"Goliath Gets Up" by Starbuck O'Dwyer

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As one gets further away from first-person narrator David “Dragon” Horvath in Starbuck O’Dwyer’s gonzo Goliath Gets Up, the characters become less and less real. And Dragon himself, although his heart is always in the right place, is a few cards short of a full deck when it comes to brains. Don’t look for the ordinary or the logical, or even the responsible, because they’re all missing from Goliath Gets Up. What this frenetically funny book has: a small band of down-on-their-luck adventurers, a Chinese-American woman who would be an eco-terrorist, a criminal lawyer with ambitions to be a stand-up comic (he’s terrible at both), and two geriatric women. One of these is the 87 year-old sex-crazed mayor of Rochester who wants to bring the Oscars ceremony to her Upstate New York city (along with gambling and prostitution), and the other is the narrator’s 102 year-old grandmother who wants to jump into the Genesee River and go over the High Falls in downtown Rochester.

Got all that? If it sounds ridiculous, it is, but author Starbuck O’Dwyer has done something remarkable. Early on, he fills his book with over-the-top one-line gags, but that style won’t sustain a novel-length book. So he transitions gradually away from the merely laugh-out-loud funny and lets the absurd premises flow to their inevitable conclusions. (I can’t believe I just typed that about this book.)

The plot revolves around some men in early middle age and stunted emotional development who agree, kind of, to try to stop the mayor’s evil plan to develop and corrupt a beautiful natural section of Rochester. Their strategy involves a major stunt at Rochester’s High Falls, which attracts national media attention. Along the way we have a writer of doggerel who’s on dialysis, an overweight man with discolored teeth who wears t-shirts that say “Have a Penis Day,” and who becomes engaged to a feminist college professor. We have a politician who employs loan sharks and hit men and an older couple named Biff and Beatie. I didn’t look for it, and so didn’t find it, but if the author included a disclaimer about characters and events not referring to anything or anybody real, it wouldn’t have been necessary. Nothing in this book resembles anything real, except for the greed, ambition, ruthlessness, and lack of any moral compass on the part of politicians.

This book was a 5-star finalist in the 2012 Indie Reader Discovery Awards humor category. That’s perfectly understandable. What’s harder to understand is that there was something funnier out there to win. Incessant humor, frequent misadventures, and a roaring climax – take it up if you dare!
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