Linus Welch – Review

Linus Welch

by Toby Amirault (Ivy Press)
by Laura Kallio

Scores of reviewers in the press pack we were sent likened Amirault’s first novella to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I’m reminded of the now infamous Lloyd Bentson/Dan Quayle vice presidential debate. You know, “you are no Jack Kennedy.” Well Linus, you are no Holden Caulfield. That’s not to say that Amirault’s 80 page teenage diatribe isn’t without its merits, it’s just that Salinger and Kerouac and every other author who wound up “defining a generation” didn’t set out to do so. The books they wrote came out of their souls, inspired by the chaos that surrounded them, or at least that’s how you feel when you read them. It seems to me that Amirault set out to write about a generation and the book’s title character therefore comes off as a little less than sincere, a little forced, a little melodramatic.

The plot in a nutshell is this: Linus Welch, a miserable, but we’re told by our narrator “brilliant,” youth whose favorite words are fuck, dildo, and moron, spends his time waiting to find out whether he’ll get into Brown or Harvard or both, bitching about how stupid everyone is compared to him, and whining about life in general. Linus has a roof over his head and parents who feed him and are going to pay for his education: Quit your whining and count your blessings! Anyway, one day Linus sets out on a very Holdenesque trip to nowhere particular and eventually winds up finding himself, sort of.

Now there is the small possibility that Amirault is being completely facetious and is making fun of people like Linus. Maybe this is all tongue in cheek. I doubt it, but you never know. What were those merits I mentioned? Well, there are some very funny parts, especially a scene between Linus, angst-ridden suburban high school student, and a photographer working for the Lutheran church who has the unfortunate job of photographing the Welch family portrait. Another thing I liked is that we never get a physical description of this kid. For me a lack of black hair, blonde hair, no hair somehow lends a character a little reality.

Despite all of my complaining, for some reason, by the books end, I gave a shit about this guy. I cared about him. Don’t ask me why, I’m probably just to stupid to figure it out, right Linus?