Mimi's educational yet entertaining introduction provides ample fodder for a raucous round of Trivial Pursuit based solely on manhole covers. This Friday night, stymie your friends by asking them what year the US Department of Commerce began requiring labeling of imported manhole covers. Answer: 1984, of course. Browsing through these thoughtfully posed photos of America's favorite manhole covers, one inevitably wonders why the Melnicks never pried up one up and peered into the dark depths below. Obviously, Bob hasn't the courage to capture on film the scary, fire-breathing monsters that reign over the hellish labyrinths that are America's sewer systems.
The book's a quick read, which is always welcomed when a book isn't great; and Bukowski's one liner's prove he can still tickle a good guffaw out on his prose. The story charts a few days in the life of Nick Belane, a frequently soused private dick who finds trouble and solves cases, both through no agency of his own. Belane gets wrapped up in a tangled mass of bizarre cases that often pit him against his own clients, among whom are a voluptuous space alien, the French author Celine, and the mysterious Lady Death. Along the way, Belane gets schnockered, rumbles with ruffians, and wallows in existential self-pity like only a Bukowski character can.
Bukowski also uses Belane as a mouthpiece for his own streetwise, ironic wit, which while often funny enough to crunch ribs, is about the only real treat on this book's snack platter. The plot is outlandish to the point of amateurish, and the book's toying with detective novel standards is generally not amusing. In fact, you get the distinct sense after reading Pulp that Bukowski merely churned this out to appease his gullible faux beatnik following and score some easy beer money. You can't blame him, but try his short stories instead.
Whether he's shoplifting at Victoria's Secret to win his mother's heart or having his virgin "unit" stroked by his father's obese, middle-aged girlfriend, Bone is more fun to watch than an up-side-down turtle. Banks does a great job of pulling readers' puppet strings to evoke sympathy for all the fourteen year-old lost souls of the world. And above all, there's a moral here for you young readers, as Bone learns that virtue and sanity are possible for even the most maligned little buggers.