Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson was last years National Book Award winner for fiction. I try, each year, to read a couple of award winners just to appease my hoity toity lit sensibilities and see where the snooty think I “should be reading”. Often these are some of the most rewarding reads of my year (Redeployment or Brown Girl Dreaming last year as examples), but not so this time.
Fortune Smiles is a collection of short stories that aren’t related in any way, and I hated most of them. The first was interesting, and one I could get behind in a slightly modern world with interesting new technologies, but they all went downhill from there. I thought the low point would be the old East German prison warden who continually blocks out all of the awful things that occurred in his old prison. But instead the prize goes to an abused young man who as a result is a pedophile who’s trying to quit even as he befriends the little girls next door.
Why yes, that is as messed up as it sounds. And I thought Chuck Palahniuk had this corner of effed up book market covered. There’s a reason I stopped reading Chuck over a decade ago, his stories just went too far for me. Mr. Johnson does the same thing this time. I don’t find it edgy or controversial as he is clearly going for, but instead disgusted. And yes, I got his point, that we need to try to see where people are coming from in these situations, but it’s still one of the most awful things that can be done in my opinion, and irredeemable.
So yeah. I didn’t like this one. The writing was so so, and I obviously didn’t like most the stories. I’m guessing it was just an off year as usually the NBA winners and short list are favorite reads during the year.