A new novel from Peter Mehlman
Coming September 2014 from Bancroft Press
Available at ONLINE RETAILERS and Bookstores Nationwide
“Anyone who writes for television gets frustrated that they can’t write like Peter Mehlman. Now he’s going to make novelists mad too. Mehlman’s writing style is completely unique, and creates an intimate bond between the narrator and the reader. You finish the book feeling as though you’ve made a new friend.” - Academy award-winning writer Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Social Network)
“The Peter Mehlman I met in person years ago cannot be the same Peter Mehlman who wrote this brilliantly funny, effortlessly insightful and unexpectedly moving book.” –Academy award winning writer/director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven)
“It turns out that not only can Peter Mehlman write funny television, he can write a funny book. Who knew?” - Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep)
“Peter Mehlman worked in sports for Howard Cosell, wrote legendary episodes of Seinfeld and now he’s written an amazingly funny and heartfelt novel. He’s unstoppable.” - Marv Albert, Sportscaster
In the crushing complacency of suburbia, mid-life crises pop in on men’s lives unannounced. For one Long Island podiatrist, it takes an impromptu act of vandalism just to make him aware of his own being. Walking home in the sub-zero wind chill of a Friday night, he stumbles on a bottle of horseradish and mindlessly hurls it through the window of a popular store selling over-sexed tween fashions. This one tiny, out-of-character impulse turns his life vivid and terrifying with waves of fear, crooked cops and suspicions of anti-Semitism, both accurate and paranoid.
All of this is told by a hysterical, endearingly wide-eyed and entirely nameless narrator, to the perfect audience: a comatose college friend. Yet, our narrator’s most unique quality lies simply in his glowing love for his wife Alyse, the girl of his dreams whom he met in college and still can’t quite believe he attained. She is the mother of his two children, Esme and Charlie, who are just starting to come into their own minds and first experiences with prejudice.
Prior to the bottle throwing incident, our narrator had just enough going on to keep him interested in his own life. Now he’s way too interested. Friends and neighbors push his new life of intrigue into wildly unpredictable places. This is especially true of nineteen year old Audra Uziel, a long-time patient whose plantar warts have given way to brilliance, rebelliousness, sexiness and a taste for happily married men.
And oh: Audrey also happens to be the daughter of Nat Uziel, self-proclaimed neighborhood patriarch business owner and owner of the store whose window the horseradish bottle smashed. Nat, always loudly on the lookout for anti-Semitism, doesn’t know the true culprit but doesn’t let that stop him from whipping his neighborhood into a frenzy, forcing our narrator into hiding in plain sight.
Pushed to the edge by his own desires, despairs, and disappointments, our narrator is about to find out what it’s like to become a criminal and what his crucifyingly dull neighborhood looks like when it’s been turned upside down.
“Peter Mehlman pokes the ribs of religion, race, law and culture with lacerating wit and humor. This is a seriously funny comic crime confessional.” ––Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Trial Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center
“During his eight-year tenure as a writer and producer on Seinfeld, Peter Mehlman made the mundane seem hilarious.” ―The Hollywood Reporter
“American humor would not be the same without Peter Mehlman, a former co-executive producer of Seinfeld and leading television writer and producer.” ―The Wrap, Covering Hollywood
“Mehlman is profound. Such clever insight comes from looking through the other end of a telescope.” ―Dick Summer, author, podcaster, and radio broadcasting legend
“In nine years on Seinfeld, Mehlman helped alter sitcom sensibility. All of his writing is superb. It makes you think, as does all good satire.” ―Grubstreet Magazine
“It was a true pleasure to get a firsthand glimpse into the mind of this master of satire. Keep writing Mr. Mehlman; we are waiting for more.” ―Celebrity Cafe
Q&A with Peter Mehlman:
1. Why did you choose to leave your narrator nameless?
It would be nice to reveal some deep reason for this but, sorry. About 70 pages in, it dawned on me the narrator was nameless so I kept just going with it. It didn’t reflect his personality or imply anything sinister.
2. What was the significance behind the horseradish bottle, if any? Was it simply a funny plot device or was there more behind the decision?
Since he was forced to walk home on a freezing cold Friday night due to religious restrictions not his own, it exacerbated the situation by having him trip over something associated with Jewish dining. The overtness of Mossad Kosher horseradish somewhat justified the flash of rage that caused him to throw the bottle.
3. Why did you decide to have your narrator speak to a comatose friend rather than to the unidentified audience more typical of novels written in first person?
Initially, it felt like talking to his friend allowed him to be more colloquial and less self-conscious. He was telling the story without really telling it because Commie could never repeat it. Then it became representative of many other aspects in his life… not quite going all the way with things. It also drove home his reluctance to tell the story to his own wife. It was bubbling inside him to let it out and yet he still found a way to tell it with a disclaimer. (And there’s no way he could have known it would wind up in a book).
4. The way the narrator handles the crooked cop situation is hilarious. Is there anybody or any situation that you’d swap urine for?
If Kobe Bryant or Derek Jeter desperately needed to pass a drug test and sought my help, I’d be there for them.
5. There’s a great deal of vandalism and crime in the novel. Are these simply plot devices or would you say that vandalism/crime serves as a doorway to talking about art/comedy as means of breaking out of restrictive social norms/traditions/views?
Life in suburbia is so oppressive and restrictive, the vandalism expresses a certain amount of busting loose. The narrator alludes the level of tact required to stay within the social norms of his suburbia. It doesn’t take all that much to go beyond those norms and it takes even less to see a whole world that’s shattering the rules everyday.
6. The narrator’s relationship with the women in his life (Alyse, Esme, and Audra) is particularly interesting. Could you elaborate a bit more on the role of women in the novel and their influence on the narrator?
The narrator loves women. They not only interpret the outside world for him, they provide him a lifetime of wonderment. He is perpetually taken with how exotically women think. Trying to understand them is a happy, never ending project for him. He’s someone who tends to reflexively overrate all women and underrate all men. When a woman is transparent and not at all mysterious, he is disappointed. There is a certain line of women in the novel from Esme to Audra to Alyse to Ruth. In each, he gets to see some of the hopes, fears and regrets of a gender. Alyse is his lifetime body of work but he gains perspective on her from all the others. Audra rekindles some of the feelings he had when he first met Alyse. Esme is so much like Alyse he almost gets to see what Alyse was like before he met her. Ruth and Fumi have a way of tamping down his idealization of women… things can go awfully wrong even for a gender the narrator sees as far superior to his own.