Friday, May 14, 2010

Yes, Irony Abounds

I wanted to alert people to a new book by Stephen McCauley. It's called "Insignificant Others," and it will be available in June. He hasn't written that many books--we get one about every four years--and I have loved all of them. There are not many authors that I automatically recommend (see previous blog and my growing irritation with publishers and lazy authors), but he's one of them. He never disappoints. His books are funny (really funny), wry, a wee bit sarcastic (I love that in a writer), and always poignant.

It's nice to see a writer move into their skin, to see them starting to flex their writing muscles and, yes, grow as a writer. This doesn't happen any more because authors are churning out books like Model "T" Fords, and if you don't have time to think about your craft, then you don't develop your craft. McCauley has wisely taken his time, or he has lots of money and he doesn't have to tap-dance to a publisher's demands for something that looks like a book, reads like a book, but is nothing but a poor imitation. Regardless, there is a growing confidence and mastery from each book to the next.

His first book was "Object of My Affection" (yes, they made a movie out of it), which was followed by "Easy Way Out." Both are absolutely side-splitting funny, with the hints of the poignancy that really comes to the fore in the latter books. Next was "Man of the House," which I think is his weakest (I say this somewhat in quotes because if I  had written it I'd be in ecstasy), but I still enjoyed it. Most decent authors write a "bridge" book.  By that I mean a book that is trying to make that leap to the next level. I felt that this was a bridge book for him. I base this on his next release, which was "True Enough." I've talked with other writers who found humor to be a crutch after a while, and I think Mr. McCauley reached the same conclusion. Not to say that "True Enough" isn't funny. It's very funny, but it's less about the funny and more about that poignancy. And then we have "Alternatives to Sex: A Novel." Which. Yeah. Lovely, lovely book.

I've read the synopsis of his new book, and it sounds like all of his other books (even though they are quite distinct from each other--by that I mean all the protagonists are completely distinct--the only thing that unites them is their sexuality). By that I mean, they are about people and relationships and people falling in love and falling out of love and messy friendships and, well, you know. People. No bells and whistles. Just really good writing. How rare is that? Apparently, REALLY, REALLY RARE. I can't wait to read it.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Love love love him! And he's a really nice guy too. I corresponded with him when I was at Columbia (he's a grad of the mfa program too), and he was a total sweetheart. Nice when the good writing and the good person go together.