Warning: seafaring metaphors abound in this book review!
Looking for a summer read? Go no further than Treasure Island!!! No, not the one by RLS,
although it drives the narrative. The series of exclamation points in this new title were put there by its author, Sara Levine.
In the first paragraph, the unreliable narrator grabs your lapels, backs you into a corner, and warns you that she’ll be sharing hilarious and unsavory moments of her and her family’s life while you watch the shipwreck in horror, bodies piling up on the rocks as wave after relentless wave crashes along the shore.
Also consider this: a large parrot named Little Richard speaking in commercial TV code—“It’s big! It’s hot! It’s back!”—figures prominently in the story.
“In the aftermath of my adventure, I decided to write down the whole thing, starting with my discovery of Treasure Island and keeping nothing back, not even the names of the friends and family members whose problems plagued me; and so even though I’d love to go into the other room and stab someone with a kitchen knife, I take up my pen—a nifty micro-ball which had been incorrectly capped and would have dried out had I not, at the crucial moment, found it and restored its seal.”
The narrator lauds how she saves the day for her friends and family at crucial moments, while we, the readers, witness the trail of wreckage this would-be adventure-craving swashbuckler leaves behind in the wake of her listing ship. Don’t bother throwing her a life ring.
Just watch this woman as she bails frantically, barely keeping her fantasy afloat.
The last time I felt so enthralled by such a deluded, but personable voice, I was reading Adam Haslett’s short story, “Notes to My Biographer,” in the collection you are not a stranger here.
The big difference? Haslett’s story is heartbreaking; Levine’s novel is pure entertainment. The jacket copy for Treasure Island!!! describes it as “intelligent, perverse, funny, relentlessly self-extricating, and merciless in its vivisection of family dynamics in today’s America.” I would give that copy a rubber stamp.
Want another example? Think Lorrie Moore without the poignancy; Levine does not channel the Lorrie Moore that makes you laugh and cry. But for sheer entertainment value, Levine’s Treasure Island!!! is a perfect read for the beach.