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Unraveling the tumultuous, decades-spanning story of the Dolan family's friends, lovers, and adversaries, "Double Feature "is about letting go of everything--regret, resentment, dignity, moving pictures, the dead--and taking it again from the top. Against the backdrop of indie filmmaking, college campus life, contemporary Brooklyn, and upstate New York, Owen King's epic debut novel combines propulsive storytelling with mordant wit and brims with a deep understanding of the trials of ambition and art, of relationships and life, and of our attempts to survive it all.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-17
- Reviewer: Staff
This witty debut novel from King, (We’re All in This Together), son of Stephen, is about film and family. Endearing, irascible Sam Dolan is a young filmmaker with a big father problem—that is, his dad, B-movie actor Booth Dolan, has a personality that’s a big problem. But Sam finds even more trouble when his first film, a magnum opus called Who We Are, is mysteriously, and irrevocably, altered in editing. When Sam throws away the only known copy of the altered film, he sets in motion events that will dog him for a decade. His horribly revamped movie turns up in the mid-2000s and becomes a cult hit, as Sam, permanently disappointed, goes from clerking in a Brooklyn video store to working as a wedding videographer. During one long weekend in 2011, Sam comes to terms with his father and his messy life—with the help of a wry and determined producer, Sam’s foul-mouthed kid sister, Mina, and Wesley Latsch, his odd, housebound best friend/roommate. King’s prose is artful, perceptive about people and their “warrens of self that go beyond understanding,” and sometimes very funny. Agent: Amy Williams, McCormack & Williams. (Mar.)
Second chances after the credits roll
Coming-of-age stories about young men trying to find their purpose in life can make readers cringe before they’ve even read the first page—such stories are often assumed to be nothing more than solipsistic exercises in pretension with no real plot. But as Owen King’s powerfully insightful and often devastatingly funny debut novel proves, those assumptions are often very, very wrong.
King’s hero is Sam Dolan, an aspiring filmmaker who must juggle a broken family, a collection of very odd friends and his own attempts at establishing a creative vision as he tries to find his place in the world as an artist, a lover and even a son. His father, Booth, is a B-movie actor whose views on cinema and life are vastly different from his son’s. His mother, Allie, is only a beautiful and bittersweet memory. Sam’s friends range from an ex who won’t stop texting him for phone sex to his unpredictable roommate to his godfather, a contractor whose ever-expanding mansion of a house stands in sharp contrast to Sam’s own fragmented, tenuous creative career.
King follows Sam and the often bizarre cast that surrounds him through creative triumphs and blunders, sexual awkwardness and glimpses of real love, familial strife and fleeting moments of what could have been lasting happiness had things gone just a little differently. Double Feature constantly walks the line between tragedy and comedy, between love and loathing, between friendship and strained codependency, between art and what’s only posing as art.
Stories that attempt such delicate thematic juggling can become mired in the muck of their own intellectual ambition. King overcomes this with witty and tightly paced prose, and the novel breezes by in spite of (and even because of) its depth.
King first caught the attention of readers with his 2005 short story collection, We’re All in This Together. He is equally—perhaps even more—adept at long-form writing, and this novel heralds a new phase in an already promising literary career.