Getting Over Homer

GETTING OVER HOMER, O’Donnell’s first novel, reveals an ear with perfect pitch for the way humans talk and think, or at least how some of them do. Its narrator, Hans Christian “Blue” Monahan, is a gay songwriter-pianist attempting to find a still-edible piece of the Big Apple to nibble. He and his straight twin brother, Robert Louis “Red” Monahan, come from a big Catholic family in Cleveland and set out for the city after college to have a go. Red finds it easier than Blue by hitting success early in a CHEERS-like situation comedy, while Blue’s musical career has a much rougher road. His musical “Odyssey!” sank without a bubble in a self-financed off-off-way-off-Broadway production, and his songs do not routinely bat 1,000 either, after his eleven-year-old success “Love Is the Answer.”

His personal life is also pretty dicey. In fact, Blue finds at the end of his story (when he is evidently in his mid-thirties but feels himself approaching middle age) that he had it all wrong: life is the answer, love is the question. Blue’s efforts at communion, a word that appears eight times in the first eight pages, involve two major affairs, first with urbane hip Homer, a designer of elaborate parties for rich blase Manhattanites, and then his opposite, Teddy, an innocent, ambitionless twenty- two-year-old waiter from Kentucky. Both fizzle, and Blue at the end is resigned to life as an “epic shaggy dog story” rather than a grand legend like the Greek original, though still an ever-hopeful “Beauty-Fool.”

Robert Frost tells readers that only when work is play for mortal stakes is the deed ever done for Heaven and the future’s sakes. So also GETTING OVER HOMER, a witty, contemporary liebestod with its two loves and several deaths, its memorable one-liners, its rueful wisdom, its comic seriousness.