“All four of Martin Drapkin’s books to date—Now and at the Hour
, Ten Nobodies (and their somebodies)
, The Cat Tender
, and now Poor Tom
—feature an irresistible, comic voice, a rollicking cast of characters, an affectionate and empathetic exploration of universal human foibles and fantasies, and a wise and affirmative take on what Drapkin sees as our endlessly challenging, but ultimately joyful, lives. Poor Tom may be Drapkin’s most ambitious book yet, based as it is on the characters and themes of King Lear (with a gesture to Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet) but seen through the lens of such classic American comic novels as Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and Lolita, alongside the antics of Harpo and Groucho Marx, with a nod to Judge Judy, Naked and Afraid, and The Real Housewives of New York. Replete with funny one-liners (“that woman has the empathy of a gerbil”), it explores, like all serious comic literature, the deepest of human emotions—love, loss, longing, grief, joy, doubt.
Drapkin’s portrayal of father-son relationships, erotic and platonic love, fulfilled and unfilled dreams and ambitions, is moving and thought-provoking. Will Julius, the winsome protagonist and self-proclaimed schlemiel, find peace with his shrewish partner Naomi? Will he succeed in making his father laugh and help him achieve his life-long goal of mastering the character of Lear? Will he become the father-figure that he aspires to be to Naomi’s young son, Benji? Will he give up his jobs as house-painter and photographer and fulfill his fantasies of embracing the Cordelia-like Celeste, and opening the hot-dog stand of his dreams? Tom may be poor, but this book, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking, with its narrative intricacy, telling detail, emotional resonance, and laugh-out-loud humor, is immeasurably satisfying and rich.”