Insignificant Others: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 8 2010
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“The master of the modern comedy of manners.” —USA Today
“Charming…McCauley displays terrific comic insight about our penchant for denial while still revealing a great deal of compassion for human foibles.” —Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
“A sparkling writer . . . he tosses off witticisms with the alacrity of a Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR.org
“Insignificant Others is vintage McCauley, offering up the usual mixture of hilarity, pathos, irony, and regret. It’s The Office meets Jane Austen, with a twist.” —Mameve Medwed
“A novel with pithy observations, lightness of touch, and generosity of spirit.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Stephen McCauley is the author of five bestselling novels. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit StephenMcCauley.com.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Richard is a man who keeps life at a distance. He has many friends, from all parts of his life - work, social, gym, family - so he has a social life, but he's a man who lives a lot in his mind. It's safer there; less real involvement with people and their problems. And the people in his life do have problems, many of which Richard feels compelled to help out with. He wants to help, but he doesn't want to be really involved, at least til towards the end of the book, where he realises his life would be better if he actually engages in it and makes some definite decisions. The ending is a little ambiguous, which is really okay.
McCauley is such a good writer that all his characters are interesting. Even the minor ones. That's a real writer's talent.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I've enjoyed all of McCauley's books to date, and this one also has his trademark wit, along with an insightful and realistic character-driven story. Though some may perceive it as a bit negative, I see it as a good take on the "understandings" many of us use to define our relationships, since they generally lack legal boundaries or rules. Five touchy-feely stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
The lead character Richard Rossi is kind and funny and has the quick wit of someone you wish you could be friends with...barring that, the next best thing would be to get lost in a novel alongside. Through Richard, Stephen McCauley writes of human faults and contradictions without judgment and instead with kindness and understanding. Fear is tempered with gentleness rather than anger along with the notion that gay or straight, we are all longing for acceptance and honesty and the loves that comes with it. All in all, Insignificant Others is a lovely read, and one that will not disappoint.
Richard Rossi, a fifty-something fitness-maniac, an ex-psychologist who ended up as an HR manager in a software company seems to have made it. He has both a boyfriend called Conrad who is younger and natural blond (if you don't mind the highlights) and an insignificant other, Benjamin, he meets for sex on a fairly regular basis. The book traces a difficult year in the life of Richard which forces him to question what he used to find certain and important.
The plot is rather loose and you should not expect many big thrills here, the overall impression is rather of a chunk of life which had been going on before and will continue after you close the book. Richard temporarily loses and gets back his boyfriend, breaks up and gets back with Benjamin. Conrad tries to replace Richard with another sugar-daddy. An expected raise and promotion go to an unexpected candidate. Personal trainer quarrels with his crazy, drug-addict boyfriend. The cast of characters is quite impressive and McCauley is good both at inventing them and at them and at giving them life even if their part in the novel is quite small.
But it is not the plot that really attracted me to this book. McCauley is eerily successful in describing the US in 2006, two years into the second term of George W. Bush. The image he draws is extremely subtle, a remark here, a description there (take a closer look at the two fitness clubs and the virtual reality golf club!), but it is extremely convincing. On the surface it is a book about a successful gay man who is starting to lose it (his physical prowess, boyfriend, position at the company etc.) but on a deeper level it is a book about country which slowly falls apart at the seems. Somewhat scary but thought-provoking reading.
How Richard chooses to deal with all of the chaos in his life is at the crux of Insignificant Others. The only way Richard has ever been able to handle anxiety and stress is through exercise, but even that doesn't seem to provide the relief he needs. For the first time in his life he is being forced to take control and make tough decisions, and he isn't too sure he wants to.
I've been a big Stephen McCauley fan for years, but I'll admit this book isn't one of his best. Richard's indecisiveness and willingess to let everything unfold around him got frustrating after a while. As one character said to him, "if you never say what you want, if you never figure out what you want, you never have to worry about being disappointed in not getting it." I didn't feel as if any of the characters were particularly likeable, and while I was interested to see how the story unfolded, I found the ending to be the most intriguing piece of the book. I'm a little disappointed, since McCauley usually takes a few years between books. I'd definitely recommend you read Object of My Affection (much, much better than the Jennifer Aniston movie) or any of his other books instead of this one.