Saturday, December 20, 2014
Book Review: 'The Opposite Of Everything" by David Kalish
This is a lighthearted and comedic novel concerning Daniel Plotnick, an Associated Press business writer who, upon learning he has contracted thyroid cancer, decides to change his life by doing the opposite of everything. What he once deemed important - a solid marriage, a successful career, reasonable good health - would now be, in his enlightenment, obstacles to avoid.
His doctor first informs him that if you're going to get cancer, thyroid cancer, a mostly curable disease "is the one to get". After further examination the same surgeon does a complete about-face and declares Plotnick's condition as incurable. After sacrificing his thyroid, a vocal nerve, and a portion of his trachea to the surgeon's scalpel, Plotnick is given a 50-50 chance of surviving 10 years and the unsettling advice to "live each day with meaning".
What makes David Kalish's thin and breezy book so appealing is its refusal to treat the Big C as anything but a motivation for humor. Never does the disease reach dramatic threatening height, all the while intimidating the character's very existence. The point here is - the choices one makes in life, including the frantic choices a cancer diagnosis may invoke, are essential in determining one's well-being and quality of life, regardless of how little time that life has left.
After running the tread mill of cancer treatment, Plotnick concludes that the choices he has made in life - the smart practical choices - have not served him well. Why not then, he supposes, do the opposite of all he held significant? He locks his wife out of their apartment and soon divorces her. He gets fitted for a nose ring and dresses in gothic black like his beloved death metal rock bands. He goes on drinking binges, practically lives in bars, and roams the night like a Metallica reject.
In his most radical departure from the norm, he accompanies his swinging singles father on a weird odyssey to a Catskills resort senior citizens weekend. Here, his life takes another spin as he slips even further into his psycho abyss when he can't tolerate his father's playing of The Village People's "Macho Man" at full volume on his father's Mustang cassette deck.
Before Plotnick self-destructs with or without a terminal illness, the author allows his protagonist to fall in love with a lovely Columbian woman who sees his reckless behavior as a calling to her own needs and desires. With that happy outcome, witty Seinfeld-like dialogue, and bizarre situations that confront the commonplace (Plotnick falls or is pushed from a famous American landmark) The Opposite Of Everything is a passive and engaging read.
The character of Judy, Plotnick's first wife is sketchy at best. She is a cast-off wife who only serves as a catalyst to his ensuing adventure and romance. I thought the author's treatment of her was harsh. It's the only false note in a novel that is grinning from ear to ear with the promise of another day.
this article was first published by the author at http://blogcritics.org/book-review-the-opposite-of-everything-by-david-kalish/