Washington Post reporter Alec Klein’s first novel is a glimpse into the life of a public-relations executive—the kind of guy a lot of women go out with once and swear never to see again.
Miles is the man you meet in a bar after a horrific breakup, the one whose outlandish lines are comforting only to someone in desperate need of an ego stroke. Delusions of happiness with such a man end when you discover his waterbed and the stereo cued up to “Let’s Get It On.” Women secretly hope this kind of guy has insecurity issues or seeks counseling for his pathetic love life. But Miles seems to do just fine.
The book’s first-person narration is a scary glimpse into the psyche of a single man who’s convinced he’s still got it at 36: “I’m a lousy son of a bitch, and I know it. No. Better: proud of it.” In humility, Miles rivals Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s buffoonish character in the movie Anchorman—although Miles seems slightly more aware of what others think about him.
So what happens when that same egoist decides he’s fallen for Sunny, his beautiful next-door neighbor, who—like most people—hates his guts? Miles makes his living spinning others’ words; to him, “hate” is a relative term. Besides, it would be impossible to resist the Miles mojo. Or would it?
Miles’s work takes him to such far-flung locales as the Dominican Republic, but somehow Sunny is always on his mind. When badgered about his single status, he even invents a fictitious girlfriend also named Sunny—yet he spends most of the novel vehemently denying that he finds the flesh-and-blood version anything but acerbic and troublemaking.
Much of Beast of Love is consumed by Miles’s growing involvement with a media scandal involving golden toilets and union executives. For those unfamiliar with the PR industry, it’s an ugly look into the lives of spin doctors. There are brief, humanizing glimpses of Miles’s family life, namely his friendship with younger sister Ariel. Sunny is ever-present yet just out of reach—although it’s obvious from the first chapter that Miles harbors more love than resentment for the woman with the “golden smile.”
The beauty of Klein’s writing is in the details: Sweet baby sister Ariel indulges a rebellious streak with her choice of boyfriend, who sports a switchblade tattoo—on his neck. Office secretaries are “WOC’s,” or Women of the Cubicles. The boss has no name but “The Ferret.”
The story is touted as an “urban mating ritual,” but it seems more like guerrilla warfare. Dirty tactics involve newspaper stealing and the “adoption” of a homeless dog—which Miles has every intention of returning to the pound after it has served its purpose—but Sunny won’t budge in her feelings.
The book’s ongoing Midas-touch analogy gets a bit heavy-handed at times, but the laugh-out-loud narration—combining frat-boy humor, dry wit, and zingy one-liners—will leave even jaded readers snorting in their lounge chairs.
James A. Rock & Company