Saturday, December 19, 2009
More books I've read in 2009
This was such an interesting reading year for for me -- lots of books that I'd looked forward to that disappointed, but just as many great ones that came from out of nowhere -- that I think I'll do a year-end wrap-up. Unlike every magazine and media website however, I will actually wait until the year is over to do so. Who knows, maybe the best book I'll read this year is the one I read on New Year's Eve. (And yes, I will be at home reading on New Year's Eve with any luck.)
Anyway, I may remember 2009 as the year I discovered Jonathan Tropper. I first read The Book of Joe and really liked it, then I read How to Talk to a Widower and loved it. And I just recently completed Everything Changes and . . . uh . . . I didn't like it that much.
Part of it's probably my fault. You read that much of an author's work in a short period of time, his stylistic and thematic quirks become obvious. In Tropper's case, his protagonists are always guys in their early thirties who do not have their shit together, partly because of their inability to let go of the past, and they are all headed -- though they don't always know it -- for a giant emotional showdown slash public humiliation.
Although all three of the protagonists were similar, their differences were the critical factors in determining whether or not I liked them and ultimately their book. The guy in Widower had just lost his wife who he loved very much, so I cut him a lot of slack. Joe was jerky and self-absorbed but he took a lot of his anger and wrote a novel. (The Widower guy was a writer too, come to think of it.) In Everything Changes, Zach King seems to have everything going for him -- a rent-free NYC apartment, a beautiful, rich fiancee who is nuts about him, a good job -- and all he does is wallow in self-pity and try to sabotage all these blessings. True, he did have a rotten dad who abandoned him and his brothers, and his best friend died in a car wreck a couple years ago. But come on! All in all, things are going pretty good for you, Zach. And isn't it obvious to you that as much as you hate your father you're following in his footsteps, hurting everyone who makes the mistake of caring about you?
I'm going to forgive Tropper this misstep. I'm still looking forward to his newest one This is Where I Leave You, but I am going to wait a while before I read it and cleanse the palate some first.