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Glover’s Mistake ~ Nick Laird

August 21, 2009

Genre: Adult Fiction

Publisher: Viking Books

247 pages

ISBN: 9780670020973

Books and stories have always sparked debate but the most perplexing “argument” to me is that one where “plot” is pitted against “character development”. Now I wouldn’t put it in exactly those words; character development, to me, is something along the lines of Charles Dickens characters making their forlorn way through muddy, rainy streets, learning  a thing or two every now and then.The opposite of action to me, is more like the writer’s personal philosophy regarding his or her subject.

Satire is my cup of tea, be it a book full of flashy, hilarious one liners a la Pynchon or a rolling, farcical set up with a subtler punch line as was the style of Wilde or Swift. That said, I understand that it’s not the thing everyone comes to the table for but I don’t think that idea-driven books are any less attention worthy than something that is straight fiction.

Why the wind up? Well, I’ve just finished this fantastic little book by Nick Laird. His short take on love and loneliness, faith and friendship is sparse in sparkly prose but certainly not lacking in those questions that drive plot-less books. There is a plot but it’s a fairly simple one. Not-so-hipster professor David is not a terribly attractive character but he represents the part of us that so longingly needs to belong, to love and be loved. While he is not likable, he is lovable, despite or perhaps due to his flaws hitting so close to home. After bumping along as just another city bottom-feeder for many years, he runs in to (or tracks down, depending on who is telling the story) Ruth, a former art teacher from his school days. She is the embodiment of chic New York abroad in London and whatever mild, school boy crush David harbored before, turns into an obsessive devotion. Set on connecting in any way possible, David approaches Ruth at an art show and proposes a collaboration between picture and word, setting in motion a tentative friendship between the two. Of course neither life nor art imitating it works out as planned and Ruth is inevitably fixated on David’s younger, more dashing counterpart and roommate, Glover. Hilarity and heartbreak follow.

Obviously, this is not a ground breaking model for disaster but it isn’t in the physical or dramatic adventure that the real action takes place and herein lies my point above. Right off the bat, we play witness to an art opening during which a blank black canvas, only mildly altered and dubbed Night Sky (Ambiguous Heavens) is sold for $950k. Through echos of this snip-it, explorations of pretention, elitism, and art, with an uppercase A, are bounced off of each member of the story.

All of these discussions serve to flesh out the book where the plot is absent. The action is in the study; the adventure in the self-discovery. Now, while I have made a case against the plot-driven reader picking this up, I think that I’ll put in one small plea for said readers to disregard that recommendation. Glover’s Mistake, while waxing philosophical, bordering on entering into that very world of Art that is poking fun of, is about the average. It is about the mundane, the banal and the commonplace. Because of this, every reader, plot driven or thought driven, should pick up the book for in its radical expose, it is an expose of the everyman.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2009 9:00 am

    I love these kinds of books! Thanks for the review!

  2. August 21, 2009 7:50 pm

    I can resonate with a character who always strives to fit in. I think I’ll love this book a lot.

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