Mark Leyner's world is crammed full of brand names, celebrities, TV channels, and other triviata. In his first two books, I Smell Esther Williams and My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist, he nailed down the basic concepts of Leyner-speak. Then came Et Tu, Babe, a trip through the world of Mark Leyner, Celebrity Author. This is a man who hangs with Martha Stewart, who has the commando squad Team Leyner at his beck and call, and who speaks with the assured arrogance of the advertising world and "Entertainment Tonight".
Now, he's back for more. Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog collects a number of articles that Leyner wrote after the success of Et Tu, Babe garnered him freelance assignments from publications as diverse as The New Republic and Elle. He takes on subjects such as bodybuilding, the Miss America Pageant, product placement in literature, childcare, Congressional tattoos, and sperm banks ("As a writer, the notion of being paid to masturbate does not seem odd to me in the least."). The Leyner style can be described in two words: SEMIOTIC OVERLOAD; throw as much stuff at the reader as you think he can take... and then throw some more. The juxtapositions are humorously surreal, shedding light on a media-saturated world not too far removed from our own.
The two centerpieces of this collection are the title story, an account of Leyner's attempt to write poetry holed up in the famous hotel Chateau Marmont while on assignment for Der Gummiknoppel ("the German equivalent of Martha Stewart Living, but with more nudity and grisly crime"), and "Young Bergdorf Goodman Brown". In this play, which comes with a foreword detailing other bizarre attempts at playwriting during his formative years, Leyner places himself in Bergdorf Goodman's department store, trying to buy accessories for his young daughter's Haute Barbie doll. As he gets shuffled from section to section, each farther down into the subterranean levels of the store, and as he listens to the stories of the sales clerks, he begins to uncover a twisted plot, which is confirmed in an encounter with his childhood rabbi - Zionist leaders are conspiring with grey aliens in the sub-sublevels of the store. "[It's] like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as rewritten by Whitley Streiber," Leyner indignantly declares.
Mark Leyner doesn't write novels where events unfold slowly and deliberately, providing deep insights into the lives of the characters. If that kind of book is your cup of tea, you might want to steer clear of Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog. But if you flip through the channels late at night, and if you think sound bites just might be the poetry of the nineties, then pick this one up.
Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog, Mark Leyner (Harmony Books)