I think I liked this novel a lot more than other readers, but I also feel like there’s a LITTLE TOO MUCH Vel Veeter in this novel for comfort. I have a thing about authors capturing kind of figure in text (white, middle-class-ish, grad student or close enough, wayward, somewhat outwardly and inwardly destructive). I’m not saying these are good people, but it also feels most interesting when someone is a kind of reformed version of this figure looking backward and writing about it.
So it makes me think most clearly of the novel Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys who just completely immortalized this figure before it was even a thing. So this novel, which presents this kind of fuckboi extraordinaire on the page in both excoriating and loving detail, and makes him completely inept at understanding his own anemic understanding of himself in a kind of new world (as opposed to the kinds of sallow businessmen of John Updike and John Cheever — rather than leaving their families and jobs to become poets, they go to grad school and abjure capitalism), is appealing.
I also like when someone makes terrible decisions, but not deadly or abusive ones, and when I am not the person making those decisions. This book reads like a kind of Amazon Orignals television program, but is significantly better written, and because this writer is a non-native English speaker his phrasing is fascinating.
Anyway, the novel is about a 33 year old language teacher in Chicago who spends his time coming up with terrible screenplays he’ll never write while thinking about sleeping with one of his language students (a Bosnian woman in her 30s) as he plays and maybe sorta thinking about becoming an adult.