I’m back again with two more mini-reviews on a theme. Last time was mysteries that had me going until the end but today is not all that mysterious, it’s rich white dudes. Which, apparently, there are fair amounts of in recent fiction.
The Fall of Princes is author Robert Goolrick’s look at the brash and bullish world of Wall Street in the 1980s. An interesting time to be sure but one I feel like I’ve already covered in my reading with Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities—which isn’t to say I only read one novel about a time period or event—an outright lie given my fondness for the Tudors and World War II. From another perspective, maybe, but the narrator is a Wall Street hotshot and Goolrick’s macho prose, peppered with declarative sentences and enough testosterone to leach off the page doesn’t interest me anymore. It’s a time and a place we learned nothing from so that in 2008 the same expensively suited, stupidly wealthy men got to do it all over again and this time, bring down our economy. This one rubbed me so wrong I was not able to finish it but Goolrick’s brash prose and the narrator’s foibles, as well as the sybaritic high life of the era, mean that this is a novel that could be appealing to a number of readers. If you’re one of them read it and stop back to let me know what you thought!
A Good Family chronicles the lives of the Brunson family: the powerful patriarch, Henry, whose personal and professional successes have segued into the unease of middle age only to be assuaged by leaving his family and embracing nightclubs, young women and Viagra—in that order; his wife, Julia, who is coping with her husband’s departure by popping Zoloft like Pez; their oldest son, Charles, who was his father’s pride and joy and heir apparent in the business world until he quit his job and enlisted; and Barkley, the youngest son who perfectly fills his slot as a pretentious, entitled young man who is certain that his sci-fi stories are going to make him the next Asimov.
I started A Good Family right after The Fall of Princes so in the name of honesty, I’ll acknowledge that it was bad timing for me regarding fiction about rich white men who have spent their lives plundering only to be beset by fears of dying. This is not a protagonist class that piques my interest. Add to that the abundance of family stereotypes (philandering dad, checked-out mother, loser gamer brother) and I’m left wondering when/if originality is going to make an appearance. Having said that, this novel has garnered a lot of praise and while the story did not appeal to me the writing is strong. If A Good Family had been about Charlie and his struggles to re-integrate into his life after a tour of duty in Afghanistan I would have stuck with the book because in those chapters Fassnacht explores issues of profound importance in modern day America. Unfortunately, if only one out of four in an ensemble cast has a compelling story it’s not enough to keep me turning pages.