Book Review: Not a Day Goes By: A Novel
Publication Date: Jul 18, 2000
List Price: $19.95
Format: Hardcover, 271 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Book Reviewed by Paige Turner
Lifestyles of the Bitch and Famous
If you enjoy the big payback and revenge, then popular writer E. Lynn Harris’ is "da man", and his latest novel, Not a Day Goes By, is your dessert of choice, for not since the heyday of Dynasty have villains gotten their comeuppances in so royal and just a manner.
Not a Day Goes Byis another episode in the sex-drenched, angst-ridden
universe Harris created and explored in his previous books. This novel features
the central characters from his last novel, Abide With Me: dawgish Basil
Henderson — a bisexual for our times; and maggot hearted Yancey
Harrington Braxton — the mega-diva’s mega-diva extraordinaire.
Basil and Yancey are one of the most dynamic duos since Adam and Eve or Ike and Tina, and in this novel these two pieces of work meet their match in each other. Basil is an affluent sports agent who is also a "woman hating bisexual with anger issues". Broadway "replacement queen", Yancey is a self-involved hurricane that annihilates everything in her path. Because like attracts like it is inevitable that these two outsized egos should become engaged. Their wedding — a union of warped personas — is scheduled to take place as a major social event that will close the old millennium. But will they actually pull it off? For it is also inevitable that characters as thoroughly despicable as Yancey and Basil would, despite their similar natures, seek to destroy each other.
This book is fascinating - a real page-turner, because Basil and Yancey are exquisitely beautiful on the outside and thoroughly ugly and rotten on the inside. These characters live solely on their dark sides. Never does a generous or community spirited thought cross their minds. Or as Basil muses about Yancey, "Does she ever pray?" Readers get a front row seat into the lowest of low minds at work, and it is riveting to see how truly calculating people think and act. Basil, following a hunch, arranges to tap Yancey’s phone and listens to this conversation between Yancey and her mother Ava:
“Is Basil still out of town?”
“Yeah. I’m glad. I don’t want to have to be around his lying ass until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a good thing I’m a great actress ’cause I’m? going to need it the next few weeks.?”/p>
“He doesn’t need to know what we know until you’re ready to take the money?”
“What if he refuses to give me half?”
“You’re holding all the cards, sweetheart?”
“I know you’re right. He’ll write me a check so fast the ink won’t be dry by the time I get to the bank.?
“He better. I’m investing a lot in this make-believe wedding. I expect big returns on my investment.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll see a nice profit.”
A grand example of true love, trust and tenderness, all around! Only cockroaches and arsenic are needed to make this touching scene complete.
The book is well set up and easy to get into. There are also the usual components that are standard for an E. Lynn book: luxurious settings and lavish descriptions of clothes, appearances and other externalities. If this is an E. Lynn Harris book, brand names will be dropped, and mud will be flung. And, as to be expected, interesting and trendy names like Windsor, Zurich, Campbell, Brison and Cade abound. One notable departure is the book’s front beautiful and rich cover, which displays a soft focus photograph of an opulent boudoir, versus the usual montage of portraits that have adorned Harris’ previous books.
As a writer Harris has shown little improvement throughout his six novels and Not a Day Goes Byis also poorly edited. But Harris does show infrequent promise with descriptions such as how a drink of wine "ribboned" down Yancey’s throat. The chapters are short and generally easy to read. They alternate between Yancey’s and Basil’s viewpoints, but it is disconcerting that only Basil speaks in first person.
Basil, for all his lowness and faults is an interesting character. Yancey on the other hand comes across as just mean and pitiful. Harris shares their abusive childhoods to justify their self-absorption, thus upgrading Basil and Yancey from being one dimensional, to full fledged one and 1/2 dimensional characters. A real improvement.
Balancing this spectrum of self-interested characters are selfless community volunteer Windsor, devoted mother Darlene, and man of integrity Zurich. And then there is Ava — mother of Satan (and Yancey), looking to grab the spotlight at any opportunity. At Yancey and Basil’s engagement party Ava decides to serenade the couple. "The second number, a rendition of "And I Am Telling You", after another swig of her bubbly, was more Jennifer Lopez than Jennifer Holiday. Ava closed her set with a gutbucket rendition of "I Got the Right to Sing the Blues," which she ended by kicking off one of her expensive suede pumps. As the shoe floated in the air, the best of Broadway packed crowd offered polite applause and headed for the bar en masse. Yancey her face covered in embarrassment looked at Basis and mouthed, "I’m going to the little girls room."
In the end does Basil set Yancey free, and turn her loose before she can get papers on him? Readers will have to find out for themselves and will enjoy every moment of the trip. Not a Day Goes Byis a tantalizing tale, but the final lessons are few and weak. Sure Yancey and Basil had childhoods rife with cruelty, but what are readers to learn and take away from their story? There is not much of substance to ponder in Not A Day Goes By, but it sure is fun to read.