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Double Feature: A Novel Hardcover – March 19, 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Guest Review of Double Feature

By Dave Barry

Dave Barry has been a professional humorist ever since he discovered that professional humor was a lot easier than working. He has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City – his first solo adult novel in more than a decade!

I’ll be honest: The reason I agreed to review this book is that Stephen King asked me to. For 20 years Steve and I were members of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band consisting mostly of authors with severely limited musical talent.

Steve and I have spent many hours standing on a stage, enveloped in a thick thudding cloud of noise, frowning at each other’s guitars, each of us trying to figure out what specific chord the other guy was playing. We have also sung together on both “Teen Angel” and “Surfer Bird.” When you go through experiences like that with another person, you become friends.

So when Steve asked me if I’d consider reviewing Owen King’s first published novel, Double Feature, I said “Of course!” But I also said, to myself, “Uh-oh.” My concern was: What if I hate it? I’d still have to give it a nice review, even though that would totally compromise my integrity.

But then a really fortunate thing happened: I remembered that I have no integrity.

No! Seriously, the fortunate thing that happened is this: I read Double Feature. And I didn’t hate it. In fact I really, really liked it. I liked it so much that it sort of pisses me off – the fact that Owen King, who is something like 142 years younger than I am, is such a skilled, imaginative and complete writer. This is a well-wrought and thoroughly satisfying novel, which manages, at the same time, to be both moving and – this is what pisses me off the most – very funny.

It’s the story of a melancholy young man named Sam Dolan. Sam is the son of Booth Dolan, a career B-movie actor who always, when performing, wears a false nose (he has two suitcases full of them). Booth is big-hearted, shrewd, spontaneous and a wondrously flamboyant raconteur; many people love him. Sam, however does not: Booth has been a seriously unreliable parent, and a faithless husband to Sam’s mother, Allie (who loves Booth nonetheless, as do I, and as will you).

Sam is estranged from his father, but not the movies. We meet him as a film student determined to produce and direct a movie he wrote called Who We Are, which is financed in part by a wealthy but weird fellow student named Brooks Hartwig Jr. With heroic effort, Sam manages to get his movie made, only to discover that Hartwig has destroyed all the prints but one, which he has transformed into an entirely different, totally bizarre movie starring a spectacularly well-endowed college janitor who, among other things, has sex with a tree.

His dream dashed, Sam drifts away from filmmaking. When we see him next, eight years have passed, and he’s earning his living making wedding videos. We learn that the mutant version of Who We Are has, to Sam’s enduring anguish, become a big cult hit, a kind of X-rated Rocky Horror Picture Show that hipsters gather to mock-worship.

Sam can’t get away from the movie, and he can’t reconcile himself to its success. He can’t accept anything good happening to him, and therein lies the heart of the plot, which I won’t divulge further except to say that it is skillfully executed and never predictable. The characters are brilliantly quirky and non-generic, and (I’m saying this again because you really need to know) the story is just wonderfully, organically funny.

Owen King has a gift. I don’t know where he got it. But I can’t wait to read what he writes next.

From Booklist

When film-studies graduate Sam Dolan sells all his collectibles and maxes out every credit card he has to make his first movie, he intends it be a uniquely honest and realistic story about the disenchantment of lost youth. But things don’t work out quite the way he expects, and he abandons his directing dreams to sink into a disillusioned depression. He remains detached, continuing to view the world as though it were a film, but eventually is forced to deal with the things he has been avoiding, like his estranged relationship with his philandering actor father and his eroding bond with his younger half sister, by hiding behind the imaginary camera. Set in a world of B-movie actors and enthusiasts, King’s first novel, about facing reality and failed aspirations, is irreverent and ambitious. Its sweeping scope covers several generations in a humorous and cynical narrative that bounces between decades. Entertaining and thought-provoking, this captivating look at the ongoing process of becoming an adult will especially appeal to fans of the indie film industry. --Cortney Ophoff

