Saturday, May 18, 2013

An Author a Day for Thirty Days: Day 18

If Rocky IV taught me anything--and let's admit it, most of my moral code comes from this epic film--it's that no matter who you are, we can all change. Change doesn't just happen with the Italian Stallion or the Politburo, which brings me to today's author, Ronald De Feo.

The first Ronald De Feo book I read was Calling Mr. King. The main character is a hit man, so of course I would read it based solely on that information. After years of successfully killing people in Europe, though, our affable but amoral killer is questioning his calling. Specifically, the guy really likes Georgian architecture and the art world. Sometimes everyone slacks off on the job (see: March Madness), and that's no different for the mid-life crises of hit men either. Instead of getting on with it, this hit man prefers self-guided tours of historic buildings. What results is a comic journey novel with a quirky character at its center.

More recently, De Feo wrote Solo Pass. We here in Book Land have never hesitated to read books about mental illness, and so when I heard the words "mental hospital" I moved this book to the top of my pile. The narrator is Ott, a man who has spent two months in a New York hospital after a breakdown. Inside the ward, Ott learns to play the system and offers some compelling descriptions of how to play the system, how to hide in plain sight, how to take advantage of the freedoms that come with being deemed crazy. Ott works his way up to a solo pass, a few hours out of the hospital, unsupervised, before returning to the hospital for the night. Ott is a guy in limbo between the constrictive, sane world, and the other space of the ward. Again, Ronald De Feo is asking about change and self-identity through the lens of a comic novel.

(I think it might be worth noting that the guy who killed his family that led to The Amityville Horror story was also named Ronald De Feo. I have no idea if this author is related to that guy.)

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