This was a far more profound novel than I first took it to be. There were parts that touched me deeply and I was surprised what I felt at the end. This novel is about so many things. All the big things and the little things under the dramatic masks of tragedy and comedy. The story is mostly about everything you really want being on the other side of fear.
I really like how the novel was organized. It gets progressively deeper and deeper while keeping its sense of humor. I think this would make a great movie depending on who was cast as the lead.
The first chapter had a breezy way about it and was light and fun and quirky. It was an excellent way to bring the reader into the story. By the time I got to page 30, the protagonist’s angst had turned into something sort of endearing.
There were so many interesting things in this novel. Such as the protagonist, once having loved and lived with a genius, wondering where that genius comes from and where it all eventually goes. He also muses about how that genius is like allowing another lover into the bed, the whole time knowing you’ll never hold a candle to that other lover. It was an interesting way to talk about living with a writer.
About a third of the way into the novel, it struck me how uncomfortable the protagonist was in almost every situation. He always seemed to feel like he was on the outside even when he was center stage. The fact that he threw himself into a frying pan of center stage after center stage is comic as well as poignant. When the protagonist alludes to being akin to a character in a Stephen King novel with a bucket of blood about to douse him, it’s both hilarious and heartbreaking.
Until about 100 pages in, the novel is mostly light and comic, though with some deep and poignant things to say. I wasn’t sure about the rhythm of the story at first, but it grew on me. I really knew the protagonist so well by this point without having been aware that the author was making sure of it. This was impressive.
The narrator’s description of the protagonist being bad in bed was really good. As was the moment when the protagonist is informed of his literary crimes and why he isn’t more successful. People are judged all the time for not living their best lives, for not getting it just right. That damn Goldilocks is everywhere. Or maybe we all have an internal Goldilocks, one that has zero clue that we think much more about what others might be thinking about us than others ever spend wondering about us.
I loved some of the author’s run-on descriptions. The novel is peppered with delightful little descriptions where the author takes on the point of view of the other. There is also lots of witty dialog salt and peppered throughout the novel.
On the surface, the novel seems like a breezy international road trip tale, but upon a deeper looks it’s really about the journey of life and how we get to where we get and how it feels when we don’t feel we are where we want or deserve to be, when all those left turns seem like not our life. It’s about realizing the life you think you aren’t living is the life you are in fact living. And the realization that you cant go back in time because there is a time and season for everything and it all goes by pretty fast. One day if you are lucky you will be old and wrinkly and no longer worrying about such shallow things as what you look like or how others see you. Who we are left with is the question and the challenge is to figure out the answer. Aging forces all of us to back away from the external and make more time for our internal life. It’s a gift for those that embrace it and a hell for those that don’t.
When you get to the end, you see the bookend of the first chapter. It was a very cool structure.