July 18, 2009

Reading American

One of my personal goals lately has been to read more American and British novels, and to that end I decided to read Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, partly because I liked the original cover (pictured) and partly because of all the excellent reviews. And partly because it has laid claim to a spot in the elusive Obama book club.

It has a dreamy kind of pace as it's mostly flashback and meditations, and I found it a bit melancholy, but I liked it very much. Even the cricket parts. The highlights of the novel for me were the lovely sentences and observations, like the following:

On the state of generalized panic in NYC following 9/11:

"Very little about anything seemed intelligible or certain, and New York itself---that ideal source of the metropolitan diversion that serves as a response to the largest futilities---took on a fearsome, monstrous nature whose reality might have befuddled Plato himself" (24).

On a woman visiting the narrator's apartment, realizing he must be separated from his wife:

"Like an old door, every man past a certain age comes with historical warps and creaks of one kind or another, and a woman who wishes to put him to serious further use must expect to do a certain amount of sanding and planing" (109).*

By a fortunate accident, just as I was finishing the novel, the excellent literary blog The Elegant Variation posted a four-part interview with Joseph O'Neill here, here, here, and here. (They're also having a giveaway contest for the novel until tomorrow, Sunday, July 19th, if you want to win a copy for yourself.)

* page references from the Vintage trade paperback.

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