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition first Printing edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451676891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451676891
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book so bad. It sounded like the perfect storm: a King writing a literary coming-of-age type indie book? Sold.
I gave it 100 pages before I stopped. The reading was slow-going because of the dense sentence structure. The timeline of events was absurd and confusing, and the character relationships were so forgettable I had to keep turning back and saying "wait, who is this person again?"
The reviews I read said this book was hilarious, and I guess I was disappointed that nothing struck me as funny.
The story is there, I think. I liked Sam, I felt his struggle and I started to get a feel for Booth, but the other pieces just didn't click for me. Maybe I'm giving up too soon - there's another 300 some pages left - but it just wasn't doing it for me. I don't mind doing some work as the reader, a la David Foster Wallace, but I need the promise of a payoff.
I GET he's not his father. I didn't expect a slick book, but I think it could have benefitted from a solid streamlining from an editor. Tighten up the prose, make the flashbacks more clear with line breaks, and cut a couple dead weight characters.
I'm interested to see what Owen King comes out with in the future. In the meantime, I'll move on to something else.
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Format: Hardcover
I fell in love with Owen King's writing while reading the stories in his wonderful collection, We're All in This Together. What I loved most about those stories was how they were at once these intimate portraits of flawed, fascinating, endearing characters, and, simultaneously, these wildly imaginative narratives that could lead anywhere.

For me, this book works the same magic, but on this huge scale. Sam Dolan's story is, on the one hand, completely intimate in how it's presented. King has created this terrifically rich, engaging, relateable, wonderfully frustrating, and ultimately inspiring character in Sam. His hang-ups, his longings, his struggles with his father's long shadow... all of this is masterfully, intricately depicted. On the other hand, the scope of the book - it's incredibly colorful cast, the layers of plot, the hilarious detours and fascinating informative bits, about everything from film history to baseball to crime show re-enactments... It's a book that's inspiring in both its expansiveness, and its deeply compassionate and brilliant character work.

Hilarious, searingly smart, with huge heart, DOUBLE FEATURE is easily one my favorite books in a long time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read quite a bit about this book before buying it. All were glowing reviews. I'm sorry. I just don't see it.
The story wasn't so much funny as anxious and annoying.
I can't really recommend this book because I got about two thirds through and still didn't care about nor like the characters.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book. It was well written, thoughtful, and funny. From the start I found the characters interesting. There is someone for everyone to identify with. When reading, I found myself chuckling and nodding my head often. I read the book straight through in 2 days. It was so good I simply could not put it down. I loved the way the book flowed. It seemed to undulate from past to present and back again. I am sure this was no easy task, but Owen seemed to do it effortlessly. I have tremendous respect for his talent and the way his literary voice shines through in this work. I have already recommended this book to many of my friends and family. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for such a clever and inviting writer! Well done.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't realize when I picked this book out at the library that the author is Stephen King's son. Once discovered, I tried not to let that influence my evaluation. It turned out to be relatively easy because although the literary gene certainly passed down the family tree, Owen has his own unique voice that stands aparts from his dad's creepy one. I enjoyed this novel, even if the pile up of coincidences at the end was a bit much. Sam, the hero of Double Feature, is a well developed character who keeps getting in the way of his own happiness. He feels short changed by his parents divorce, a father he both sort of emulates and is unable to connect with, the early death of his mother whose only sin was loving an unworthy man, and the mutilation of his directorial debut. You want Sam to move on, achieve some measure of closure, accept the imperfections of loved ones, make another movie, get the girl. But for much of the story he is determined to stick with the one thing he has mastered above all - the art of brooding. Enough quirkiness and amusement is scattered about the pages to prevent Sam's journey from feeling especially somber. The narrative often feels directionless, which may bother some readers but I don't find to be a negative trait in a book so long as the writing is strong and engaging. When someone is trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with the life they've been given, a certain amount of meandering about is inevitable. I was reminded of the movie Garden State, which is a good thing as I'm quite fond of that movie. Events of great impact have already taken place, an unknown future of vague promise lies ahead, but the moment at hand seems to mostly be about hanging around and waiting, no longer a child but perhaps not quite an adult, probably stalling.Read more ›
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