Friday, January 8, 2016

Don't Jump by Vicki Abelson

Don't Jump by Vicki Abelson
Published by Random Content ISBN 978-0-9915368-3-2
Trade paperback, $19.99, 377 pages

Once in awhile I'll read a book that I haven't heard much about by an author I don't know and be pleasantly surprised. Reading Vicki Abelson's roman a clef Don't Jump- Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll... And My F'ing Mother knocked me out.

Abelson begins her novel with her protagonist Andi, a 50-something woman who calls herself "a narcissistic blowhard with low self esteem" who felt that she should be somebody, like Julia Roberts maybe. But life doesn't work out that way...

Andi is feeding her two young children dinner and dealing with her mother Cookie who drives her crazy when her husband calls to tell her that he has been called into the HR office at his place of work, a late-night talk show (think David Letterman) where he is a writer. He has been fired- and we're off and running.

We flashback to Andi's life story. She is the daughter of divorced parents, and when her brother goes to live with her father, Andi becomes a latchkey kid whose mother works long hours and when she is home, is too exhausted to deal with Andi.

Andi's big love in life is smoking pot, which she does with gusto. She wants to be an actress and ends up working as waitress in a restaurant in New York popular with professional athletes and actors. She becomes very friendly with a married tennis superstar, and since her marriage to a drunken emotionally abusive man isn't working out, she thinks that maybe something can come of this flirtation.

Andi tries to become a standup comic, in an era when women were not standup comics. She becomes successful as a nightclub promoter, moving from one venue to another and this was most fascinating part of the book.

I didn't know much about the club scene in 1980's New York, and Abelson drops us right smack in the middle of this crazy scene- the music, the drugs, the drinking, the sex and the hard work it took for her create a career while dealing with crazy bosses and capricious musicians.

Besides Andi's career, we learn much about her love life. Andi becomes involved with a few men, most of whom are no good for her, but she longs to be loved. Then she meets the man whom she will marry, someone she has known for awhile and while he begins a career as a comedy on a succession of TV comedy/talk shows, she becomes a wife and supermom.

Her husband's career is nothing like Rob Petrie's from the old Dick Van Dyke Show though. There is no kicking it with Sally and Buddy, having fun everyday and then going home to Laura and little Robbie. A comedy writer gets hired on a successive thirteen week basis. If he does well for thirteen weeks, her gets another thirteen weeks of employment, unless the show gets cancelled. It is a stressful existence. (Side note- Don't Jump is published by an imprint started by Carl Reiner, the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show.)

We see the difficulties of the business and the personalities. Part of the fun of this book is picking out the thinly veiled famous people- Letterman, Jay Leno, Bill Maher and Ray Romano among them.

This is the first book I read in 2016 and the year starts out strong. Don't Jump is smart, funny, profane, original, fascinating- everything you want a book to be. I felt like I was sitting on a stool at my favorite bar and this interesting chick sits down next to me and starts telling me her intriguing life story. I didn't want it to end and I give it my highest recommendation- READ THIS BOOK.  If you liked Carrie Fisher's Postcards From the Edge, you'll love Don't Jump. (And by the way, HBO or Netflix should pick this up pronto- it is tailor-made for them.)