What happens when a humor writer pens a novel intended to be both comedic and dramatic? In the case of John Kenney, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, the comedy sparkles while the drama proves formulaic and predictable. It is as though the author, already gravid with mordant one-liners, snappy banter, and hilarious workplace scenarios, decides he also wants to birth an emotionally riveting tale, a task for which he is unprepared.
An indistinct yet no less burdensome cloud of malaise has settled on the not-very-broad shoulders of Finbar Dolan, narrator of “Truth in Advertising.” For Fin, born and bred in Boston, the sheen of New York has dulled considerably since his arrival eight years ago. He also feels unfulfilled professionally. A copywriter at a major Manhattan ad agency, Fin laments, “I make the commercials wherein you turn the sound down or run to the toilet.”