Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #152: The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure by Jack Handey


Of course Christopher Moore is reading this. It’s said authors write what they like to read, and The Stench of Honolulu definitely shares the same absurdist bent as Moore’s own books. It reminds me a lot of Moore’s Pine Cove novels, without a doubt his most out-there work.

Separating Handey from Moore is that Moore, as absurd as he can get, likes to stay at least somewhat rooted in reality and some form of logic, if only just internal logic, whereas in The Stench of Honolulu, anything goes. Handey’s career was built upon one-liners, and this book, in essence, is him hopping around randomly from one one-liner to another.

At numerous points, his narrator even stops the flow of the “narrative” for what amounts to, literally, just a list of jokes that are only barely related to his so-called plot. In one case, the narrator thinks up ways of murdering his friend, culminating with this hilariously convoluted plan:

Find a big rock stuck in the ground. Convince Don we need to move it. Don wrenches his back trying to lift it. We go back home, where he gets hooked on pain pills. He robs a drugstore to get more pain pills, and during the robbery shoots himself in the foot and needs even more pain pills. He overdoses and is rushed to the hospital. On the way, the ambulance is involved in a wreck, and Don wrenches his back even worse. He is able to flag down a cab. The cab driver has back problems, and when he sees Don he thinks Don is making fun of him, and shoots him.

That pretty accurately sums up the entire novel. It’s just Handey riffing around a basic plot and set of characters.

Sometimes, in rare moments, your thoughts and emotions and desires crystallize into pure thoughtlessness. The Eastern swamis can achieve this, and so can some checkout clerks. And as I gazed down at the rock, that’s what happened to me.

Everything’s just a set-up for another punchline. Luckily, though, they’re funny enough that I didn’t mind. And if you laughed at the above excerpts, then you probably won’t much mind either.

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