The Tipping Point of Oliver Bass by Larry Spencer is filled with humor, wit, and sarcasm in character dialogue. It may be considered dark by some readers. For me, the book read as humor I was very comfortable and familiar with. I had read this type of humor before or at least heard such humor on TV sitcoms. Then I read this in the About the Author section. “Chuck Barris … hired Spencer as the head writer and creative consultant on the cult television classic, The Gong Show. He subsequently worked on … Taxi, Head of the Class, 227, Muddling Through, The Second Half, Pride & Joy, The Hogan Family, and Third Rock From the Sun, to name a few.” (Kindle locations 2801-2809). OK, that explains my feeling of almost déjà vu with the type of humor which appears in Tipping Point.
Oliver Bass is a rich under seventeen-year-old who has bad, scary dreams. Though the content may vary, the dominant dream is Oliver on a beach being swept out by the tide and left to bob in the sea near a boat on which Oliver can see a fisherman who has just landed a large fish. As the fish is taken aboard, Oliver can see the catch is a beautiful 30-year-old woman, his mother. The body of Oliver’s mother was never recovered after her suicide when Oliver was five years old. When having this dream, Oliver has two questions. Did he see his mother? Is he now alive or dead?
When in the waking world, Oliver has different problems. He has been expelled again from a prestigious private school and Jeffrey Bass, the Daddy, has had enough. Daddy has always had enough and has paid little attention to Oliver since Mom’s death. Dad has also gone through a series of several wives in residence and countless mistresses wherever his inclination (or whatever body part) led him. On the plus side, Oliver was raised by several Mexican Nannies, so there may be a Spanish language component as a value-added part to his upbringing. Oliver loathes current stepmother Lorraine. Shelby, Lorraine’s daughter by a previous marriage, Oliver’s step-sister, also loathes Lorraine. Husband Jeffrey loathes Lorraine. These are bad days for Lorraine and is not a good reflection on her people skills. She is a therapist, helping people with their problems adjusting to society.
Lorraine has a special patient, Vance Briggs, who she believes could benefit from a summer vacation stay arrangement with Oliver. Lorraine is convinced Oliver and Vance are broken in the same way. Time together might produce breakthroughs for both of them. Through much of the story, Vance will only appear out of a cloud of alcohol and marijuana; he never got over the 60s or recent despair. Vance has a caregiver, the young sexy Mya, but the relationship with Vance is platonic.
Oliver will resist over and over again the arrangement of living with Vance. Mya, convinced that Oliver is good for Vance, will deploy most feminine wiles to encourage Oliver to stay (not all). Oliver has a stalker, Sidney, who is probably a bit younger than Oliver in years but infinitely wiser. Sidney also believes all problems can be solved with inspired and frequent sex, something that allows Mya to be relatively pure.
This novel is all about secrets. Most of the characters have them, and no character will reveal all secrets at one time. Think ripple effect. A reveal this to B, observer C gasps in amazement and reveals something which causes A to reveal more, and so on. The novel moves quickly through its 175 pages, and I only found one annoying character feature on the part of Oliver. Tipping Point is an excellent title for the novel because the story is about Oliver constantly approaching a tipping point where he will decide to make significant decisions about his life. The annoying point is that Oliver frequently gives up, leaves, changes residence, and not much time later returns to where the conflict originally took place. There is a lot of traveling in this story, something I enjoyed as a frequent resident of Salinas, Monterey, and San Francisco. A lot of the story takes place in Venice Beach. What happens in Venice Beach, stays …
Humor, characters, and dialogue make this a worthwhile read. I rate it at four stars plus with a caveat. This story will not be received well by the more prurient crowd. Warnings are not necessary about inappropriate language or sexual situations. There is no violence. There are expressions of joie de vivre found in California (Venice Beach) that may not play well in the Heartland.
I will continue to enjoy more work by this author.