JUNK MALE by Brian Gallagher (Orion/ McArthur & Co.), 249 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
irish comic novelist brian gal-lagher needs to wake up. He's operating on automatic pilot, and it shows.Typically, his books hurtle along a trajectory of improbably events, many of them of the gross-out variety.
In his new release, Junk Male, Ellen pretends she's pregnant in hopes of fooling her child-resistant hubby, Joel, into having unprotected sex, but she can't get her hands on him. Joel's too busy trying to sell his precious saxophone, change his life and be the world's best dad.
He has to clean out their joint bank account to get to London to do that, but then he gets ripped off and now has no money and no future, which drives him to beg his old nemesis, Monk, to let him join his band. Monk, in the meantime, has just received a letter from a Czech jazz star trying to contact Joel to get him to do a dream gig. But Monk likes his power and tells Joel nothing.
Gallagher's plots are always triggered by characters who are hiding crucial pieces of information. If the information is disclosed, it's game over -- I mean book over, which is the problem. You keep wanting the people to just start talking to each other, and the fact that they don't means the novel hangs on characters and premises that feel completely fake.
Gallagher made that work for him in his previous novel, the gloriously mean-spirited Feng-Shui Junkie, which features, among other outrages, a jealous wife who turns her rival's goldfish into pâté. (Junk Male's equivalent is Monk's close encounter with some funky week-old meringues.)
But what was funny once is just irritating the second time around. Get real, man.