Friday, February 29, 2008

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You

This Peter Cameron novel has a winning title and a winning protagonist. Booklist said:

"A critically acclaimed author of adult fiction, Cameron makes a singularly auspicious entry into the world of YA with this beautifully conceived and written coming of age novel that is, at turns, funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated."

The YA stands for Young Adult. Hmm. I didn't think it was a young adult novel when I read it, though I recognized it as a story of a familiar adolescence, one that every sensitive young, artisitc (okay, gay) man shares to some degree: feeling more than a little out of place, but also slightly superior to one's peers, feeling a certain dread about college, because of its unknown adolescent bonding rituals, feeling curious and afraid about sex. I think what makes this book a winner, though, is that Cameron has expressed a universal feeling (adolescent angst) with a specific voice. Everyone can relate.

James Sveck, the protagonist, plays the young misanthrope well, but he shields such a soft core that you can't help but route for him from beginning to end. Though he lives in Manhattan, the slightly neglected son of urbane divorced parents, he spends his spare time on the Internet looking at real estate postings in the Midwest. He longs for a simple, quiet, uninterrupted, private life in a well-crafted bungalow somewhere, and he adores his Grandmother for living a version of this life, gracefully and without sentimentality, in nearby Connecticut. He goes to see her often, because she is one of the few people he actually likes.

He also likes John, a man in his thirties (more or less) who works at his mother's art gallery, where James also kinda sorta works. He figures out that John has an online dating profile, and so he makes up a persona he knows John will like and replies. John goes for the bait. I won't tell you what happens after that.

I recommend this book for people who like quick, escapist fiction with a literary flair.

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