Wrack & Run

August 1, 2008

Don Lee (W. W. Norton)

Set in the small town of Rosarita Bay, this self-styled farce follows a motley crew of characters over the course of a Labor Day weekend, as they navigate their way through eco-politics, land development, sibling rivalry, romance, art, Buddhism, capitalism and machismo. At the center of all this is the Cain and Abel story of Lyndon and Woody Lee, respectively a sculptor-turned-reclusive brussels sprouts farmer and a Harvard-educated Hollywood producer with a disgraced past. Wrack & Ruin is full of clever, surreal and, at times, sublime set pieces. There are just a few too many ideas crammed in with the abundant thematic and narrative activity; the book ends up feeling overwhelmed and lacking in focus. As a result, Woody and Lyndon's brotherly feud never quite gets its due, nor does Lyndon's journey from artistic glory to bucolic withdrawal. As a farce, it has some delightful moments, particularly the stoner corporate sabotage that Lyndon and his surfer buddy JuJu indulge in. But it never quite achieves the helium-light daffiness it aspires to, instead coming across, like Woody Lee, as a tad too calculated and self-conscious. -Mimi Lok

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