I love Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and her non-fiction is so amazing that when I saw she had written a book I almost didn’t care what it was about, into the amazon cart it went, and it just happened to be a bonus that when I looked at the books eligible for the Pajiba category for bingo, it was on the front page of results.
And then I read the cover blurbs.
“Just the sort of thing that Philip Roth or John Updike might have produced in their prime (except, of course, that the author understands women).”—Elizabeth Gilbert
That is 100 percent accurate, but I really don’t need any more Updike or Roth, even if the women are written as full characters, because our “hero” still doesn’t understand them, and no lessons are learned or consequences suffered for his ignorance. I can’t take another book about the ways life is disappointing for moderately successful white people in New York. This is what I get for not caring what the book is about, it ended up being a very well written version of a story I’ve read/seen/heard/watched a million times.
That said, Brodesser-Akner is an amazing writer, and even if I wish her topic was LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE, the book sparkles in places. The amount of money I would pay to be able to write a line like “they became sophisticated in a way that she wasn’t – in a way she’d never be because sophistication is either your first language or you always have an accent in it” is obscene. Another:
“Here is the problem: you can only desire something you don’t have – that’s how desire works. And we had each other. Resolutely. Neither of us with a stray glance at another. After Adam and I were married, when I’d go out into the world, I’d see that the men I found myself drawn to were almost replicas of Adam, just like that guy in Lisbon. I wanted nothing different. I just missed the longing. We are not supposed to want the longing, but there it is. So what do you do with that?”
I mean, I’ve been with my husband since I was 18, and our relationship can buy cigarettes, so that paragraph cut to the bone.
I just wish it was in service of a better book.
Everyone is unfaithful, unlikeable, and spoiled. I can’t care what happens to them. The book shifts perspective confusingly between the book’s narrators – the eponymous Dr. Fleishman and his college friend Libby. I’m still not entirely sure what larger point the book is getting at, and it just sort of ends in a very literary way. But damn, can Brodesser-Akner write.