Top critical review
on April 22, 2000
This novel IS well written. But after the engaging beginning, describing Vinnie's successful strategies for coping with flying alone, the plot bogs down to a slow crawl, and I had to force my way to the end, trying to discover what made it Pulitzer Prize-worthy.
I realize that many writers are university academics during the day. And, the old dictum of "write what you know", well, I guess that's natural. But since the days of Kipling, Hemingway, and London, writers' lives, it seems, are dreary excercises in stifling mediocrity.
There seems to be an obligatory urge to write something semi-autobiographical: to vent the spleen, contemplate the navel, and lament the sorry socio-economic status of the suffering novelist. But, Lord!, is that boring to the frustrated reader.
None of the characters in this novel were admirable or even likable, except for the doomed Chuck, and we got precious little of him.
I've been running into this scenario a lot lately, Brookner's "Hotel du Lac", Medwed's "Host Family", Russo's "Straight Man", Hassler's "Rookery Blues".
Enough's enough. The next synopsis that reads: "Joe Blow was two years away from tenure, but the rumored cutbacks were looming. His marriage was over, his dog recently cashed it in, he's suffering from major league writers' block, his daughter hates him ...", well, I'm a-headin' for the hills with Steinbeck under my arm.