novel that holds my interest as a man which doesn't involve detectives or werewolves. Rushin does a good job with Rodney's thoughts, his reactions to women and his emotions up and down in his world in the dingy bar. Rodney quotes everything from TV lines to Faulkner and creates an intelligent character that's trying to cross that line between bro and man. Read it, you won't be dissapointed. If you're from the Tri-State are, you'll like it even more.
on June 10, 2012
The book arrived on time and in excellent condition; it appeared brand new, not once-read. I always enjoy Steve Rushin in SI and this story makes "his" NY neighborhood and cozy bar come alive for me.
on December 9, 2010
Steve Rushin has written a love story to a bar, or more properly, a right proper pub, or tavern. I kept thinking, while reading this little gem of a novel, of Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place," in which he coined the phrase, "the third place," to describe places like bars which are neither work nor home. It only seemed fitting that on page 117 Rushin cited Oldenburg, his book and the third place concept. Then he wrote of his unemployed, aimless, devoid of ambition but about to fall in love protagonist muse, "Rodney had no work and home was a way station, where he kept his books and his bed. For him bars were the first place. Home was the second. There was no third."
Rushin displays a delightful felicity for the English language. On almost every page he casts another pearl, leaving it up to the reader to determine how swinish he or she wants to be. Rodney is a good Irish Catholic, which means he goes to church occasionally when he is sober. His church is St. Brendan's. "He liked St. Brendan's for the same reasons he liked Boyle's (Rodney's local): the singing, the alcohol, the frequent invocations of the Lord's name."
That gives you a taste for the thing. It helps if you've ever fallen in love with a bar, but it's not necessary. You do need to understand how much fun it is to frolic in a field of words, though. Take, for example, a passage taken almost at random, "Tony suburbs. Whenever Rodney saw that cliche in a newspaper story about a place like the North Shore, he imagined a barbecue-aproned mafioso with that name: Tony suburbs. They could have called Tony Soprano that."
If you don't want to roll around in that selection of words, this book probably isn't for you. If it makes you nod your head in appreciation, then game on. You are guaranteed to chuckle, laugh, chortle and even giggle from time to time, and that's just from the word play. Who cares about the plot?
Actually, in kind of a departure for this sort of book, "The Pint Man" actually has a pretty good plot, which holds together right up until the end. Good on you, Steve Rushin.
on September 14, 2010
Steve Rushin has a magical way of weaving words into a story that combines wit with story-telling and humor with philosophy. A year's stay at a beer-can shaped dormitory (McCormick Hall) just across from the 'Lanche can have a profound effect on one's vision. The Pint Man is very entertaining and hilarious, but after the laughs are done you realize the story has a deeper meaning. The Pint Man is about the friendships and relationships that shape our lives and the spiritual manifestations that bind us together.
on March 13, 2010
If you've ever laughed out loud at an anagram, palindrome, pun, spoonerism, Wellerism or Tom Swiftie, or if you've ever bent your arm at a pub where everybody knew your name, this is the book for you.
on March 9, 2010
I do not normally review, but this book is like eating candy. you will laugh out loud on each page.
on March 13, 2010
What makes Pint Man great to read is the style, dry as an etching, sparse, elegant, literate, modest, cynical. Steve Rushin makes it look easy: paragraph upon paragraph of jokes, allusions, nicks and barbs held in more or less perfect control and tempo, creating a web of words that lay so lightly on the page, anchored by a couple of running jokes, a triple pun and a final perfect landing, like the Olympic gymnasts who come to earth without a tremor and an extra hop. And he knows how to tell a story.