The first, and early, novel by the writer John Williams who would go on to write three very good books, two of them masterpieces. Because of Hoopla, I have access to the newly made (thanks to the republishing of his novel Stoner) audiobook editions of all his works, which I will likely be revisiting presently.
This early novel is something different altogether. While there are stretches of his epistolary novel Augustus that are contemplative and reflective, there’s nothing quite this intimate or personal or claustrophobic in any of his other novels, at least narratively, although all of them are claustrophobic in other ways.
This novel takes place in the single day of a young college student who has dropped out and is spiraling emotionally. He is spending his time, and his family’s money trying to work out the inner chaos and turmoil of his brain and heart and trying to decide what his next steps will be, if there will be next steps. It’s like a more cerebral and stream of consciousness version of The Catcher in the Rye at times (although the age difference is everything) and it’s like the Quentin Compson parts of The Sound and the Fury without the acute pains of his relationship with Caddie. Instead, it’s a narration of a persistent but general chaos that inhabits the minds of many of the young. He is seething with anger at the world, at his father, at his family, and mostly, of course, at himself.
The writing here is powerful at times, and brilliantly incisive, but also falls prey to cliche too often both in style and content. This feels more like a warm-up act than a headliner.