“Middle Men” by Jim Gavin (2013) – 221 pages
The basic story in “Middle Men” is about a young guy, kind of a goof-off and burn-out, living near Los Angeles today and trying to make a go of it somehow. The author, Jim Gavin, is young and lives somewhere around Los Angeles himself. The stories here are shamelessly funny yet they sting at the same time.
It is refreshing to read these unpretentious stories in the here and now, young guys living life as we try to live it today. There are a few woman writers who capture their current lives in fiction, but most of the male writers are off fighting wars, telling historical adventure stories, or reminiscing about their wonderful childhoods. Meanwhile the guys in Gavin’s stories are heading out to get lunch at the nearest Del Taco.
Jim Gavin had a story, “Costello”, published in the New Yorker a little over two years ago. For me, “Costello” which is the last story in the collection is the weakest story here. All of the other first six stories center on a young man, while this last story is about old Marty Costello and his plumbing salesman associates. It is not a bad story; it just doesn’t have that excitement of youthful immediacy which the first six stories have.
My favorite story is the longest one in the book, “Elephant Doors”. During the day, our young man hero is a personal assistant to famous game show host Max Lavoy. At nights our hero does ‘Open Mike’ stand-up routines at ‘El Goof’ comedy clubs around Los Angeles, hoping to catch on. This is a Hollywood insider story, one that gets under the mystique of the show biz world to what actually is going on.
“If you knew some of the jobs I’ve had.”
“I was a writer’s assistant on ‘Mr. Belvedere.”
“Jesus Christ”, said Adam.
There was a grim silence, as if Doug had just confessed his role in some infamous wartime atrocity.
“Middle Men” is a quick read. These stories barrel along, while our young heroes keep their good natures and their gruesome gleeful outlooks as the world collapses around them.
Jim Gavin has that self-deprecating sense of humor I somehow associate with the Irish. Why make fun of other people when you can make such fun of yourself instead? Besides if you ridicule your own life, it doesn’t seem so mean when you tell cruel jokes about those around you. What is a writer to do except to do as one of Gavin’s characters does, “to indulge in vile misanthropy one minute and false pleasantry the next”?