The Contortionist's Handbook Paperback – Sep 24 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Clevenger's debut novel is a well-crafted but underplotted character study of a brilliant, damaged man who struggles with mental illness and substance abuse as he bounces in and out of prison and a series of hospitals around Los Angeles. Most of the novel takes place in the latter setting; some tense early scenes pit protagonist John Dolan Vincent against a psychiatrist known as "The Evaluator," who probes Vincent's psyche to see if his recent overdose of muscle relaxants was really a botched attempt to cure his migraine, as Vincent claims, or a suicide attempt. The twist is that Vincent has checked into the hospital under an assumed name; after each of his previous overdoses he has changed his identity to avoid being placed in a mental hospital. The psychiatric interview provides a decent vehicle for telling the story of Vincent's difficult family life and his decision to use his mathematical talent to assist a murky criminal network. The trouble is that Clevenger has little to offer to push his story forward besides Vincent's efforts to protect Keadra, the woman he falls in love with during a hospital stint, from the thugs who are trying to track him down. Clevenger is a solid writer who does some good work when it comes to creating a noirish atmosphere and smart, compelling characters, but the pace is uneven at best. The quality of the writing warrants a follow-up effort; hopefully, Clevenger will know what to do with his characters the next time around.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
John Vincent was born with an extra ring finger on one hand. To his constantly broke, jail-bound father, this was just something John had to live with. After years of ridicule by other children, his father gave him a magic book through which he learned some slight-of-hand tricks that helped him conceal his disfigurement from others. That, together with a sharp mind and a knack for replicating signatures and official documents, started John on a path of petty crime. Then he started getting inexplicable and untreatable migraines, which led to a history of drug abuse. As John started going in and out of hospitals for drug overdoses, he deftly learned how to change identities. This life of identity theft, drugs, and crime continues in a downward spiral, until he falls in love and meets his match. He starts to question his own identity, after rejecting it for so long, which eventually leads to some redemption. Clevenger cleverly creates a modern-day Mr. Ripley. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I suppose I set my expectations too high. I thought the book would have more depth and substance, but honestly the main character kind of fell flat for me. I neither liked him nor hated him, just felt ambivalent about him. The book does have some interesting stories woven into it, but it is definitely not as great as one would expect it to be, after such a glowing Palahnuik review.
anyway.. definitely a promising writer. i'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
The book is just a 199-page character sketch about a man that makes counterfeit documents and changes his identity frequently whenever his life gets complicated. Often, these complications are caused by accidental drug overdoses that are inflicted upon the main character when he tries to remedy some severe migraines that occur infrequently but, when they do, are incredibly painful and long lasting.
Such an overdose lands the protagonist in an evaluation with a psychiatrist, which is where the book takes place, alternating between flashbacks and real time. It's entertaining to read about how the forger's experiences molded him into the character he is and how his skills improved, and it's also amusing to read about the character's attempt to outwit the psychiatrist, but that's all the book is.
It's repetitive and ultimately unfulfilling, but it all happens so quickly that there's little time to complain. I'd recommend getting this book from a library or a friend, but it's not worth buying. As a first novel, it shows promise. Maybe in his next book, Craig Clevenger will write about a subject he knows well and it will be more interesting. Or maybe he'll write about robots, ninjas, and pirates fighting on the moon, which would also be interesting.
Most recent customer reviews
Arrived on time and in great condition! Over all I give it 5 stars! Thank you so much. Would buy from again.Published on Sept. 29 2011 by Susan C. Guderyan
Loved this book, a real page turner, can't wait to read his next one, Dermaphoria, which is in the mail.Published on July 25 2010 by Beer and Nachos
After reading so much hype, I placed a special order to get this book as it was out of stock everywhere. Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2007 by H. R. Miscellaneous
I heard about this book from chuckpalahniuk.net. Then I read the first 37 pages on this website, then I just had to buy the book. Read morePublished on July 9 2004 by Kindle Customer
Clevenger's a real writer to watch out for (gee, that sounds like a blurb.Published on June 28 2004 by Brendan T. Mackey
The polydactyl protagonist of this exceptional novel is working hard to evade everyone, not least himself. Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by Gary C. Marfin