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The Price of the Ticket

Jim Nisbet

Dennis McMillan Publications

US Hardcover First

ISBN: 0-939767-43-0

Publication Date: April, 2003

230 Pages; $30.00

Date Reviewed: 05/28/03

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2003




'The Price of the Ticket' is a quirky, kinky, crazy, chaotic mess of a book. A lot of it just doesn't make any sense. But it's also a cynical, street-smart, barbed, clever, and oftentimes very funny neo-noir farce- which saves it.

Jim Nisbet, who's written five previous novels published in English and two others published only in French, is unquestionably a man of words, lots and lots and lots of words. Way too many words -- like Robin Williams meets Chris Rock on speed. Edited in the spare-the-author, skewer-the-reader style, there's either entirely too much punctuation or none at all, which makes this, quite literally, a very tough book to read. Fortunately, the writing is uneven, not usually a complimentary thing to say about a book, but in this case, a welcome relief. For the relatively few chapters spewed in stream-of-conscious silliness (I dare not speculate as to the substance(s) ingested, but you should skim, not skip them), there are far more that are intelligible, clever, cynical, sharp and funny. (Again, I dare not speculate as to the substance(s) ingested, but definitely more reader-friendly ones).

If you can hang in with this book, you'll be rewarded with some truly bizarre, but most appealing, characters. There's Pauley, a 52-year old ex-con, brutally abused by his father, who now makes his living in the straight world by crafting torture devices for the wealthy S&M set. There's Celeste, Pauley's 24-year old girlfriend, who sports a mood bone in her nose, countless body piercings, and has all the episodes of Star Trek (I'm assuming only the original, not the follow-ups) tattooed on her back, making for some interesting, if kinky, non-missionary sex. And their short, overweight friend, Horseknocker, affectionately known as Horse, (again, I dare not speculate) who pursues violence the way Tiger pursues golf, with vigor and passion, and apparently with equal success. And finally, Martin Seam, a little scumbag of a man, a sexually conflicted department store cosmetic clerk, fashion addict (always in black, of course), and unrepentant thief. The story begins when Martin sells Pauley his 1983 Toyota for $600.

There are some hilarious scenes in this book. Celeste applies for a job as a waitress in a seedy club and objects to wearing a dress "about the size of one of those paper cuffs six thin cookies come in" that covers her "like a butterfly covers a bus". Horse tells Pauley the story of his friend, Doormouse, ("You knew a human being called Doormouse?") while stuck in a traffic jam driving a beat-up Chevy truck, loaned to them by a drunk neither of them know, on their way to rescue a truckload of torture racks. Bizarre, but very funny, jaded and cynical, but also somehow sweet. I found myself smiling a lot while reading.

Part of the book's appeal, for me, is its San Francisco setting. I've seen these people walking down 6th and Bryant (from the safety of my car); I've eavesdropped on bar conversations that end with "David Violynch, as you call him, for me, is a God." I've experienced haughty black BMW drivers, subjected to much abuse in this book, cut off cars in traffic simply because they can. These are big-city images, vividly and wittily described, not necessarily unique to San Francisco. Except for the fog. Nisbet does great fog.

No review of this book would be complete without discussing its dust jacket, title sheet and foil-stamped end sheets, designed and executed by S. Clay Wilson. Mr. Wilson's illustration style exactly duplicates Nisbet's writing style, completely over-the-top and overdone. This dust jacket is a perfect and pure example of WYSIWYG in action. What you see is what you get. It's also the perfect way to decide if this book's for you. Pick it up in the bookstore and take a look at the dust jacket, front and back. If you find it unnerving, weird and chaotic, but intriguing, you'll probably like this book. But if you take one look, cover your eyes and run screaming from the store, you'd best pass.