Sunday, February 24, 2013

The secret life of Bobby Bunting

I can't lie: I love reading about oddballs and weirdos, and Bobby Bunting, the man-child who inhabits Peter Straub's novella, The Buffalo Hunter, fits the bill perfectly. If you're familiar with Straub's work (and shame on you if you're not), you'll undoubtedly know that The Buffalo Hunter first appeared in Straub's stellar short-fiction collection, Houses without Doors, which is also well worth your time. But this Bobby Bunting is quite a character. Thirty-five and fond of expensive suits, Bunting has a social life that makes him the envy of other men--well, mainly just Frank Herko, his shaggy-maned coworker at DataComCorp in New York. To hear Bobby tell it, he spends his nights and weekends dining at fancy restaurants and taking in fabulous Broadway plays, all arm-in-arm with his gorgeous Swiss girlfriend, Veronica, whom he hopes to marry soon. Now Frank's never met Veronica, nor have Bobby's parents, and there's a very good reason for that: she doesn't exist. Truthfully, Bobby leads a rather solitary life, hasn't dated since high school, and concocts such elaborate stories to keep himself walled off against the world and everyone in it, most of all his exasperated and overbearing parents, whom he hasn't seen in three years and has no intention of ever seeing again if he can help it. Even when Bobby is given the opportunity to go out on a date with a--gasp--real woman, his first in twenty years, he reacts as if he's just been offered a cyanide capsule. Oh, and then there's the baby bottle, or, as the story progresses and Bobby regresses, baby bottles. Yep, Bobby's got some serious issues, and as the line between fantasy and reality blurs, he increasingly finds himself living within his own liquor-fueled and literature-induced delusions, which in turn only exacerbates his strange behavior and deepens his exile from the world. To escape this exile, Bobby will have to break the twisted grasp his past has on him, but he doesn't seem to be up to the task: His childhood reached forth and touched him with a cold, cold finger. He could not survive it now, he could not even bear to witness a tenth of it. But neither could he live without it.

As always, Peter Straub shocks and disturbs. The Buffalo Hunter is available now at the library.

No comments: