It would have been easy for me to slap a big fat F at the bottom of this review and be done with it. But grading actor-turned-author Macaulay Culkin’s first book is far more complicated. Junior is labeled a novel, but everything about it suggests that this is as close to a memoir as we’re likely to get from Culkin — if by memoir you mean a piecemeal collection of letters, crudely drawn illustrations, short stories, poems, arbitrary lists (including ”People who are dead”), and journal entries, peppered with roman à clef vignettes. So if you have a jones to find out how ”Junior” feels about his estranged father, coming of age as a former child star, outgrowing his boyish cuteness, his failed relationships, or his more recent romance with a sitcom star, it’s all here in short, often well-written bursts.
Be warned, though, that Culkin appears to have as much contempt for the reader as he does for himself. ”This is not an easy book to read,” he writes with smug delight in the second of six introductions, which are promptly followed by seven conclusions. Indeed, his stream-of-consciousness style is both a twisted virtue (”Masturbation is the sincerest form of flattery”) and a lazy cop-out (”It took me ten minutes to write this sentence”). Although Junior contains enough morbid moments to qualify as a guilty pleasure, you’ll ultimately feel cheated by its lack of cohesion.