The central character in Jacob Rubin’s “The Poser” is a young man with the ability to instantaneously and flawlessly imitate anyone.
Encouraged by his mother and discovered by a hack agent, Giovanni Bernini goes from being ridiculed and, often, feared by his small-town peers to garnering widespread acclaim as The World’s Greatest Impressionist.
The rest of his arc of fame follows a trajectory at which cynics will knowingly nod, and Rubin’s precise and inventive writing wonderfully captures the enigmatic character as he travels this arc as well as the philosophical questions such a character raises.
“The Poser” is an exciting debut and I recommend it for its noirish beats. It is also richly, darkly funny. The novel is set in a fictional country that resembles America in the 1940s and 1950s, and Rubin has exquisitely created this world; it is easy to get lost in it.
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My one reservation concerns the handful of female characters, all written to a flat type, which I could forgive for being true to the noir genre, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by it, particularly in a work that at its heart offers a deeply sensitive exploration into matters of identity and authenticity.
Viking/Penguin Books, 256 pages