If I were to write a novel, I assume it would be something like this one, somewhat scatter-brained, somewhat genius and somewhat ludicrous.
I enjoyed the author’s conversational tone, but sometimes the informality of it when she trailed off into the could haves and would haves fell into a long trailing run on lists which are evenly entertaining and annoying. (Entertaining because we all know we do it, and me more so than others, and annoying because after the first few times it seemed wanton and trite.)
We follow the unnamed narrator from her pursuit of a PhD at Cambridge University to the depths of unemployment in New York City with the one constant being her love/lust/infatuation of Eugene, a professor of Ego studies. It goes without saying that the love/lust/infatuation is perceptibly unrequited as Eugene not only marries another woman and has a child by her, but carries on numerous other affairs over their ten-year relationship/fling.
Aside from the unnamed narrator and the womanizing philanderer Eugene, the rest of the characters are a cookie cutter set of quirky sitcom stand-ins, from the loveable roommate who you can’t help but hope the narrator’s sense kicks in and she falls in love with, to the various bosses and coworkers we’ve all had in the past.
The end of the novel isn’t quite what I expected, but it wasn’t so groundbreaking or earth-shattering that I should encourage you to read it. The only thing that really redeemed the ending were the various appendices which were a somewhat humorous inclusion from the type face commentary to the (I’m assuming) fictionalized reviews.
Recommendation: Leave it. It was okay and decently written, but I feel like it would’ve been a lot better.
“You know what else is nice about being a foreigner? Whatever you do takes place in a capsule that need not be discovered and opened by someone back home. Nothing really counts—it was the life that falls in the forest. That’s how I looked at it. I felt free to…oh, I don’t know.” (7)
“There are two ways to deal with an awkward pause. You can fill the void by babbling or you can suppose it’s the other person’s fault and wait it out. Hold on. There’s a third approach. You can exploit the opportunity and make a sexual advance. (14)
“Now it is time, I think, to tell you, if you haven’t already guessed, that at age twenty-one, I had never done it. It was just one of those things, like real estate ads, that I wasn’t interested in until later in life.” (23)
“Have you noticed this about being a foreigner? The instant your parents visit, you are no longer a foreigner. You are thirteen and you are living at home.” (64)
“But that’s typical of me. ‘This is going to end in tears,’ I tell myself every time I balance a cup of coffee on the upholstered arm of the chair I’m sitting on. And then, lo and behold, the cup topples and even before it lands, I tell myself, ‘Told me so!’ Not to spell out, or spill out, one of the metaphors of my life, but I always do the stupid thing and then do it again. I never learn.” (173)
“They say you know everything, but you don’t really know; what you have is a pretty good idea. It’s the uncertainty that keeps you in the game. They also say you’d be surprised how little you know about someone. I’m an optimist so I find that hopeful.” (180)
“Once you do something against your better judgement, it gets easier to do something else against your better judgement, and pretty soon, you’re doing things against everyone’s better judgement.”