Scott Sommer Joan Silber - Essay

Joan Silber

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Tramp Bottoms [protagonist of Last Resort] is getting nowhere trying to be a rock star, won't marry his terrific girlfriend because he knows he'll just make her miserable, and has come home to the Jersey shore to brood about the whole thing. "How at twenty-five my whole life had come to absolutely nothing was a mystery for which I needed a clue. You get older, I suppose, and things have a way of slipping through your fingers." So far (that quote appears on page one) the hero is not likely to get sympathy from anyone over 26.

But if the central dilemma never seems all that urgent, Sommer's writing is skilled enough to give the book some occasional lyric flashes…. He also has a knack for varieties of stylized dialogue, and even his broader characterizations are clever without being really mean; the tone is humane, if a little glibly forlorn. (pp. 54, 109)

[Still, there] is something naïve in Tramp's desire for worldly success (which is too easily satisfied by the end of the book), and even in his true-blue fondness for Leah, who has been his sweetheart since childhood…. [Sommer] seems unclear about how much distance he has on his character, and how much we are meant to take Tramp's darkly crabby speculations about life as real wisdom. In the end, despite Tramp's claim that he has made it to adulthood without the benefit of any usable models or "tyrannies of custom or habit," his self-absorption remains the controlling tone of the book, a kind of rippling inventiveness within narrow limits. (p. 109)

Joan Silber, "Brief Encounters: 'Last Resort'" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author: copyright © News Group Publications. Inc., 1982), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXVII, No. 18, May 4, 1982, pp. 54, 109.