HIM HER HIM AGAIN THE END OF HIM by Patricia Marx (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) 234 pages, $29.99 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Patricia Marx's hilarious first novel, Him Her Him Again The End Of Him, is proof of Woody Allen's adage that comedy is simply tragedy plus time. The novel's plot traces the lengthy and tragic off-again, on-again "romance" between the narrator (nameless throughout) and the pretentious Eugene Obello.
The two meet at Cambridge University and later reunite in New York City. There's something compelling, in a grotesque car-crash kind of way, about this dysfunctional love affair that has our supplicant heroine place herself in various humiliating circumstances, from moving upstairs from the newly married Eugene to becoming one of his many concubines.
Continually aware of the fact that she is debasing herself for a ponce, the narrator operates on the premise that once you lose a little pride, you might as well lose the whole shebang.
Like most comedies with primary and secondary players - everything from Shakespeare's Tempest to Will & Grace - the secondary characters are funnier than the mains.
The expansive cast of family and friends here makes the book a success. It includes the narrator's tae kwon do-ing, lobster-fishing roommate, Corby, and Obax, the narrator's university friend, who's intent on opening a creperie in Africa despite her academic accomplishments in the field of northern climatology.
A fast, fun, if frustrating read (this last thanks to the Eugene-crazed idiocy of the narrator), Him Her works best when Marx reins in her penchant for long, supposedly funny lists. Excessiveness and uneven pacing are the book's weaknesses - ironic considering that Marx, a former writer for SNL, ought to know that good pacing is essential for a good sketch, and that writers, like comics, should always leave the crowd wanting more.