At the center of Francine Prose’s effervescent fifteenth novel is the umpteen-hundredth revival of the cheesy but mysteriously durable musical based on a fictitious classic children’s novel, Mister Monkey. It’s a hack production, in the off-off-off-off Broadway High Line Theater, with a costume budget so spare that Mister Monkey’s costume is sewn from a nubby, brown chenille bedspread that may or may not be full of dust mites, and the actors are generally over-qualified, underpaid, and in one case, ragingly, dangerously, hormonal. It’s a screwball set-up executed to brilliant effect. Told from the alternating points of views of characters both directly and peripherally involved in the play, Mister Monkey (HarperCollins $26.99) hits the sweet spot of great fiction---darkly funny and richly poignant, and full of warmth and humanity, to boot. Consider “a cosmic playwright with a weird sense of humor,” one character urges, setting up scenes full of “unlikely coincidences, improbable events, good and bad surprises.” It’s possibly a meta request from the pen of the author who brought this comic gem to life, urging us to suspend disbelief, and enjoy the ride.
(This book cannot be returned.)