West of Eden: A Life in 21st Century Los Angeles
West of Eden: A Life in 21st Century Los Angeles is one of those funny and thoughtful books a reader can feel inspired to explore more than once. It chronicles the intriguing experiences of Shark Rosenthal, an English professor, who lives in the fabled Topanga Canyon community of quirky celebrities, nobodies and yuppies. Compiled like a collection of short stories, it blends philosophy, repartee, surrealism, occasional erotic dalliance and Rosenthal’s creative sardonic wit when faced with the absurdities of life. And trust me, absurdities abound in Topanga Canyon. Rosenthal lives with his brilliant and stunning girlfriend, Diosa. She is above his grade. Rosenthal’s daughter, Jesus, lives with them. Yes, Jesus is a peculiar name for a high school girl and no less so when she performs almost-miracles at her school; like the time she was credited for bringing a boy back from dead. Of course it was CPR that brought the boy back to life. Rosenthal’s irreverent conversations with his daughter’s high school administrator are quite humorous.
In West of Eden we meet wonderful ancillary characters, such as Rhonda Riordon, an obtuse college student. Rosenthal is Riordon’s guidance counselor, and her inane questions inspire Rosenthal to suggest that she change her major to philosophy. Conflict arises in chance events, such as when Rosenthal and Diosa get into a car accident that sends Diosa to a hospital emergency room. Emergency room staffers are overly convinced that Diosa’s injuries look more like domestic violence.
The timing and delivery of deadpan lines makes for some of the best humor and Rosenthal utilizes this technique with expert flair. He manages to be funny and snarky without coming off as mean. Eventually, Rosenthal finds himself mischaracterized and in serious trouble. Will he emerge unscathed? You’ll have to read this clever book to find out.
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