LITTLE DID I KNOW
A Novel by Mitchell Maxwell
The Story Plant, $15.95.
An accomplished director and producer with a string of recognizable hits to his credit, Mitchell Maxwell has taken the pen in hand for the novel, LITTLE DID I KNOW, a coming of age story set at a summer stock theatre in Plymouth, MA during the bicentennial summer of 1976. While these trappings may suggest a tale of all-American proportions, Mr. Maxwell has centered his narrative squarely in small-town Americana. This is a world Mr. Maxwell knows well, having produced a few seasons at the Priscilla Beach Theatre in Plymouth when he was just out of college, and LITTLE DID I KNOW seems to be an unabashed celebration of Mr. Maxwell’s own early success in the theatre. Unfortunately, the too-often libidinous prism through which Mr. Mitchell is regarding his past is turned up a couple of notches past halcyon, and after just a few chapters the reader is drowning in the honey-colored glow.
The problem is Mr. Maxwell lays it on too thickly at every turn. His undisguised alter-ego, the talented, ambitious, articulate, sexy, brash and volatile Sam August, has the last word in every argument, is a veritable chick – magnet who ogles all the girls, and, annoyingly, succeeds at everything he does. This is a main character, I am afraid, that one grows not only to dislike but also to disbelieve. At times, Mr. Maxwell seems to be revisiting old arguments and settling old scores, usually with mute characters who are completely docile while he is tongue-lashing them, not with words but with paragraphs. At other times he is celebrating la vie boheme of the mid-1970’s, and summers spent by the New England seashore leading the barn-theatre life, but his prose is over-burdened with ubiquitous baseball references as well as a potty mouth, and time and again, just as the turgid narrative seems to be picking up a little steam, it is dashed to the ground by a new chapter fresh in from left field.
Going in, I had high hopes for LITTLE DID I KNOW; having spent a dozen years in summer stock in the Northeast, I know the terrain pretty well, and was interested to have Mr. Maxwell’s take on it. Sadly, by the time I got to the predictable conclusion of this insufferably self-congratulatory book, little did I care.