August 2003

Liz Miller

fiction

The Locklear Letters by Michael Kun

Sid Straw is an ordinary man who happens to write letters--a lot of them. Interoffice correspondence, little notes to accompany bouquets of flowers, and letters to Heather Locklear, a fellow UCLA alumni and sorority sister to a girl Sid dated twenty years ago. Sid starts writing Heather to ask for an autographed photo for his brother--but soon, the letters are multiplying, and the more he writes, the more complicated things get. Soon, Sid is misunderstood, unemployed, and broke. He can't get another job because of the restraining orders against him, he's under investigation by the FBI as a suspected Communist, and the woman he's interested in is "kinda creeped out by the Heather Locklear thing." Because Sid soon finds his only solace in writing letters to a woman he barely knew twenty years ago--a woman he remembers the oddest details about, a woman he hopes would understand him.

Michael Kun's novel has its amusing moments. Told entirely through Sid's outgoing mail, Sid's anal retentive habits (he writes a personal note to every publication he subscribes to, including Big Boobs) and rote pleasantries are all that's needed to give the character life, at the same time revealing his petty, almost vicious side. His bad attempts at humor cause misunderstandings that lead to lawsuits; when an alter ego of his "goes missing," he implicates Heather's agent (an evil force determined to keep the two of them apart) in the "crime."

As Sid's life gets worse, he grows more vindictive--and therein lies the major fault of the book. Sid starts off as a likable but pathetic sort, but loses that likable sheen as the story progresses and he starts to express his impotent rage against those who don't deserve it. By the time he manages to retaliate against those who have made his life miserable, he's too hard to like--frankly, he feels like an asshole. And while, yes, nice guys do tend to finish last--do we need that fact rubbed in our faces?

This seems to be the only thing Sid doesn't realize about himself, as he's otherwise very self-awareness--made never so clear than in this letter to Heather:

George Clooney and Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones, maybe they're all good and decent and honest, too, because surely there were people who knew and liked them before they became stars, right? Maybe all of them are just like normal people, just like the girl I knew in college. Maybe they're just like the rest of us, in a way. And if they can succeed and be happy, maybe I can do the same, right?

What Sid seems to forget is that we rarely see a side to the movie star that reflects who they really are--and it's perhaps a good thing we don't. If we knew what George and Meryl are really like, then maybe we wouldn't be so happy about their success.

Because, as Sid Straw's story brings into sharp relief--it's never fun to see assholes succeed.

The Locklear Letters by Michael Kun
MacAdam/Cage
ISBN: 1931561362