Friday, March 02, 2007

"Bobby at Work" by Anthony Bourdain

From: The Bobby Gold Stories: A Novel by Anthony Bourdain. Bloomsbury, 2002.

I bought this book at a bargain some years ago, intrigued by the description of Bobby Gold, a good-hearted ex-con now working as a loan shark's enforcer. The book is billed as a novel, but the "chapters" seem self-contained and abrupt enough to make any connection loose.

In "Bobby at Work," Bobby visits Jerry, one of his boss's elderly clients, who is late paying his debts. Bobby and Jerry both know their meeting will end with a beating. Bobby seems genuinely reluctant, but nonetheless resigned to do his job, reminiscent of other educated tough guys in fiction, who might have gone into more socially accepted professions but who found they were good at thug work.

Bourdain gets the tone right, with clipped vernacular prose and the sense that the world is the way it is, not much point trying to change it. Indeed, the chapters are so pared down, the outlook so gray, that Bobby's exploits are like bonbons: satisfying in the short term, empty calories in the end.

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