- Paperback: 250 pages
- Published: 8/1/09
- IBSN: 9781933354828
- e-IBSN: 9781617750465
- Genre: Fiction
A riveting and sexually charged posthumous novel from the author of Leaving Las Vegas.
“No contemporary novelist has plumbed so deeply into the human heart, and none has paid a steeper price for visiting those depths than John O’Brien. Better shows us what America lost when the author of Leaving Las Vegas took his own life. Unflinching, dark-souled, cry-until-you-laugh authentic . . . each word of this novel burns as true and doomed as a lit match dropped in a shot of whiskey. John O’Brien was a writer who lived and died with every sentence. Better is testament to the miracle of what the man accomplished—and what he might have accomplished had not death seemed like a better alternative. No one who reads this book will walk away unmoved.”
—Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight and Pain Killers
“John O’Brien was a stunningly talented writer who created poetry from the most squalid materials.”
—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City
“O’Brien has a strong tradition behind him . . . that of American naturalism, and he fits into it well. From Stephen Crane to Hubert Selby, Jr. . . . [O’Brien] achieves real power in his writing. You seldom encounter it anymore, but when you do you know you’ve been properly whacked by a real talent.”
—New York Daily News on Leaving Las Vegas
Within the walls of a foreboding mansion situated in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, the suave Double Felix plays host to an array of beautiful women as well as his unlikely sidekick William. The mysterious patriarch grants his live-in guests’ every wish while asking nothing in return. Days begin with William and Double Felix discussing their conquests with the ladies over Morning Vodka, a ritual that is nonetheless edged in homoerotic tension. From there the drinking continues, only to be interrupted by some miscellany—perhaps a rerun of The Love Boat or some casual sex.
But the ongoing torpor has been upset by the house’s newest arrival, a stunning young woman named Laurie, with whom both Double Felix and William become hopelessly smitten. Trash-talking Maggie and Zipper, the hooker who flew in on a trick and never left, smolder with envy while Laurie garners more and more attention from the men.
As tensions spiral out of control, the house—an almost anthropomorphic entity in itself—ejects some of its denizens while further ensnaring others. Eventually, each faces the same ultimatum: leave or stay. The decision is fraught with consequence.
Better delves deep into the psyche of its subjects through an intricate web of cultural icons, loyalty, covert communications, and sex. O’Brien’s characters loom in and out of a surreal world that seems to float high above the rest of us, but is in fact firmly tethered to the human condition.
JOHN O’BRIEN was born in 1960 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982 with then-wife Lisa. During his lifetime, he was a busboy, file clerk, and coffee roaster, but writing was his true calling. He committed suicide in April 1994 at age thirty-three. His published fiction includes Better, Leaving Las Vegas, The Assault on Tony’s, and Stripper Lessons.