Johnny Oops is an offbeat odyssey through the disjointed life of a man who, as the title suggests, could be any one (or none) of three things: Charlatan, Sex Maniac, or Prophet.
Oops's greatest strength is writer Arthur Levine's obvious talent for rich, realistic dialog and deep characterization. The title character, Oops, defines 'multi-faceted', putting even the most schizophrenic cultural icons (such as Sybil) to shame with his near-infinite depth of shifting hi's and lo's, angst and arrogance. Levine also props up Oops with an equally strong supporting cast of colorful family, friends, and a few genuine enemies. Dr. O'Hara stands out as Oops's longtime psychiatrist (one of the few who frequently and bluntly gives his answer to the title question of what Johnny is). And Oops's battles to legitimize his Dialectic Spiritualism society are biting, hilarious socio-political commentary.
The only problem with Oops is its length (at almost 350 pages, paperback).It could have been 50-100 pages shorter, and still retained its strength. Instead, it's dilluted somewhat by a plodding pace (especially in the beginning). It keeps Oops from seriously challenging 50's Holden Caulfield and 60's Valentine Michael Smith for literary misfit magnificence. Levine hamstrings what could have been a seamless flow with extraneous details that may discourage readers with short attention spans. And t.m.i. may also[unintentionally?] define what Oops is, robbing even a diehard reader of discovering it for himself/herself.
But for those who can stay with it, Johnny Oops is ultimately a rewarding and mostly well-crafted character study that is a modern re-imagination of "A Catcher in the Rye" and "Stranger in a Strange Land", as it graphically presents a strong central character wrestling to control (and make sense of) the wild inner and outer worlds he has helped to trap himself in.