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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
Next - James Hynes I'm not sure it's ever smart to do much more than suggest allusions to Virginia Woolf and her dazzling Dalloway. Push the echoes too forcefully and you'll end up seeming like nothing but a karaoke singer. (If I want to be the lead singer, endlessly reminding the audience that I idolize Aretha Franklin will do me no service as I wail.*) Hynes' book opens with an epigraph from Mrs. D, and the book echoes that classic's focus: a single day's walk around a dense social landscape, the threat of distant wars and violence coming home, a constant musing stream where consciousness links past and present, the limited perspective of an individual both celebrated and ironized.

At its best, Hynes' novel is chockablock full of funny sharp observations, and it has a generous sense that even the most narcissistic impulses of its protagonist are merely venial sins, and does not condemn him.

But our focus is so intently on Kevin that the novel can feel a lot more claustrophobic than Dalloway. All he ever seems to think about is fear and fornication. These are certainly meaningful elements of human experience, but ... sheesh. I loved how Kevin would occasionally be jarred out of himself, and in a flash recognize others. The novel soars when these moments occur. But the long investigations of his regrets and desires... I just got a bit worn down.

Still, it's a compelling and engaging read.

*Michael Cunningham may be a decent karaoke singer, but he is still a karaoke singer.