Channeling the messianic language of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dean Decetes, the loser-hero of Lydia Millet’s Everyone’s Pretty, formally founds his own religion exclusively for drunks. Leading a “crusade of the flesh,” he and his “loyal footsoldier” (a midget, approximately the height of a microwave) devote their lives to Jesus Christ and “giant gazongas.” They lose themselves in Pentecostal flotsam, repeating phrases like “Jesus weeps!” and “me take refuge in Sins.”
As their rhetoric becomes increasingly bombastic (“the sex drive,” Dean screams, “it’s why we’re here and it’s the name of the game”), random acquaintances join their cause: a slutty neighbor, an editor at a porn magazine, and a woman who wanders around with condoms hanging off her body like “tree ornaments.” Disgusted by “family values up the wazoo,” they shrug off the cooing selflessness of those who are trying to save them.
Juggling an enormous cast of psychos, Everyone’s Pretty revels in its own religious chaos, the sexually crazed repeatedly clashing with the sexually pure (who, apparently, spend all their free time steam-cleaning the carpet and alphabetizing kitchen cabinets). The book impressively teeters on the edge of total inanity, each scene becoming increasingly uncomfortable, then unraveling out of control. Dean’s delusions take over the plot, which turns into a cartoon-like fight over Jesus, another perverted, “patriotic” crusade to found “a dynasty of better men.”