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Double Feature: A Novel Hardcover – March 19, 2013
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My first intro to Owen King. No disappointments. the story of a up and coming movie maker , with his trials and tribulations. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Stephen Degnim
I find it interesting that Stephen King's sons both became writers. But, only one uses the 'King' family name, and the one (Joe Hill) that DOESN'T is the better more interesting... Read morePublished 9 months ago by SusanLINY
Owen crafts a tale that has a good backbone but unfortunately its hard to determine which story is the most important. Is the the father/son relationship? Read morePublished 12 months ago by Joshua
First, I would frankly give this book 3 stars but when I saw that 44% of the votes gave it 5 stars it was obvious that a good portion of the vote was derived from Mr. Read morePublished 13 months ago by G. Goodman
I haven't finished but I'm enjoying it so far. I have admit I have to go back re-check and I don't mind doing it. It keeps me on toes!Published 14 months ago by Janell
My first novel by Owen King--it was slow to start but it did pick up and i enjoyed it.Published 16 months ago by Mary Axsom
Somewhere amongst the sex & family feuding in Owen King's "Double Feature" lies a pair of stories. the problem is they aren't much of them at that. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Paul L.