Early Work by Andrew Martin

early workPeter meets the strangely alluring Leslie at a dinner party.  She is what his girlfriend is not – tall, earthy, vaguely exotic, rough around the edges.

Peter is smitten, and apparently enough so to risk his steady live in relationship with Julia, a medical student whose long hours run in contrast to his lackadaisical schedule – he teaches writing composition to women prisoners part-time and whiles away his remaining time in an alcohol and pot infused haze while pondering literature and wondering why he’s not even starting to write the Great American Novel.

The questions are whether Peter is bored enough to mess with his domestic life, unconventional as it is, and if Leslie is the jolt he needs to spark any sense of creativity.

Peter is a semi-likeable schmuck – he breezes through life by sheer luck and druggy charm.  I found it hard to cheer him on as he steps further into his sexual forays, which are mired in drug-fueled experimentation that varies between funny and tedious.

Leslie herself is a piece of work, and several interjected chapters fill in her back story.  In one manner, this disrupts the narrative, and in another, it’s refreshing to get away from Peter’s perspective for a time.

Other characters, although not fleshed out much, are still welcome.  Peter’s buddy Kenny is easily one of the funniest, a backwoods intellect with a heart of gold.  His rundown farm in the middle of nowhere is the scene of many a Bacchanalia and sexual conquest.

There’s also Molly Chang, hyperactive and man-swapping, who pushes our group towards experimental film and music when the collective navel-gazing gets too intense.

At first, Early Work did not impress me.  Its characters are kind of self indulgent, an assortment of post-collegiate intellectual wannabes who all live in a combination of privilege and squalor.  The book has its merits, though – it’s chatty, smart, laden with literary references, and therefore tailor-made to anyone who is young and obsesses over the printed word.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

 

 

 

 

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