Boston author creates nearly-unlovable losers in comic novel featuring desperate protagonist
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
In “The Dude Who Did Dictionaries,” writer Josh Mitchell, a Bostonian relocated to Hollywood, succeeds most with his creation and portrayal of characters from his protagonist’s family. They are a collection of Boston Southie through-and-through middle age losers – Frank Flutie’s parents and various uncles and aunts – who die alone in their mid-50s one by one with little or no achievement to speak of.
Setting up the Flutie character, who is the actual focus of the story, Mitchell makes him one who rails against having a corporate job, but the one he quits is not even that high-ranking, that of a journalist for “The Banker,” a fictional local Boston real estate, financial and banking newspaper (not to be confused with the Financial Times-owned global site and publication with the same name).
Flutie goes through large portions of the novel being obsessed with his “Sexual English Dictionary” project, a quest to compile sexual terms, many of them invented or combinations of different sexual descriptors (such as “bangover:” tired from excessive banging, and “fumilingus:” farting during oral sex). Flutie’s “SED” is something of a running joke to spice up the pages of Mitchell’s novel, or provide comic relief for its own sake. This device is like a mirror reflecting Frank’s frustrating relationship with Marleen, his on-and-off-again girlfriend.
As events progress in Flutie’s story, Mitchell makes the character quick to abandon his anti-corporate principles along with his passion project. As a result, the story appears to wrap up too tidily in the end, thus flirting with cliché, rather than resonating truth. Mitchell does show flair in his storytelling before reaching that point, however.
Feedback? Email email@example.com
© 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua