Bitter, sexist bastard still manages to charm

By Paige Terneur

The Egotist
By Philip Fracassi
ISBN 0-9669188-0-0
Equator Books
$11.95 US

You'll hate him at first. That's a given. But W. Buhner will grow on you as you read his arrogant rants and watch him self-destruct as his life unfolds in this debut novel by Philip Fracassi.

The novel takes the form of a collection of W's memoirs, compiled after his death. And true to the title, they reveal an ego of impressive size. "He's a sexist, bitter, manipulative, racist, conniving, arrogant bastard," says the publicity release, which nails the character perfectly.

But he's also a funny bastard. He'll rant on for a few pages about convincing some female co-worker to stay the night, letting her oversleep so she's late for work, pissing her off by asking her to not squeal on him (he's decided to take the day off), and suggesting that she whip him up some breakfast before she leaves. You're almost as upset as she is as you read it, then he makes you burst out laughing with his description of her exit: "The door slams harder than I would want it to this early in the morning."

He's asocial and completely self involved, and yet, there's something that makes us want to know him better. Is it because we understand there really are people like this? For all we know, we might encounter sociopaths every day on the bus or in the street. Peeking at W.'s memoirs gives us a look inside a kind of mind we might never get to know in real life.

But, despite his reckless disregard for everything and everyone around him - despite his almost total lack of redeeming qualities, W. is endearing in a weird way, and we sympathize with him.

He prefers to be alone, regards his coworkers with disdain, steals from the grocery store where he works, hits on the female customers, loves 'em and leaves 'em, and sees himself as a perfect being, apart from society.

When I say the guy steals from work, I'm not just talking about a pineapple here, a box of tissues there. He'll load up a truck with frozen turkeys, cases of booze, motor oil, anything and everything until there's no more room in the vehicle.

He's on his own path, and he doesn't care who likes or dislikes it. Other people's opinions are irrelevant. Other people are irrelevant. Even his sister. Or so he says. She seriously freaked him out by descending upon him, soap-opera-style, in adulthood, announcing, "I'm your sister."

With this bombshell comes our chance to see that W. has feelings after all. He says he hates her, he hurts her badly and permanently, yet he feels like his heart is being torn up by the whole thing. To add another tortured twist to an already tortured soul, he is powerfully attracted to her.

W. is a vivid character who will make you feel anger, sadness, despair, and compassion. Sometimes you'll laugh, and sometimes you'll be puzzled. But, as W. himself says, "That's the beautiful part of being a little sociopathic, you do things for no reason. There is nothing to figure out."

You can read a short excerpt on the publisher's website. Better yet, order the book, either on-line from the publisher, or from your local bookstore.


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