“When he decided to leave New York, he chose Arizona because of some drone footage he’d seen.”
Lydia Millet most previous novel A Children’s Bible was a much more explicit rendering of an apocalyptic future in which climate change had forever taken its toll on humanity, and all that was left was the shouting (mostly pillaging and murder). It was also a kind of retelling of A High Wind in Jamaica. This novel more or less addresses the same basic question: what’s to become of us? The difference here is that most of the participants in this novel don’t have any clue that’s what’s happening.
Gil has just moved to Arizona from New York, specifically he walked there, after a break up in which the woman he was with for 15 odd years left him a note saying “I met someone” and that was that. He chose Arizona, moved to a community with an HOA, and did what he normally did, nothing much. Gil was independently wealthy from generational wealth and two dead parents who died in a car accident (of a sorts) when he was young. With no real family except the lawyer who runs the trust, Gil is able to pick up a new life wherever he wants. He decided to walk to Arizona because he wanted to do something in his life that actually cost him something (time, energy) as opposed to the freedom his money normally brought.
Things start happening. Gil befriends his next door neighbors, a married couple around Gil’s age, with two adolescent children. And he befriends Jason, a bird-watching single man (who is probably not Jonathan Franzen, but I kept thinking about it). The bird-watching becomes the naming device for the chapters.
This is a book about noticing time passing (all novels are really), and Gil finds himself looking back at the last 15 years and wondering about what all happened. He wasn’t married, and they didn’t have any children, and even though he had money, the not working weighed heavily on the relationship, which seemed so big and stable, until it didn’t. So as he picks up his new life he begins to wonder a little more about what life means going forward.
Humans (and maybe especially Americans) have a bad habit of thinking that time stands still and that what once was can be again. Neither is true. But the passing our of own time is often delusionally perceived as the passing of all time, and as our final day creeps up, we often think the same thing is happening to the world. The title Dinosaurs remind us (and think about that term as a metaphor in the way it’s used) humanity and the world are not the same thing. Just like each of us is not the same as humanity.