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With its blend of fool’s wisdom and deeply felt humanity, Panorama City is heir to Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Steve Martin’s The Jerk. From his deathbed*, twenty-eight-year-old Oppen Porter—an openhearted, bicycle-riding, binocular-toting, self-described “slow absorber”—unspools into a cassette recorder his tale of self-determination, from “village idiot” to “man of the world,” for the benefit of his unborn son. Told in an astonishingly charming and wise voice, Oppen’s account traces forty days and nights navigating the fast-food joints, storefront churches, and home-office psychologists of the San Fernando Valley. Ping-ponging between his watchful, sharp-tongued aunt and an outlaw philosopher with the face “of a newly hatched crocodile,” Oppen finds himself constantly in the sights of people who believe that their way is the only way for him. Oppen Porter is “an American original” (Stewart O’Nan) for whom finding one’s own way is both a delightful art and a painstaking science. Disarmingly funny and surreptitiously moving, Panorama City makes us see the world, and our place in it, with new eyes. *Not really
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