The Student Literary Journal of Vermont State University



Diligence is the mother of good luck ~ Benjamin Franklin
“The Biology of Luck” by Jacob M, Appel covers amongst other things what it means to happy, how do we find or make happiness, and why it is important. Published by Elephant Rock Books, the copy I received was paperback, just over 200 pages and included an interview with Jacob Apple. At sixteen dollars even, it’s a bargain, if in price only. The content, diction, sense of space and the world crafted by Jacob Appel is worth much more. In the front of the book we are given a map of New York City through the eyes of Larry Bloom, one of the main characters, with a hand drawn map crude like a child’s drawing, but alive.

Appel wrote a book unlike any other I’ve had the privilege to read. In the back of this particular copy Jacob is interviewed by ERB (Elephant Rock Books) publisher Jotham Burrello and I think he says it best in his first question, “I have read love stories. I have read parallel narratives. I have read books that take place in a single day. I have read books in the present tense. I have not read books where one character has written a novel about another characters day, and then said book is presented as a novel-within-a-novel.” To this Mr. Appel states that he has not either, and that one of his past teachers had encouraged his students to create something new. He took this advice and ran with it. The entire book surrounds a day in the life of Larry Bloom beginning with the acquiring of a letter from a publishing agency. Larry Blooms novel follows a day in the life of a woman, a one Starshine Hart to whom the book is dedicated. The chapters alternate between a moment in Larry’s day and chapters from his book (also a moment in the day of Starshine). I cannot bring myself to divulge anymore than that because at a certain point this structure becomes a bit more mysterious than one might think. The entire book is a marvelous experiment and a page turner from beginning to end. Lines like “Larry will never be one of these anointed creatures. At the same time, he shares no bond with the homeless vagrants and small-time hustlers who lurk the outskirts of Times Square, the purveyors of designer drugs and teenage pornography, the downtrodden dregs who work the warehouses, whorehouses, sweatshops, and sex shops that keep Broadway’s lights shimmering” (page 178) role off the tongue and onto the brain, setting fire to the page as you turn faster and faster for more. Not only was Appel able to try something unique, he did it with an attention to detail and a language that is beautiful, dark, humorous, tense, confusing, and contemplative… I’m sorry but the list goes on and on, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stop there. Each character within the book leaps out from the pages from the stains on their shirt, or the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Even the most minor of characters become whole beings of flesh and bone that long after you put the book down you’re expecting to recognize around the next corner.

Written from the third person limited, in both Larry’s day as well as the book he has written. We see the world through these two main characters vibrant and real, creating the sense that you could travel to New York and find your way around. Land marks in Larry’s life paint a parallel picture in Starshine’s. The two never meet but at some points we get the sense that they come close, and again I’m beginning to say too much.

The overall theme of the book was a bit hard for me to pin down. The day to day contemplations of ones place in the world, happenstance, fate, and hard work all play a factor throughout the story. Jacob M Appel covers everything form natural luck, consequences of actions, motivation, tedium, taking control of your life, self-pity, shame, love, fear, everything one person could want from a quality novel is here. On the whole it’s a glorious journey, beautifully written and a page turned from beginning to end. Please do yourself a favor and grab yourself a copy, you will not be disappointed.



– By: Lou Bizzaro