The Pequod Review:
Hob Broun's second novel, Inner Tube, strikes an odd tone as it wavers between humor and sincerity:
You’re not going to like this, but some years ago, in the family room of the house where I grew up in Lake Success, New York, my mother canceled an unrelenting life by plunging her head through the twenty-six-inch screen of a Motorola color television.
I experienced third grade in a building of beige ceramic brick. We pledged allegiance (“one nation, invisible”) under a portrait of Lincoln — or was it Henry Fonda? In November, we cut out paper pumpkins and heard all about the Pilgrims. Devout and intrepid men. Men with buckles on their hats.
But just as often Broun comes up with moments of brilliant prose:
Sometimes, without recognition of how or when, I will find that a tiny cactus spine has worked its way into my hand. I clench my teeth and feel sand grinding on my molars. I live in the desert now, but it is in no way novel. Here is the same quiet geometry of the suburb I come from; only the scale is different. Climate, topography — these things are interchangeable as wallpaper. I recognize the stunned atmosphere of this place, its heavy padding of silence, its isolation.
Lake Success. The name itself suggests a real-estate swindle, some collection of placards and surveyor’s stakes at the edge of an alkali pit. In truth, we were only minutes from the city limits. Airline pilots lived there, and pharmaceutical researchers, and even a member of the state legislature. The streets were bright, lined with cars, and humid winds blew in from Little Neck Bay. But just the same, Lake Success was a ghost town waiting to happen. And waiting still.
Consider the hedgehog, whose stiff, spiny hairs discourage attack. Often, before eating a toad, it chews the amphibian’s poison gland, lathering itself with toxic froth and augmenting its defenses. An efficient mechanism for an efficient mammal nicely placed in its niche.
Consider the overevolved creature whose most dangerous enemies come from within. Imagine the first useless panic, the first nightmare, the first crushing turn of anomie. Ten thousand generations later, all we can do is palliate. Misery abhors a vacuum and history is a list of sedatives; from animism to humanism to Haldol.
We choose our own methods for treating grief and fear. Superstitions and pharmaceuticals have their cost, and confession is too cheap. Brutality is circular and flight inevitably leaks. But there is a folk remedy as simple as the hedgehog, something more valuable in the institutional dayroom, the widower’s autumnal parlor, than any drug or counselor’s bromide. It is television.
The positives definitely outweigh the negatives though, and the book builds to a powerful conclusion.