Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: Lovers and Lunatics (The Potter Family Files, Volume I)

The book description on Amazon began, “Normal guy Frank Potter is forced by his wife to join a local acting group. He enters a terrifying world of hefty thespians, impromptu drama, and crazy people. Mayhem and ambulances ensue. A large Russian woman also falls on top of someone from a great height.”

Not promising. The printed word isn’t exactly the best medium for slapstick.

But we were well into the week, I needed something for today’s book review, and Lovers and Lunatics is only 118 pages long.

Also, author Christopher Bunn had assured me in a Facebook message that his novella is comically politically incorrect (Is that the right word? Novella? It’s only 118 pages, so I think that’s the right word). Without getting off my ass, I hit the one-click Buy button and started reading on my Kindle. Technology is amazing.

I got two paragraphs into the novella (I think that’s the right word. I’m going to stick with it), up to the point where the narrator describes his children as “our three little in-house savages,” when I realized something:

This book (or novella) is, as we say in Boston, wicked funny.

It consists of three short stories: “The Revenge of the Demented Thespians,” “The Attack of the Crazed Environmentalists,” and “The Night of the Thanksgiving Turkey Terror.” The stories chronicle the adventures of the charmingly clueless Frank Potter. He's the kind of guy who, when his wife tells him to answer the door, he always manages to hear something like “Would you like a fried egg sandwich with sausage after I get the doorbell?”

Frank is perennially cranky. Among the objects of his displeasure are poets (“[W]hile I normally disagreed with the domestic policies of Josef Stalin, I did agree with his long-standing rule of exiling poets to Siberia”), pretentious arthouse plays (“[W]henever I read reviews that use phrases like ‘brave and unflinching’ I know a film or play is going to be incredibly boring…The phrase ‘affirmation of life’ in a review means the story will feature at least one suicide.”), bureaucrats (“He had a sour expression on his face, like he spent his free time sucking on lemons and thinking about how he wanted to buy more lemons,”), TV journalists (“I won an Emmy back in ’93 for my groundbreaking segment ‘Public School Lunches: Your Child and Radioactive Food.’”), nouvelle cuisine (“I think it’s seaweed...And pine needles. And this wispy stuff is called Spanish moss.”), and day spas (“[I]t’ll be all giggles, right until someone drowns in the mud”).

And the French. (Did I mention this is a politically incorrect novella?)

While I enjoyed all three stories, the first was my favorite, thanks to the hilariously awful play, Concrete Flowers Deux, that the demented thespians perform without having seen the script ahead of time. I laughed all through it. It reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s play-within-a-play The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby.

I look forward to Volume 2.

Learn more about Lovers and Lunatics on

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

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