Author:Menlove, Leia
Position:Book review

Julian Tepper (author); BALLS; Barnacle Rare Bird (Fiction: Literary) 24.00 ISBN: 9780983925576

Byline: Leia Menlove

In the early pages of Julian Tepper's simultaneously fretful and funny novel, Balls, Henry Schiller, musician, lyricist, and emotionally crooked hero writes a song about his suspicious testicular pain. "A thousand curious aches, / In the course of a lifetime. / Why get unsettled, / Mentally? / For the belly rails. / The brain ails, / The heart, it wails. /And you keep going."

Henry's song belies his true state of mind: He isn't calm, nor collected, nor amenable to the fate of his body's ills (nor those of his mind). We also soon discover the young musician is not only stuck in the dregs of a long-brewing identity crisis, but that "his psychological map had begun redrawing itself."

Balls is Tepper's first novel, and it is brilliantly engrossing. As a protagonist, Henry Schiller is the ultimate anti-guidance counselor in matters of love, life, and career: in search of "equilibrium," and "feeling right," he does everything wrong -- and just at the worse possible moment: he has crippling depression, anxiety, or something worse. Yet somehow, again and again, Henry survives himself. Whether he will survive his own reluctance to be treated for a possibly deadly condition, or his own inclinations to self-destruction is another story -- and keeps the reader turning pages until the very end.

Tepper's characters are a pleasure to meet. Having visited a therapist, Henry labors to explain why he is there. "He told her of his struggles with music. But he wanted her to talk...

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