j. l. navarro

Review: A Little Bit of Madness

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Reviewed by Elizabeth Burton

The Blue Iris Journal

May 2002


Max Romero is a drifter, not in its sense of "hobo" but because he really isn't connected to anyone or anything. His life outside his job as a social worker in the welfare department is made up mostly of sex, drugs and indifference.


Then, as if some divine scientist had decided to experiment with him, Max's life goes a little berserk. His neighborhood drug dealer is gunned down next door. He quits his job and drives a cab to make his rent. A sometimes girlfriend announces he's made her pregnant and moves in. Finally, he experiments with one too many recreational chemicals.


Set in the Me Era of the mid-1980s, J.L. Navarro’s A Little Bit of Madness is an existential drama of a man with nowhere to go and no desire to get there. Max Romero is a cynic, a case of burn-out who would just as soon stay that way. He has no real connection to any of the people who surround him and, seemingly, no need for one. Indeed, nothing in his existence, or those of his friends, seems as clearly defined as the utter banality of their lives. They are all full of amorphous dreams they will never fulfill simply because doing so would require too much effort.


Written with a sharp but nonjudgmental eye, this book reveals the hunger for escape -- from reality, from responsibility, from caring any more about oneself or others than is absolutely necessary for survival -- that keeps a group of talented people lost in a defeat of their own making. Even their passion is dispassionate, a friction of flesh that satiates but never satisfies.


Mr. Navarro populates the story with characters that are at once bizarre and recognizable and whose depth comes, ironically, from their very shallowness. There are no happy endings here, no enlightenment or redemption. A Little Bit of Madness is a sad story, and one that rings true because of it.


Copyright 2002 The Blue Iris Journal. All Rights Reserved. Authors may use this review in whole or in part for promotional purposes, and a link to the Journal at http://www.blueirisjournal.com is appreciated.