Summary and book reviews of Bandbox by Thomas Mallon

Bandbox

By Thomas Mallon

Bandbox
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2004,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

From the author of Henry and Clara, a dazzling, hilarious novel that captures the heart and soul of New York in the Jazz Age.

Bandbox is a hugely successful magazine, a glamorous monthly cocktail of 1920s obsessions from the stock market to radio to gangland murder. Edited by the bombastic Jehoshaphat "Joe" Harris, the magazine has a masthead that includes, among many others, a grisly, alliterative crime writer; a shy but murderously determined copyboy; and a burned-out vaudeville correspondent who's lovesick for his loyal, dewy assistant.

As the novel opens, the defection of Harris's most ambitious protégé has plunged Bandbox into a death struggle with a new competitor on the newsstand. But there's more to come: a sabotaged fiction contest, the NYPD vice squad, a subscriber's kidnapping, and a film-actress cover subject who makes the heroines of Fosse's Chicago look like the girls next door. While Harris and his magazine careen from comic crisis to make-or-break calamity, the novel races from skyscraper to speakeasy, hops a luxury train to Hollywood, and crashes a buttoned-down dinner with Calvin Coolidge.

Thomas Mallon has given us a madcap and poignant book that brilliantly portrays the gaudiest American decade of them all.

Cuddles Houlihan got clipped by the vodka bottle as it exited the pneumatic tube.

"Goddammit!"

The cry of pain that filled the office came not from Cuddles, whose head still lay asleep on his desk, but from the tube. Its ultimate source was the office of Joe Harris, the editor-in-chief. At this late, sozzled hour, Harris had mistakenly fed the interoffice mail chute not the translucent canister containing his angry communication to Cuddles, but the still-half-full, six-dollar quart of hooch he was regularly supplied with by the countess in the fact-checking department.

Harris glowered for several seconds at the undispatched canister, before giving in to the impulse to open it up and look once more at what had enraged him in the first place: a photograph of Leopold and Loeb, smiling, each with an arm around the other, perched on the edge of an upper bunk in the Joliet State Prison, both of them avidly regarding the latest issue of Bandbox. The thrill killers held it open with ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist - Donna Seaman

Mallon is, to steal one of the many effervescently clever phrases tossed about by his irresistible Jazz Age characters in his delicious sixth novel, absotively posilutely a pleasure to read....Strongly plotted and laced with witty wordplay and covert social critique, this tale of ambition, betrayal, and love is pure joy.

Publishers Weekly

A new, gleeful exuberance infuses Mallon's latest novel, in which he turns his talent for fastidious historical detail (Dewey Defeats Truman, etc.) to the elaboration of a comedy of errors set in Manhattan during the 1920s.....Mallon has never before employed his wit and humor to such good effect; he writes with comic brio, indulging in clever repartee and nimble farce.

Kirkus Reviews

Bandbox pulses with a comic energy and detail reminiscent of T.C. Boyle at his most entertainingly manic it's a wonderful ride, and a quantum leap beyond Mallon's earlier fiction. Ragtime in double-time.

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