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Light House Hardcover – June 19, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Light House is not a novel for the culturally illiterate. Its sentences loop with gratuitous references and even more gratuitous jokes, all courtesy of former Spy editor William Monahan. Now defunct, Monahan's former employer used to publish the monthly Spy List, a litany of random cultural phenomena, which induced hilarity in the initiated and left everyone else feeling cross. Thankfully, this fictional debut strikes a happier balance: that is, more hilarity, less crossness.

The protagonist, Tim Picasso, is a young artist of genius who stumbles into a life of crime. Excelling in his new career, he ends up stealing a million dollars from Miami kingpin Jesus Castro. Tim flees, finding his way to a Massachusetts bed-and-breakfast called the Admiral Benbow. Innkeepers George and Magdalene are thrilled to have such a handsome (not to mention paying) guest. And with the introduction of this loathsome couple, the author begins to fire with both guns: "Tall, lank-haired, bespectacled, George went shambling off toward the telephone in the lobby, wearing what Magdalene more or less privately thought of as his cuckold's cardigan." (That "more or less privately thought" is a typically snarky and attractive touch.)

The next batch of guests is a group of fiction workshoppers, with whom Monahan makes free. He mocks everyone in the book, but you get the sense that he really hates these literary pretenders. "Joel Josh O'Connor was a writer of moderate technical gift," we are told, "who was capable of imitating everything, no matter how various in style (which does not, week to week, denote uncommon range), that he had read in the last issue of The New Yorker." The Miami contingent appears on the scene soon after, and Monahan has a good (if racially insensitive) time sending up their thuggery. He does stray occasionally into his old, inside-joke territory: "'You shoot this guy, and I never respect you no more,' said Mr. Castro very seriously, in a line written in 1991 and published serially with cult success in 1994 without winning anything the way some people apparently did with it." This kind of thing makes most sensible people very tired. Still, by the time a nor'easter blows the lid off the place, Monahan's delightfully silly novel has earned its absurd, roof-raising conclusion. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Former Spy magazine scribe Monahan's satirical first novel is broad, freewheeling and scattershot. It's also very postmodern in a sometimes annoyingly hip, glib, Gen-X fashion; it's the quintessential antibildungsroman, detailing the nondevelopment of its 22-year-old protagonist, Tim Picasso. (Most characters here have similarly amusing--if unsubtle--monikers.) The book opens with a stale jab at political correctness and affirmative action: a brilliant painter, Tim is told by nitwit art professors that he's not "dispossessed enough" to get an art fellowship, so he turns to crime, stealing more than a million dollars from a sociopathic Cuban drug lord named Jesus Castro. Tim tries to lie low at the Admiral Benbow, a decrepit New England seaside hotel populated by a strange assortment of characters. Among them are pretentious innkeeper George Hawthorne and his stupid, horny wife, Magdalene; haughty but loopy writing-workshop-maven Professor Eggman; violently vindictive New York literary darling Glowery; redneck stereotype Edward Briscoe; and, of course, the murderous Jesus Castro himself, who has checked in under the unlikely nom de guerre of Wassermann. Soon, almost every type of hanky-panky conceivable is going on under the Admiral Benbow's shaky gables. Tim and Magdalene start up a silly affair, Jesus Castro engages in all-night s&m sessions with a dominatrix, and Castro's oily associate Cervantes is cornered and raped by the demented Briscoe. Between all these over-the-top shenanigans, Monahan has time for several pseudo-intellectual riffs (some funny, many simply facile) on everything from Joycean epiphany to Freudian analysis: "He wasn't actually commenting on the discontents of civilization. He was marketing new forms of discontent to the civilized!" Most of Monahan's observations are similarly arch and precious. Unfocused and sometimes smug, this novel may be enjoyed by those who like their satire lite. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (June 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573221589
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573221580
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,776,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Lighthouse kept me laughing out loud from the minute I picked it up until late the same night when I finished the book. I have long enjoyed WM's writings in New York Press and was happy to hear that he finally published a novel.
Lighthouse is a bizarre tale of Tim Picasso, the artist hero, who absconds with a bag of money belonging to a Miami drug lord. When everyone ends up in a dilapidated New England bed & breakfast, the result is a hilarious chain of events that gives no quarter to any of the pitiful characters.
