December 2002

Karin L. Kross


Tommy's Tale by Alan Cumming

Winter is the wrong time to read Tommy's Tale. The seemingly permanent autumn/winter of England (at least in the read in summertime, when you're trying to be casual and langourous, sipping cold alcoholic drinks on the porch or by the pool. Tommy's Tale is a slender, lightweight book, not without its charms to be sure, and it has about as much lasting effect as one of those cold fruity drinks.

Or, to use one of the recurring motifs of the book, about as much lasting effect as a good ecstasy trip. Our narrator, Tommy, is a nearly-thirty turn-of-the-millenium London hipster, who likes drugs, clubs, sex (with boys and girls), his tremendously cool roommates, and his quasi-glamourous job as a photographer's assistant. All would be well, except that he now finds himself in the grip of what seems to be an early midlife crisis: despite his love of the good life, Tommy's become terrifically attached to Finn, the preternaturally wise 8-year-old son of his lover Charlie, and much to his shock, Tommy realizes that he wants nothing more than to be a father.

The ensuing misadventures, interlaced with fairy-tale digressions and lots and lots of sex, chart Tommy's late attempts at growing up. It's the sort of story that will be at least slightly familiar to fans of Nick Hornby, for example. Cumming's writing imbues Tommy with a breezy, witty narrative voice that manages to be self-obsessed, self-conscious, and self-aware all at once, and it's this voice that pulls you on through the occasional moments of preciousness and cliche, and through the occasional completely random digression.

A certain amount of skepticism always greets someone who's become renowned for their work in one medium when they try to branch out into another -- see, for example, the reactions to Ethan Hawke's novelistic endeavors. Once you get past the initial skepticism and evaluate Tommy's Tale on its own terms, you will find > a book that's fun and charming; weightless perhaps, but what's wrong with that? For a bit of airy, light reading, one could do much worse.

Tommy's Tale by Alan Cumming
Regan Books
ISBN: 0060394447
272 pages