"H" by Barbara Dinerman
(iUniverse / 0-595-40930-X / 978-0-595-40930-3 / August 2007 / 126 pages / $10.95)
An experienced writer of numerous magazine articles about various interior decorating issues has released her first novel, and yes, it is about herpes. More accurately, it is a morality play surrounding the office politics of a Fort Lauderdale advertising agency in The Eighties at a time when real estate in South Florida was booming and herpes was a new dirty word. The story follows thirty-something Joan Halprin as she deals with an obnoxious boss at a new job after a European dalliance has left her with a bug in her drawers.
Let's cut directly to the source of the itch, shall we? There is actually very little serious content about herpes in "H", although the book is featured on a website for herpes sufferers. The bug does play a key role in the storyline, but this book is strictly light satire, and is not a self-help reference in any way. If "H" is autobiographical, the author makes no firm implication in that direction, either. Although it would seem that "H" belongs on the same shelf with Tim Phelan's Romance, Riches, and Restrooms, this is true only in the reference of both to embarrassing personal subject matter. Ms. Dinerman's first novel shares more in common with Linda Gould's Secretarial Wars and J. J. Lair's Dream Dancing. It is highly likely that if you enjoyed the three mentioned books previously reviewed here at PODBRAM, you will like "H" for many of the same reasons. All are slice-of-life stories with professional production and adult themes.
Behind the appropriately Eighties-seductive cover lies a book with only one glaring shortcoming: it's just plain too short. The storyline, editing, proofreading, and compositional style are all of a high caliber. The weakness is that the plotline virtually begs for more gut-wrenching, soul-searching, scruple-challenging detail. Although the reader can easily visualize the Technicolor characterizations, there is precious little depth of detail in the storyline. Barbara Dinerman is an established professional writer and this fact is aptly conveyed in the presentation of the package. "H" is easily a four-star effort, but to receive five stars from the head curmudgeon, this morality play should be three times as long with equivalent levels of depth and ambivalence.
See Also: The B&N Review
The Author's Website
The Herpes Website