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Superficial and tired
on September 3, 2003
This novel reads much like an entertaining article in a magazine; it's light, with little insight into the human condition or, more specifically, into the psyches of the central characters. The word surface has a gloss, which is pleasant enough, but which falls far short of sustaining repeated readings. It is disposable literature, masquerading as something more permanent.
The protagonist identifies himself swiftly as enjoying an elite, Ivy League, background, with an accompanying modest cushion of wealth. His talents and, more desperately, his potential are hailed as grand and admirable. His interest in literature, in particular, is implicitly cited as rescuing and validating his moral worth. All this is somewhat tiresome and self-satisfied, and does recall the basic scenario of Catcher in the Rye (for better or for worse). Unlike in that alleged classic, here the author feels obliged to explain the protagonist's lack of direction, and he does so clumsily, resorting to a poorly realised appeal to grief.
The minor characters fair still less well. Amanda, the prodigal model cum wife, is empty and vacuous - no attempt is made into fathoming how or why this might be so. Similarly, Tad, an accomplice in drugs and clubbing, is rendered flatly. The surface might well be amusing, or even alluring, but in a novel one could expect more than what could be provided in the space of a thirty second television commercial (and that's all that's offered).
The eighties in New York might have been interesting in some sense, but the source of that interest remains opaque after reading this ultimately rather dull book.