Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: The Psycho Ex Game by Merrill Markoe and Andy Prieboy

One of the reasons my posting has been a bit off-schedule of late is that I've been reading and digesting The Psycho Ex Game. What I thought was going to be an amusing he said/she said war of words over whose ex is the craziest ("She threw my clothes off the balcony of her apartment!" "Well, he called my mother and gave her the lurid details of my sex life!"), it turned out to a fairly depressing descent into the consequences of dating alcoholic and/or drugged-out narcissists who are less crazy and more abusive. Which is fine, I guess, but the book probably should have advertised itself as such. The book jacket and online reviews led me to the former conclusion; reading the book, the latter.

The premise of the novel is simple: two showbiz careerists (Lisa, a writer for a comedy show, and Grant, a musician-turned-playwright/performer) meet randomly at Grant's current gig, a musical about the lives and love of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and exchange e-mail addresses. The topic of insane exes is broached, and a contest is born. Grant, as it turns out, spent years involved with a semi-functional, slightly-less-famous-than-him heroin addict. Lisa spent a similar length of time with a much-more-famous-than-her actor/director whose magnetic charm causes most to overlook the fact that he's a malignant narcissist.

The novel centers around a series of e-mails they send one another that detail the suffering they experienced at the hands of their psycho exes, which they end with an itemized list of points they've earned for each humiliation. Whoever scores the most points wins the game. As the game progresses, though, the e-mails begin to detour into more and more personal territory, causing friction between Grant and his girlfriend (who may be a Psycho Ex in-the-making in her own right) and Lisa and her job. When Lisa's ex appears on the scene wanting to make Grant's musical into a movie, all hell breaks loose.

At the end of the day, I wasn't terribly impressed with The Psycho Ex Game. While the idea behind the book was interesting, I nevertheless feel that it was executed poorly. The e-mails don't always sync up well with the "real lives" that the two main characters are living, and the supporting characters are never really fleshed out. The reader hears precious little about the characters outside of their developing obsessions with one another, so the whole thing feels pretty flat and wooden. It's also very predictable; the ending is obvious from about page fifty or so, which made slogging through the subsequent 367 pages more than a little unpleasant.

The only place where this book shines is the e-mails, which are a very well-rendered portrayal of what it's like to be involved with a narcissist. Having been there myself, I can say that it rang true in a number of ways (which is why it took me so long to read. Unpleasant memories right and left). In fact, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is looking for insight on that particular subject. Like if you have a friend who's dating a total asshole and refuses to dump him, or if you're looking for an explication for my admittedly wacky behavior circa late 2006-mid 2009.

Overall, I give it 2.5 stars.

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