I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Monday, April 10, 2006


The Autobiography of a Narcissist
Jonathan Foster
Early Morning Press
1731 Brown Street, Napa, Ca 94559
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 159113871X, $15.95, 260 pp, 2006

In this "fictional" autobiography, twenty-seven year old Tyler LePerdu shares his journal with us–a journal begun at the suggestion of his mandatory-to-receive-his-inheritance therapist, Jean, which tells us ‘maybe’ this man has a problem.

And, of course, such a journal can’t help but be somewhat narcissistic (an excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance) as it reflects one man’s perspective on life based on his experience and observations. Tyler’s focus on his appearance and that of others–the "Beautiful Class"–certainly is part of his problem and what does that say of our culture in general? Stephen King’s thoughts about sanity from Danse Macabre are: "we are all insane . . . just to different degrees."

So, what is the heart of Tyler’s problem as he searches for Love? . . . to Love and be Loved, which he knows instinctively exists, though he has not experienced it. He shares with us that at an early age he shut down his emotions after hearing his beautiful mother slam her bedroom door so as not to hear him crying. From that night, Tyler was at odds with his insensitive, socially-active, money-controlling mother, somewhat reminiscent of Harold and Maude, though Tyler was not obsessive about death . . . he was obsessive about appearances.

He believes that he is in Love with Susanna, an exceptional beauty, but is unable to tell her. The ending of this Love is the beginning of Tyler’s reconnection with reality and his emotions.

Here are three excerpts which I feel are central to the story and which illustrate the author’s style and gift.

First excerpt is from page 56:
I submit to you, my dear reader, that now more than ever mankind hungers for the guidance of Beautiful Class! In this rapidly changing world where a scientific theory can be unveiled, awarded and then disproved in the same week; a world where new computers are obsolete before they’re taken from the shelf; a world where street lingo changes by the hour and where the imprisonment of our favorite movie star can leave us curiously unsettled, mankind needs the stability that a beautiful face can bestow. We need a cultural continuity that can only be provided by someone tall and tan and young and lovely. You see, in the modern world, beauty is no longer merely an aesthetic preference; it has developed into a source of cultural security that is more comforting than any mother’s arms, more calming than any known antidepressant, and more solid than the planet Earth itself!

Second excerpt is from page 57:
Before I launch into the story of our second meeting, however, let me remind you that by the time she (Susanna) walked into my life, I was so far differentiated from the common experience that I’d begun to accept that a life of solitude was my destiny. I’d realized at a very young age that mine was a very different road in life. Mine was a road less traveled by people. Rather, a road with virtually no other travelers on it . . .

I’m sure this must sound to you like a very sad existence, that of all the roads to be traveling on, mine is the road most lonesome. It is. The only real way to survive it is by coming to a complete and honest acceptance of solitude. It requires courage and determination. It requires that one avoid the pitfalls of self-doubt and its red-headed stepchild, depression; that one keep a watchful eye on Emotion’s clever and never-ending little shelf game; that one maintain strict standards of self-worth by being very selective about whom one gets too friendly with. These things I have long since achieved. I have always known that my life was meant to be lived by myself. Still, I have always secretly held a hope that one day I would discover someone just like me standing in the middle of my path. A bird of my own feather. A Frick to my Frack. Someone in whom I would see the same seeing of the same someone in me. But much more than holding hope, I was determined, if only for my desire to find Love. I knew that I needed to find that rare someone who was programmed with my same intuitive wiring to accept the obvious "what" and move on to ask the "why" of Love.

Third excerpt is from page 69:
"How the hell can you find something of your own in someone else?"

"By listening," she said. "By truly listening with the whole of your heart. Not just hearing the words and sounds coming from the person you wish to Love. Not by seeing their expressions and gestures, and then in turn, responding appropriately. Not even by respect for their individuality or admiration for their special qualities or acknowledgment of their overall importance. No. By listening. Listening. Listening to the entirety of their lives with the unbridled curiosity of a small child. And in the end, that is precisely what Love is: Listening."

As for style, Jonathan Foster knows how to set the hook . . . with the unexpected and a laugh, and I quote from the opening paragraph:

My penis is quite good looking, really. It has a classic shape, is of healthy length and is boldly circumcised as though much too proud to hide its true form beneath a shroud of foreskin. Its girth is substantial and of admirable consistency for all of its length. In its disinterested state, it hangs down with perfect symmetry between my thighs, most notably when I stand with my feet eight to thirteen inches apart, knees slightly bent. When interested, it . . .

He plays his catch and pulls you in with his rich, titillating vocabulary, expert language skills, a casual, intimate tone and memorable metaphors. Then, he brings you full circle to close with . . .

My entire understanding of my own manhood has evolved. And though I feel a tinge of sadness when I say it, I know now that whether flaccid or erect, admired or unobserved, in truth, sometimes a penis is just a penis.

I read a lot books, and they all have something to offer. But, what a "Treat" when you open a new book and the author just grabs you and doesn’t let go. Jonathan Foster is one such author. I truly envy his gift and language skills. Whether or not you like egocentric, psychological-case-study, journal-type stories, you might enjoy this book just for the pleasure of experiencing good craftsmanship . . . for writing is indeed a craft.

As it says on the back cover, Jonathan Foster is a screenwriter and playwright living in Napa, CA. The Autobiography of a Narcissist is his first novel, and I’m certain it won’t be his last. It is of superior quality and will be the third novel included in my "In Search of Excellence POD Book List."

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 10, 2006 - Copyright


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