This was a quick and easy read, and for the first half of the book, I really quite liked it. I thought the language was very good, most of the characters interesting, and the story was engaging.
But something happened along the line, where it just turned sour for me. It was as if the novel tried to do what Lolita
does so efficiently - making us sympathize with a character who does not deserve it - and fails.
I have no problems with books where I don't like the main character. That's not an issue if the book is well written and the story interesting. Here, it is well written, but the story just turned incredibly dull during the second half. I knew what was coming every inch of the way, and I was frustrated over the fact that the main character was so oblivious to it.
I tried very hard to like the novel, because the language endeared me to it, and because I loved the author's book on reading and writing ([b:Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them|39934|Reading Like a Writer A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them|Francine Prose|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1335367374s/39934.jpg|1435619]). Sadly, there were several things nagged me into dropping it from three to two stars. Spoilers ahead.
First: The married main character has sex with a student (as in, they get naked, and intercourse starts), but doesn't finish because he breaks a tooth. The rest of the book he calls himself a "semi-adulterer", and that he "tried" to have sex with her. No. You had sex. Finishing has nothing to do with it.
Second: The book makes working to stop sexual harassment, and working in women's shelters sound like BAD things, like political correctness gone crazy. I know that this is how the character thinks, but still, it annoyed me endlessly. It ends with the student he had sex with lying about how they came about having sex - which smacks of slut-shaming to me. Girls have a hard enough time being believed when they have been sexually assulted, and in my opinion, there does not need to be novels adding to that idiocy. I feel like the novel handled the theme poorly and unoriginally - it could have been handled in tens of different better ways, all more interesting and original.
Third: It was, in the beginning, funny to read how exasperating a writing workshop can be. But then it just goes on and on about how awful it is to have your work read and critized by peers, and I don't think that's all there is to it at all. Sure, workshops can be damaging. They can also be very helpful. It goes both ways. The novel never lights on this fact.
Fourth: Too much sex. I'm sorry, but even if the novel is about a silly infatuation, an adulterer, a teacher-student relationship; there was too much sex. Every woman was described in terms of beauty, every man was described as wanting to or having had sex with every woman they could get their hands on. It could've been done with much more grace, beauty, and delicacy. It could've been done with fewer clichés, and more poetry. Again, the novel seems to try to take a leaf out of Lolita, and fails. It's not even properly provocative, it's just annoying.
I was hoping for a novel about writing and writing workshops, an interesting take on a theme I haven't read a lot about - talent and creativity and how it can be worked with and molded - and it just dumped that part of it after the first half, and turned into a tirade of lust, sex, lies and alcohol. Disappointing.