Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Garth Greenwell came to my attention because of his Atlantic essay about A Little Life, and his role as passionate advocate for a book I also loved made me curious to read his own forthcoming novel What Belongs to You.

I was able to get an electronic advance copy through Netgalley and read it last month in one or two compulsive sittings. Both the prose and the relationship between the protagonist and his lover are unforgettably good: the subject matter calls to mind Giovanni's Room inevitably, but the sentences have a wonderfully incongruous touch of Thomas Bernhard! It is the dark mirror of Andre Aciman's Call Me By Your Name, and the two would be interesting to teach in tandem.

Here is a passage I especially liked:
She had always been driven; as a child she worked harder than any of the rest of us in shcool, she excelled at sports, she was the president of her class, in everything she did she was exceptional. She questioned all of it now, she said, everything she had done, everything she had wanted, not just these public ambitions but also more private needs. We had never talked about sex before; she was so much younger and I had always shied away from it, though she knew something about my own history from the poems I had published, which she searched out and read with an attention they seldom, probably in no other case received. I just wanted to get it over with, she said about the first time she had sex, it was a relief, I didn't want it to be a big deal. She was fourteen when she started sneaking out at night, she told me, boys would wait for her, their cars running on the next street over; they were always older guys, she said, first seniors at her school and then college students she met at parties. I'd lie about my age, she said, I'd say I was sixteen or seventeen and they'd believe me, or maybe they just pretended to believe me. It's not like there were that many of them, she said, maybe seeing the dismay I felt, I didn't even have sex with all of them, I just liked being with them, I liked the attention. I don't know why I cringed at her stories, when I had done so much worse at her age, having sex in parks and bathrooms, dangerous and indiscriminate sex; but I was troubled that her history seemed to parallel my own, that we shared what I had thought of as my own gnawing affliction. And I knew she would outgrow the satisfactions she had found, that soon she would desire other and more intense experiences, drawn forward by those appetites we share, that humiliating need that has always, even in my moments of apparent pride, run alongside my life like a snapping dog. Even these desires, I thougth as I listened to my sister, seemed to descend from my father like an inherited disease.
It's getting good coverage: here's a nice PW bit. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. You completed various fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found the majority of people will have the same opinion with your blog.