I’m known for being a year or so behind on movies. I’m a lot worse on books. People will gift me a book, and three years later I’ll say thanks, I read it, it was great.
Andromeda Klein, Frank Portman’s second novel, is a couple of years old now, and I’ve had it for most of those two years, but only now have I actually read it. It’s another success for Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience. I realize that there are people reading Portman’s books who know nothing of his “other” life, but for those of us who do know his music, there is a pleasant disconnect at knowing the same person wrote a book like this (or King Dork, his fine debut novel) and a song like “I Love You, But You’re Standing on My Foot.” Dr. Frank the musician has always excelled at defying norms and expectations, which is one reason why the Mr. T Experience isn’t as famous as Green Day. And so it’s really no surprise that he’d break out in another art form entirely.
Portman’s two novels have a lot of heart. They are also kinda smart-ass … when I say “heart,” I don’t mean sugary. And he really has a knack for getting inside his characters, making them real … his books are marketed as Young Adult Novels, and I’m not so sure about that (I’ve taught King Dork at the college level and it worked just fine), but I imagine they would resonate with young adults because the books are honest and quirky without condescension. Andromeda Klein might be the most remarkable of the two for Portman’s ability to create a realistic character. Whether or not it was true, King Dork played in part as a semi-autobiographical tale. But Andromeda Klein is about a teenage girl who is obsessed with magic … not the Penn & Teller kind, but the Aleister Crowley kind. The book goes into tremendous detail on the magic Andromeda is involved with … it’s not dry, it’s a part of her life and her worldview, so it’s integrated smoothly into the story … I can’t say I know a lot about the topic, but as far as I can tell, Portman has done some serious research, which pays off.
But again, the magic serves the story of Andromeda. The book isn’t titled Crowley’s Minions, it’s called Andromeda Klein. Dr. Frank is two-for-two in the world of novels.
(A side note about my reading of this book. I got the Kindle version, and by the time I was done, I had read most of it on my Android phone, some of it on my computer, and even a bit of it on an actual Kindle. Each time I would switch hardware, Kindle would know where I had quit reading on the previous device and take me there. It was spooky, and also v.convenient.)