A Typical tale of the mid fourties, or identity crisis , which takes place amongst well off New Yorkers who wander about the level of success in their lives so far, and how happy they really are . It is quite insufferable , very narcissistic , even exasperating when one thinks of the amount of real suffering that takes place routinely everywhere on this earth.What is it about ?
Well, it is an excellent book, marvelously funny in the dialogues and portraits taken from the contemporary art scene in New York, where the main character Peter, operates professionally and survives tremendous competition since he is a middle range gallery owner and not a top notch one. The cynicism necessary to this job is as amazing as the amount of money required to buy the horrendous objects offered as » oeuvre d'art », to these international collectorsthat we meet, especially the Chinese ones . That aspect alone justifies reading the book , viewing this world of sharks and fools, » nouveaux riches », every everyone of them,who can only outdo the next person as rich as them.
The problem in the hero's life is a beautiful boy, ( his bother in law actually), in his twenties : idle ,homeless, jobless, a dilettante, a wasted youth who takes drugs , foot loose and unable to occupy himself …. he appears as a house guest , and is naturally an homosexual temptation . Jesus , another one of those homo dramas which constantly obsess writers these days and harrass the reader , one could scream .Well, Peter enjoys a multiple crisis ; he questions his private happiness as a husband of a quite remarquable and snobby wife but also questions the point of his grotesque work that eventually appears to him as a fraud and a farce …he thinks that he loves the boy . He is lucid but dumb at the same time , thinks of fleeing to a greek island with Mizzi, the beautifu lboy,,as a solution to his unease, What a pathetic joke this is really !
The real drama of his and his wife's life exists though in the guise of their daughter, who has become at age twenty, a decided failure ; she is a bar maid in Boston, having dropped out of college and living with an unemployed fat female loser . None of the two parents can talk to her and make her change her mind ; she wants to be a nothing and be a living contrast to her parents lives, and refuses to talk . It is utterly sad and without answer , an horribly silent suffering : the failed parents syndrome in all its horror is exposed here nd hurts deeply.Cunningham depicts a certain breed of highly educated people who seem to exist in our western cities, urban adults who behave like adolescents , selfish and spoiled in an unconscious world of their own. Why is our civilization arrived to such a failed state, an utter decadence bordering on the absurd ? Or is it the fate of all decaying civilizations to abandon their children , one could ask. Well, probably : no one has raised them really.
A tough read but entertaining nevertheless , and also a tragic novel as so many of Cunningham books are in their aftermath .An author of the deep difficulty of being.