Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It


Written by Robert Mailer Anderson (Creative Arts Book Co., 2001, $21.95)

Wednesday, Oct 31 2001
Boonville is a real place. Tucked between Santa Rosa and Mendocino, it's an Anderson Valley hamlet that, according to Alaska Airlines Magazine, makes for a lovely rest stop during wine-tasting excursions. But in Robert Mailer Anderson's version, Boonville's also a town where burned-out hippie nudists name their kids Radicchio, Friday night fun is head-butting your brother with a 50-yard running start, and morbidly obese feminists scream "I am a radiant being filled with light and love!" as they kick at you with Birkenstock-clad feet. In other words, it's a fun place to visit provided the action's happening to somebody else. The pleasure of Anderson's Boonville is watching the bad-acid activity unfold; it's a sardonic and beautifully imagined first novel, a satire of California that revels in skewering the upstate counterculture.

The plot is rudimentary: John Gibson, a Miami yuppie, comes to Boonville to sort out the estate of his late grandmother -- an alcoholic, pot-smoking spitfire known around town for her wooden squirrel carvings. Within 48 hours, John (who's immediately dubbed "Squirrel Boy") is hung over, beaten, roped into committing felonies, and generally despised by the locals. There are pages of well-tuned humor in Gibson's tale of existential descent -- hell, apparently, is other Northern Californians -- but Boonville is primarily distinguished by an exemplary eye for emotional detail. Images of John's adult failures collide with those from his numbed childhood, which seems to be Anderson's way of suggesting that maybe the free-love hippie groove was on to something after all. Maybe.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"