Deep Dish by Marc Harshberger ~ Review by Ulysses

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Title: Deep Dish

Author: Marc Harshberger

Publisher: Wilde City

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

When teenager Cary Davenport agrees to take his mother’s poodle for a walk late one summer night, he never expects to end up gazing upon the gorgeous Chandler Haze (the star quarterback of the Winnetka Wildcats, homecoming king and an object of desire for many), who suddenly appears from Lake Michigan to stand glistening in all his naked glory on the beach.

And with this opening scene, we are transported back to that groovy yesteryear of 1975 to meet various families, friends and other strangers, whose lives become dramatically intertwined as they dance to The Hustle, worship Mary Richards, wear mood rings and own pet rocks during their search for love and happiness—or at the very least a one-night stand of incredible sex.

This is the world of Deep Dish, a dark comic soap opera where sordid secrets are kept by almost everyone.

My View

Reading Marc Harshbarger’s Deep Dish is a dizzying experience. A self-consciously camp funhouse ride of plot entanglements and improbable coincidences, Deep Dish is a book-shaped combination of Robert Altman’s iconic 1978 film ”A Wedding” and the still-running television soap opera ”The Young and the Restless,” which started in 1973.

It is the summer of 1975—the year I came out at college—and a wedding is about to take place in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka. The Haze and Davenport families are will soon be joined by the marriage of their children, lifelong friends Helen Davenport and Howard Haze.

Maybe.

This confusing, amusing and altogether giddy tome is set in a world that seems both surreal and—to someone my age—weirdly familiar. The action takes place over twenty-four hours, and everybody seems to be gay, or bi or just confused. (Lots of confused.) People dance the Hustle and the Hokey-Pokey. Cultural references to the mid-seventies fly fast and furious. (And I got every single one of them.)

It is a narrative populated with drag queens and closet cases, with blended families and broken families. There are more moments of coitus interruptus than in any other book ever written. The convoluted plot ricochets from suburban mansions to a gay bar in Chicago’s Boys Town; from an apartment house downtown to a public baseball diamond by Lake Michigan. In addition to the Hazes and Davenports there are the less affluent Mooneys and Sweeneys (ah, shades of the amazing Showtime television series “Shameless”), whose destinies are inextricably linked to their more exalted peers in ways that only become clear(ish) as the plot unreels.

Harshbarger offers up a great many characters who are selfish and unkind; but just as many who are loving and noble. Overall, Deep Dish is absurdist and disorienting, written in a carefully controlled style that is meant to be bad, but exquisitely crafted in its badness. Harshbarger structures the narrative to echo the sudden fadeouts and impossible transitions of soap opera convention—people stepping silently into a room just in time to hear or see something revealing or embarrassing or scandalous—or all three. And in the midst of all this there are startling moments of poignancy that help the reader understand the author’s great skill as a storyteller. This is a microcosm of life in the 1970s, in the decade after Stonewall, when so many of us gay men grew up and faced the world. It is both very silly and, surprisingly, rather heartbreaking.

Keeping track of who’s who is impossible, so it’s best just to hop on, hold on tight and enjoy the ride. Preferably sober, since following the plot twists and tortured network of interpersonal relationships takes a lot of focus.

And it’s all a cliffhanger, leading up to the sequel, Deeper Dish. Dammit, Harshbarger, now I’ll have to read it. I have to know what happens next.

Buy Links:

Wilde City
Amazon

I would like to thank Wilde City for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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3 thoughts on “Deep Dish by Marc Harshberger ~ Review by Ulysses

  1. I want to thank Ulysses and Prism Book Alliance for their honest and amusing review of my book, DEEP DISH. I know it’s been over 2 years since you posted it, but I just now discovered it on Amazon (I thought I had read it before, but I hadn’t). It’s one of my favorite reviews ever! You definitely understood and appreciated what DEEP DISH is all about.

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