It is truly refreshing to read a something that is so un-P.C. This is the best book that I have read in a very long time. Buy it, read it, laugh like hell. I can't wait for WM's next book.
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Format: Hardcover
This was an incredible piece of reading! All reviewers are correct...it is absolutely hilarious, in many ways. The funniest book I've read since Big Trouble (Dave Barry) and maybe even funnier.
It is about a cast of unlikely characters whose lives change dramatically one night at the Captain Admiral Benbow Inn. Each characters' life changes in a different way...although the circumstances leading up to each persons' change all affect how the other peoples' change, and well...it's just so brilliantly executed it's hard to explain, read it!
The character development is perfect...we get to see the lighter side of a wide variety of people, such as the artist Tim Picasso (basically the main character), the Miami drug runner/hitman Jesus Castro, the dysfuntional married couple Magdalene and George Hawthorne (also the innkeepers), the paranoid/schizophrenic writer Mr. Glowery (John Wong!), the mysterious guy in the lighthouse, Mr. Briscoe (who shows his true colors near the end....) and several others...
There are so many humor styles, one to fit everybody's humor "agendas...:" satire, slapstick, dry, witty, intelligent, crude, to name a few. One minute, you might be laughing at a witty literary reference, the next you'll be laughing at an explicit sexual joke, and everything between. Yes, there are some vulgarities, if you are too sensitive....you may be offended by parts. But do yourself a favor and give it a try, the rest of it is worth it.
There is never a dull moment...so many interesting and rioutous situations...from the Literary Workshop, to the Chinese Resaurant, to Briscoe's "escape" and more....leading up to a rousing ending, where there is an unlikely hero and characters go separate ways, and some interesting choices for "where they go!
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By A Customer on September 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Just when you thought modern fiction was going to be one interminable, anemic New Yorker short story, along comes William Monahan with guns blazing! He shoots down the foibles and pretensions of bloodless academics, Miami hit men, and all the rest of us with deadly accuracy. The characters and dialogue are so perfect that the defiantly wild plot is an extra added attraction. His rhythm is STARTLINGLY good ... Suddenly you remember what it's like to read a master of the lost art of writing. As we have, you'll find yourself collecting your own Monahan-isms...(gnome seign?) Whole sentences come back and make you laugh out loud in line at the bank. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK - You're in the hands of a REAL WRITER.
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By A Customer on October 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I cannot wholly recommend this book -- it's too esoteric and bizarre, too many over-the-head references for the average reader. I didn't enjoy the writing until about page 40 of the paperback when I read about the aquarium situation. Then I laughed out loud to the point of crying. I read and reread several passages here, just to laugh. I laughed out loud again reading George's drive through the storm description. The strange writing style lends itself to the hilarity of the characters' various fates -- awful fates. I cannot imagine how this novel will be translated to the cinema, but also cannot wait to find out how the big screen will capture this story.
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By A Customer on August 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Warning: Do not read this book on an airplane. I sat between a guy reading the new Grisham and a fat woman reading Danielle Steele and started chuckling,,,then chortling merrily...then tears fell wetly and then they both shot their hands in the air to hit the call button. The stewardess cut me off from my gin and tonics but Picasso and company carried on anyway. The only other time I've laughed gin out my nose was while reading A Confederacy of Dunces....on an airplane. Well, and A Fan's Notes,,,on a beach chair....well and early John Irving but back to Light House, it's smart, funny and so un PC you can't help but look over your shoulder. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the editorial meetings over this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't laughed out loud reading a book since A Confederancy of Dunces. May be a thin story line but the characters and situations are improbable and hilarious. I rarely read books a 2nd time, but this is on that list - knowing the story and the ending won't detract from the delight in the absurdity of the narrative.
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By Melanie on September 30, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With the air and chaos of Confederacy of Dunces and Catch-22, this book keeps you laughing with its love 'em/hate 'em characters, its constant turn of unpredictable events, and the frequent familiarity to one's own psyche. From the first page to the last, it reads like a polluted city river one can't wait to dive back into.
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