9780385410373 / 0385410379

Gates of Eden


Publisher:Bantam Doubleday Dell



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About the book:

Even if it didn't contain a chomped ear and a decapitated head, Ethan Coen's debut fiction collection would resemble the horrifically giggly crime films of the Coen brothers (Fargo, etc.). You've got the bleakly realistic Midwest settings: a frazzled dad driven crazy driving his kids on a camping trip in "The Boys." You've got the minutia of the middle-class life captured down to the last speck of "abstractly speckled linoleum" ("The Old Country"). You've got comically incompetent thugs (Mafiosi spectacularly failing to bring Mob rule to Minneapolis in "Cosa Minapolidan," a college-boy boxer turned private dick in "Destiny"). You've got ghastly, amusing caricatures of showbiz moguls: the record-company guy soliloquizing in "Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland" could be as real as his allusions to the personal foibles of Cat Stevens and Danny Thomas. Above all, you've got a mockingly self-conscious yet vibrantly original style of pulp-culture homage and spoofy, sharp, vulgar dialogue like nobody else on earth can write, except Joel Coen (who cowrites movies with brother Ethan).

In print, Coen can show off a descriptive gift that can't fit into screenplays. His fiction is bright and never boring, but not ambitious--it lacks the obbligato of grim mystery and lyricism that throbs in some of his films. It's on the light side--more like Raising Arizona than Miller's Crossing. It's also the most penetrating glimpse into a Coen brother's mystery-crammed skull since the revealing The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film. --Tim Appelo

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