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Pretty Enough for You by Cliff Hudder
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Pretty Enough for You

by Cliff Hudder

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Fiction
Cliff Hudder
Pretty Enough for You: A Novel
Texas Review Press, 978-1-68003-038-9, 344 pgs., $22.95
July 15, 2015

Pretty Enough for You is Cliff Hudder’s rollicking carnival of a debut novel.
Harrison Bent is a self-absorbed, adolescent middle-aged ne’er-do-well immigration attorney in love with a twentysomething paralegal, married to a Filipino au pair who needed citizenship, with a girlfriend-stalker, whose philosophy is go-along-to-get-along. Playing hooky from responsibility, marinating in rum-Vicodin-Xanax cocktails and lying to his therapist, Bent is assigned a new case. “I knew I was not equipped to deal with the Leudecke case. I also knew I wouldn’t turn it down or hand it off to somebody better suited … what background did I have in eminent domain? Or with Mexican drug dealers? Or dead Mexican drug dealers?” Bent’s also deficient in pyromaniacs, witches, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but he gets a crash course.

Hudder exhibits superlative comedic talent. “I had stretched my nineteenth year pretty far. I had stretched it right up to my forty-fifth year, some would say, but now I was forty-eight.” Bent prefers to drink “Cuba Tiránicas (like Cuba Libres but more oppressive).” Dialogue:

[Bent] “What do you know about him?”

“Never heard of him….But I can get you what you want from him, without him knowing.”

“That’s really confusing.”

“If you want to know more, I’ll need something from you. Obviously.”

“Obviously….You want me to buy you another drink?”

“Yes.”

I bought him another drink. “Is there something else?”

“Oh, yes. There’s something else.”

I thought about the possibilities. “Money?”

“Of course, money.”

What were expense accounts for? “How much would you like?”

“Exactly. How much?”

“Look, help me out a little here….How much to take me to him?”

“First the word.”

“I’m sorry?”

“The word for what you want. Tell me the word, and I’ll take you to Eladio.”

“Who you don’t know.”

“Never heard of him.”

Women exist in relation to Bent’s immediate needs. His exasperating running commentary (flab, hip flab, overwide hips, thick ankles, wrinkles, thinning hair, beefy, pretty enough) made me want to put him in a Speedo and see how he measures up. But I did not dislike him — he manages to be just self-aware enough to avoid complete cretinhood.

He is capable of introspection with a Bent twist. “[L]like on a tour of the Coliseum in Rome, when some American assholes in the group won’t shut up — they insult the ruins, talk loud on their cell phones as the guide attempts to explain how many Christians were slaughtered — and they make you feel you have to apologize to the guide and all of Rome and to a lot of dead Christians, too, and not just for the assholes or their behavior or even for yourself, but for your whole country: maybe your way of life.”

Hudder’s Pretty Enough for You reminds me of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Vineland. Hudder avoids the temptation to rehabilitate Bent while still delivering character development. The ending is unexpectedly affecting and satisfying without being wrapped in a happily-ever-after bow. I hope Mr. Hudder is working on another.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Aug 2, 2015 |
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