Matthew Vaber’s life has just taken a turn for the worse. His father has killed himself – a tragedy for which he feels bitterly responsible, when he lets himself feel much of anything about it at all – and his thrilling but damaged mother has taken center stage yet again. Into this cocktail of familial mayhem, Matthew tosses a bubbling new ingredient: the Pump Line, New York’s tawdriest phone sex service, where men appear and disappear at the push of a button.
On the Pump Line, Matthew accomplishes precisely what he can’t manage in life, enacting dramas of desire and connection without the burden of any real connection at all and, in the neatest of psychological tricks, manages to feel both unworthy and uninterested in these telephonic men at the very same time. Father’s Day tracks Matthew’s progress over an extraordinary year of pratfalls and sex and mourning and, quite unexpectedly, something that looks disconcertingly like true love.
Philip Galanes has written a superb comic novel that is, at heart, the story of a son coming to terms with the loss of his father, and a sly and at times exquisitely tender exploration of grief, loneliness, and the depths of childhood shame. In Matthew – wildly antic yet urbane and cannily conspiratorial – Galanes has created one of the freshest and funniest characters to emerge in years, a young man coming to grips with his own vulnerability and pureness of heart through a deliciously funny descent into a cockeyed fantasy of self-annihilation.
Father’s Day introduces us to a brilliant new writer of immense talent and charm.