Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: YES
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Jay Barry’s literary leanings turned entrepreneurial at an early age when he went door-to-door selling the comic books he had written and illustrated. He is currently working on his next novel. For more, see Barry’s website.
Summoned from Las Vegas, where he teaches college English, to the headquarters of the Great Basin Student Loan association to explain some irregularities, Dr. Don Vendicarsi and graduate student Quentin Mann set off on motorcycles through the Nevada desert in a tale reminiscent of many literary road trip adventures.
Throttling the Bard both embraces and pokes good-natured fun at literature and academia. For example, English Professor Don Vendicarsi, one of the two main characters, never goes anywhere without his red pen and will edit anything, anywhere. Even on the wall of the men’s room.
He zipped his pants, then pulled out his red pen and circled the phrase that read, “For a good time call,” and wrote above it, “cliché. ‘ Good time’ is vague. Try something fresh, something new, i.e. for an eternity spent in the safe and non-judging arms of an inanimate blow-up doll call….”
Quentin Mann, the other main character, is a graduate student who, when he is nervous or uncertain about a situation, imagines a narration of the scene in his head where, in the guise of a character he calls “tall, dark, and handsome,” he gets through the situation.
There are references to classic literature throughout, with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Cervantes, and others making cameos. If your reading diet doesn’t include these, don’t be put off by that. I scanned the bibliography at the end and found I’ve read only one of the books listed, yet never felt I wasn’t getting the references. Barry gives the reader enough context to do so without, plus many of these books are those that most reasonably literate readers are likely to have a clue about, even if they’ve never read them. For example, I know Don Quixote was prone to “tilting at windmills,” even though I haven’t read Cervantes’ classic. Those who have actually read the book might notice subtleties I didn’t, but not doing so will not prevent enjoying the book.
Throttling the Bard has all the adventure you’d expect of a road trip tale. This is enhanced by the protagonist’s travels through an area with lots of, by most standards, strange people and places. Vendicarsi and Quentin encounter book-burning religious cults, legal brothels, and put in an appearance at The Burning Man festival in this trip off the beaten path through the heart of Nevada. I found Throttling the Bard a smart and literate read that still had me rolling on the floor.
Some adult language and situations.
A small number of typos and other proofing errors. The most frequent are extra/missing words and a problem with the homophones past and passed.
Rating: **** Four stars