Insane City Review

Note: If I could insert a scream that would sound delightful here, I would, but sadly all my screams–any screams–are likely to do, is annoy you. For this reason, think of this book as an endless scream.


Insane City (2013)

by Dave Barry

Published by “Who knows and Don’t care” but I don’t own it, so whoever does, I don’t know how you sleep at night.

This book makes The Hangover look sophisticated.

Is that enough of a review? I couldn’t finish it.

The author laughs at his own jokes for crying out loud. Within the narrative itself, Barry points out the scenes he created as though to say, “See?! See–it’s funny because there’s a drunk man bleeding, walking with a baby, Haitian woman, and a gorgeous girl behind him carrying an orangutan.” And yes, that’s an actual scene.

If you’re intrigued, don’t be. This book is crass and grotesque, and about the most you’ll see the Orangutan do is get a hard-on for the bride’s sister. That’s the humor we’re talking about. Where groomsmen put a sex toy in the groom’s suitcase, so he gets stopped by incredibly, unrealistically, incompetent TSA. Of course, he throws the sex toy away, only to see an old man reach into the trash can and take it–oh, but it doesn’t end there, we learn one of his groomsmen used it already.

(Insert Scream)

Let me repeat, I didn’t finish this book. I got 12 chapters in, and nosedived through the rest, reading the first page of each subsequent chapter to see if the story had progressed–note, it does not.

The story is simple. There’s a Jewish man–which is made note of at length–named Seth Weinstein, whose job is to do social media for douche bags, “Women-Fresh”–which is made mention of at length–and he’s getting married to Tina, the most beautiful woman in the world, but he does not know why.

Reading about romance by people who don’t understand romance is undoubtedly frustrating. In the same way that the Twilight series irks readers from romantics.

Here’s a thought, if your main protagonist doesn’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing, that’s a flawed character, not a calling to write a story. That’s a character that doesn’t think for himself and that’s why he needs the author/narrator to dictate events for him. This is why nothing feels organic; it’s very obvious that this is a fictional story because nothing is believable.

The author, Dave Barry, takes each step of the journey and turns it into a scene. What this results in is not boundless comedy, but an overflow of ridiculous ideas and hyperbole that has no grounding in reality.

For example, some authors (i.e. not Dave Barry) have their characters undergo internal introspection if the action dictates that they must make a 30-minute drive to go meet someone. If not introspection, then maybe a description of the city; what the roads and people are like. With Dave Barry, the drive is instantly his next comedic goldmine! Except that it’s too ridiculous and–quite frankly–not funny. Every step now progresses at a snail’s pace because we must stay-tuned for another “comedic” episode before we can move forward.

Not only does this make the pacing incredibly slow–for a text that’s almost entirely dialogue–but jokes move in gridlock traffic; Start-STOP. Start-STOP… Star–STOP!!!

When farce and coincidence start making your audience scream, it’s not a good sign.

I’ll give you the story as far as I managed to get through it:

Seth is an asshole, despite Tina and her sister claiming that he is not. Seth is getting married for no other reason than Tina is hot, but he seems like a good guy because of circumstance and his surrounding fraternity. Marty, Big Steve, and Kevin are concurrently groomsmen and assholes with no redeeming qualities. Marty of course, being the most crass, since his name is the most douchey. Big Steve was clearly added as an afterthought to the second draft to make “stalling” and “indecision” funny–they’re not. And Kevin is Marty except that he is married to–and cheats on–Karen. Also Kevin and Karen share the same first letter so you (the reader) can remember them better. In the same way that Mark is married to Marsha.

(Also, I will not finish the book, but I can assure you that the wedding flops and Seth marries Sindi over Tina because they go on adventures together. How shallow and uninspired.)

All parties arrive in Miami for the wedding in two days.

Oh, but there’s a Haitian woman who, in an attempt at a drama within the narrative, is featured in every other chapter and offers a brief description from her perspective of how she’s going to die and she’ll have to drown her kids to save them from the repercussions.

But Dave Barry is not a good writer. The drama reads like teenage angst and Barry clearly doesn’t understand that a mother would not drown her kids–it wouldn’t be an option. This kind of ignorance only draws attention to the writer’s lack of experience and creative merits.

This text–not story–contains characters who never grew up and take a flight to a circus-wide city.



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3 Comments on Insane City Review

  1. I’m sorry to hear this. Dave Barry’s first fiction book, Big Trouble, was a lot of fun. This kind of just sounds like a retread of that. With an orangutan, as opposed to a toad.

    • I’ve no familiarity with the author outside of this book, but a Toad is infinitely funnier as it could get a boner and then retract it as it swaps gender.

      I have seen his wikipedia entry and he’s clearly written a lot, but if this is a reflection of his entire work, I shudder at the loyalists that read them all.

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