Narrated by Oliver WymanChallenge: Tournament of Books 2015 Genre: Literary Fiction Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible Why I read this now: For the Rooster
MOTIVATION for READING: This is a book that many love to hate, others are swooning over, and some thought it ‘fell flat’. Gotta find out where I am in all that!
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Goodreads blurb: When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
WHAT’s GOOD: It is sweeping, it ifeels epic, it is fascinating, it is friendship as love and people at their best. People at their worst. It’s heavy. At times, I was impressed. Reading through the discussion at the Tournament of Books Goodreads Group Page helped me keep a tentative and open view to what YH was attempting, maybe. I was damned curious and went along for the ride. Since it was audio, I offer no quotes… Okay, maybe one, from goodreads:
“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”
What’s NOT so good: It’s long. The trauma Jude experienced and can’t run away from ever is unending and brutal. “Do the characters grow?” someone asked me on Twitter and I don’t think they did. It just got beyond believable. If it was an issue or a quality or a characteristic, it got in this book somehow somewhere: drugs, poverty, wealth, sexual preference, cutting, art, acting, Swedish film, fancy food, racial profiling, distant parents, flying to Paris, everything and the kitchen sink. It seemed an experiment of cultural affectation.
Since it was audio, I do have to mention: I listen while driving and when pulling into my driveway, ready to find that ‘good spot’ to turn off the book… It kept going and going and I would think – “OK ALREADY! Put a period on that sentence! take a breath. Sheeeesh.” So perhaps, a few run-on runnin’ on-and-on sentences.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I found the descriptions of life and friendship and culture riveting at times. I do think this had elements of powerful prose. I did find myself connecting but it didn’t let up. There was a glossy overlay that made it all too pretty even as it wallowed in despair. Whoa! Fancy talk for me, huh?
OK, I’m reading through the paragraphs I just wrote (and you just read to get here) and I’m laughing, shaking my head at myself. I’m glad to have read it. Would I recommend it? Nope – you’ll have to decide that all for yourself.
Based on this Twitter convo, I originally planned a ‘few words’ post:
SO on that note…
RATING: No pie was mentioned that I noted, anyway…