I must ask your indulgence for a brief autobiographical anecdote (it is relevant). When I was seventeen-years-old, I was an aspiring author, and this was one of my favorite books, along with Henry Miller's BLACK SPRING. MY COUSIN, MY GASTROENTEROLOGIST, I thought, expanded language to the breaking point. Flash-forward ten years later. I found a jaundiced copy of this book in my parents' basement, along with BLACK SPRING, and re-read both during a week-long visit.
Was I ever THAT young????
My impressions had changed radically. The book now seemed infantile to me: it is nothing more, really, than a frivolous, badly strung-together collection of verbal sound-bites. The book is superficial and hollow at its core. Now, I'm not a fan of transcendental meanings or linear narratives, but, FOR GOD'S SAKE or for the sake of WHOMEVER, even experimental fiction should have at least SOME formal consistency. The surrealists' experiments (one thinks of SOLUBLE FISH or THE MAGNETIC FIELDS) or the work of Alfred Jarry all have an internal logic. This book has none. It is completely meaningless and disjointed.
In fact, the book is a mess: a hastily written, blithe little throwaway of a book.
MY COUSIN, MY GASTROENTEROLOGIST is pure entertainment, nothing more. If that is all you are interested in, so be it. But if that is the case, then you must accept that there is ESSENTIALLY nothing to distinguish this book from an episode of the TV show, FRIENDS, except that the latter is probably more memorable.
This book belongs on the shelf next to BLACK SPRING, a much more "illustrious" book (if only because it was reviewed by Maurice Blanchot), but also one that suffers from a similar disorder.
I've given this book two stars only because to give it one would be to demean my prior self.