Sunday, May 29, 2011

Laughing Out Loud

HEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward: I've been trying to review this book in a more sophisticated way than my initial response ("OMG, so funny!!!" does not really constitute a proper review). Few books make me laugh out loud in a "the guy next to me on the plane keeps looking at me like I'm nuts" way, but there wasn't much breathing room between bouts of cracking up as I read HEADS YOU LOSE. The premise is brilliantly metafictional and the execution flawless. Lisa and David are supposedly former romantic partners who have decided to collaborate on a mystery novel. Since they don't get along, their method of collaboration consists of alternating chapters. In between chapters, their email exchanges are included. It's hard to decide which is funnier; the increasingly messy murder mystery as the writing turns from collaboration to competition/revenge, or the hostile e-mail jabs between the co-authors (Lisa reminds David that he wouldn't be publishing a novel without her name THAT BIG on the cover; David mocks Lisa's grammar and word choice).

The mystery begins with siblings Lacey and Paul finding a headless body on their property. Since they grow marijuana, calling the cops is not an option, so they move the body...and it comes back. The metastory begins with a polite, civilized e-mail exchange, swiftly switching to pointed criticism (ostensibly of the written work, but clearly about their relationship issues) and outright hostility. The characters and plot of the novel suffer (to hilarious effect) from the co-author bickering. During one chapter, I laughed so hard I cried. Trust me, while the whole novel is funny, you'll know when you get to this particular chapter, a response from David to Lisa's exasperation with the unnecessary big words he throws around. Recurring disagreements are brilliantly teased out as Lisa kills off David's favorite character and David refuses to provide any explanation for a plane crash early in the novel. The characters snipe at each other in eerie echoes of Lisa and David's issues, and serious disagreements on the plot make for an increasingly bizarre novel-within-a-novel.

This book is funny. Go read it. And if you just can't get enough, the metafiction continues at the book website.

Source disclosure: I received an uncorrected proof courtesy of Penguin Group through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

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