After charting his travels up High Sierran peaks and through the pipelines of Santa Cruz surf culture, Daniel Duane embarks on an adventurous new course with the novel Looking for Mo
. This charming update of The Dharma Bums
(minus the idealism) brings together an assortment of shaggy, recognizable characters who play out a late-20th-century California pastoral involving friendship, love, betrayal, and the redemptive qualities of the great outdoors. The action moves from San Francisco to the mountains, from "cedar-paneled sushi bars" to psilocybin-fueled Dead
shows--with Yosemite continually beckoning in the background. Protagonist Ray Connelly, barely self-sufficient and scrounging around the Bay Area, is on the verge of serious romance when his old doppelganger Mo pops up, a drifter-climber who happens to have an enviable knack for storytelling. Enviable to Ray, that is. Since their last adventures, Ray has been borrowing generously from his friend's oral history and shopping around a collection of stories. When Mo discovers the theft, there's trouble. What better way to hash out their differences than getting back on El Capitan, the climber's mecca that foiled them in the past?
Once on the piton-scarred face of El Cap, Ray must come to grips with himself as much as with Mo, a task as daunting as the monolithic rock itself. "This was it--the inevitable moment between us, when Mo was willing to risk everything and when a voice inside me insisted that nothing was worth death. I absolutely ached to let go, to be as confident and careless as Mo, but I couldn't. I didn't want to tempt fate that way--I wanted the risks to be no more than the ones I'd signed up for." Though some readers might be put off by the dude-itude of the characters and their exploits, fans of outdoorsy literature (not to mention observers of California Nation) will thoroughly enjoy this scenic rappel into an American subculture. --Langdon Cook
From Publishers Weekly
Duane returns to the heights of his nonfiction Lighting Out: A Vision of California and the Mountains, in a shaggy first novel that will do much to justify the ways of crunchy young Bay Area Californians to their indoorsy contemporaries back East. Amateur rock-climber Ray Connelly is hanging out in San Francisco cafes, avoiding rejection slips for his first novel, scoping fellow slacker Fiona (an artist who works in the local supermarket) and missing his adored best friend, Mo Lehrman, who, with typical knight-of-faith gusto, has set out for Baja with a surfboard strapped to his bicycle. Then, all at once, Ray gets together with Fiona, Mo comes back to San Francisco?and Mo's father (a veteran climber with California publishing connections) blasts Ray for stealing his son's stories. The upshot: Ray follows his buddy to Yosemite National Park, where he tries to win back Mo's respect and trust by scaling the dreaded rock face known as El Capitan. Although the subplots never come within shouting distance of each other, the details carry us along like so much climbing tackle: Ray's fondness for Mo overshadows his attraction to Fiona, but the friendship between the two women is romantic enough in its own right. The virtuoso rock-climbing passages never pull their thematic weight but will be dizzying to acrophobic readers; the characters don't show much imagination but do seem unmistakably true to life. If the whole doesn't quite add up to a gripping novel, it does give us an entertaining glimpse at an intelligently Epicurean way of life.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.