Book Reviews

Tinseltown by Barry Brennessel at MLR Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Erotic Romance
Reviewed by Ron Fritsch on 18-October-2012

Book Blurb

Film student Micah Malone learns the hard way that when life sucks, you can't just yell "Cut! Let's do another take!"

His grades are a box-office bomb. His friends create more drama than a soap opera. And his love life needs a laughtrack. While there's no script to dictate what happens next, can Micah find the direction he needs? Life, after all, is no film school project. But it is great source material. The only source material.

Let the cameras roll. Micah's quirky story has begun filming.

Book Review

Despite the title of Barry Brennessel’s excellent debut novel, its setting isn’t Hollywood but Seattle. “Tinseltown” is the name of an adult video store with rooms for sex downstairs. Additionally, the main character, Micah, and his best friend, Stan, are film students at the University of Washington hoping for careers making television series and/or movies.

Micah and Stan enjoy encyclopedic knowledge of the best known films and television programs (as does, I assume, the author). Micah, the narrator, most enjoyably sprinkles witty references to them at appropriate points throughout his story. This sort of thing can often interrupt a story and irritate the reader. In Tinseltown, on the other hand, they add to the story and advance the plot. And they often made me laugh out loud—literally.

Did I mention that the novel sometimes takes the form of a tongue-in-cheek script? With a “Greek chorus” constantly watching Micah, often stepping forward to acidly question what our hero has just said or done?

The story is all about Micah, who describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic boy,” and his circle of young friends searching for sex and love. One of them, Danny, has nothing stopping him from obtaining the former. Another friend says, “Danny’s like this walking fucking God and Micah’s like this skinny little boy.” Micah asks, “Why can’t I, for once, be Mr. Gay America and be applauded and worshipped whenever I walk into a room?” Have I said I felt as one with Micah throughout his story?

So this amusing story goes in its first half. In the second, though, Brennessel suddenly drops a bomb. I never saw it coming, and I doubt any other reader will. And yet it’s appropriate and meaningful—and through an “amazing,” as they say, number of subsequent pages on my Kindle left me in tears.

And it brings front and center two additional heavy loads (pun not intended, honestly) for Micah to bear. What was a highly entertaining novel becomes profound. Can Micah learn that searching for perfection in a partner, himself, or the world he lives in isn’t the way to go?

I highly recommend Tinseltown to any reader who wishes to savor entertainment and thought in the same delectable dish.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 312 pages/73000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 01-June-2011
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
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