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Best Behavior Paperback – March 3, 2011
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About the Author
Noah Cicero is the author of The Human War (Fugue State Press, 2003), The Condemned (Six Gallery Press, 2006), Burning Babies (Parlor Press, 2006), Treatise (A-Head Publishing, 2008), and The Insurgent (Blatt, 2010). Since its release, The Human War has become a favorite of the literary underground and is being adapted to film. BEST BEHAVIOR is his sixth novel.
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Top customer reviews
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I really, really wanted to like this book. Given the author's literary background and the description of the book alone, I thought that this would be my kind of story. So I bought it. And I wish I hadn't.
Right from the get go, we are met with just boredom. The narrator just has no style to his words, no flair to his prose. We're just given a hum-ho perspective on his boring life, on his troubles and trials, on his thoughts of love and work. Anecdotes about friends and acquaintances are either too long-winded or have very little point overall. No anger. No hatred. Just dull.
Some of the remarks themselves were just wince-worthy upon reading them. I will give two examples (POSSIBLE SPOILERS):
p.25 - "She didn't feel like giving anyone her money. But she rationalized electricity and heat are important things and must be maintained to live a good life. (Yeah, duh.)
p. 66 - "Then she hit me in the d*ck. I bent over and held my d*ck. 'You punched me in the d*ck'". (Do we really need it said three times in a row? We get it.)
There's not a lot to get excited about. This was just a gigantic disappointment. I'm aware that other reviews of this book shower it with praise, but I can't see where any of it is coming from. I like my literature with edge, with bite. This had barely a nibble. On the back, the description of Best Behavior reads - "this is the literature of pain..." Yeah, definitely. Painful to read, and painful to live through.
We see many different facets of American behavior, each one equally as stunning as the next in its own way. We have Amanda crying as she writes checks to pay the bills. Fresh from earning a Masters Degree, she has emerged as a force in the white collar class, and the epiphany of her newfound responsibilities is enough to intimidate her as she realizes she grew up around mostly blue collar influence.
Then we have the old lady on the bus as Benny Baradat travels to New York for a photoshoot/interview feature for a popular alternative magazine. She regales Benny with stories of how picaresque and ideal her life once was until her husband, the love of her life died and she and her daughters 'dropped out' to do drugs to ease their pain. She's so sex starved that out of sympathy, Benny offers to finger her on the bus. The beautiful thing is that he follows through on his promise, despite the fact that he's not remotely attracted to her. A sad old woman and a sad young man, connecting through pleasureless sex is such an alien panacea for sorrow, but it works beautifully on the page.
There's The Big Smooth, a man with a taste for whiskey and a temper to match who has plenty to go around in both the height and weight department, but whom everyone loves, like one of those 'characters around town' which we've all known at one time or another.
Then there's Tom White, who greets Benny upon his arrival in New York and proceeds to diagnose the American sickness better than any psychotherapist, sociologist or author (except for Cicero, giving him lines, I suppose) has ever done. You'll just have to trust me that Tom White succinctly measures up everything that's wrong with America in roughly one chapter, but none of it is practical or applicable by anyone in politics.
Petra is the last fascinating character we meet in this fascinating masterwork of angst and ennui visited early upon a generation that is too self aware to ever really accept the mechanics of any given situation.
I would mention as a bonus that either right before or after the scene with Amanda realizing her newfound white collar identity, there is a really convincing argument laid out by a drunken female friend for Monopoly being one big power grab of sexual status. I couldn't argue with Marissa's logic by the end of that chapter, and I was sober when I read it.
I did not like the stuff about the people in the restaurants, Ive worked in restaurants, and i feel like in that part Noah didnt really say anything that was worth reading, but I do sympathize with him in terms of, i feel like i get why he wanted to write that stuff. I think its meaningful, it just doesnt translate to a reader so easily.
I liked the thing about monopoly, and the sexual relationships between people in the parts before NY.
I thought the scenes in NY were good.
I liked that scene when he was at the party, and that one girl came, but he was there with this new girl. I felt like I deeply identified with that scene and thought it was great.
Good Job Noah! I think anyone that gets past Youngstown (in the book) will enjoy this book.
Just now thinking
I wonder if that experience as a reader has any sort of analogous meaning to being in a town like Youngstown and going to New York. I feel like that is a strong aspect of this book. Wow. Cool
Most recent customer reviews
I loved reading the book and felt moved and alert at the end.Read more