mini-review · stuff I read

The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne

35276866Summary from Goodreads:
Ray Morris is a tech journalist with a forgettable face, a tiresome manner, a small but dedicated group of friends, and a wife, Garthene, who is pregnant. He is a man who has never been punched above the neck. He has never committed adultery with his actual body. He has never been caught up in a riot, nor arrested, nor tagged by the state, nor become an international hate-figure. Not until the summer of 2011, when discontent is rising on the streets and within his marriage. Ray has noticed none of this. Not yet.

The Adulterants would be a coming-of-age story if its protagonist could only forget that he is thirty-three years old. Throughout a series of escalating catastrophes, our deadpan antihero keeps up a merciless mental commentary on the foibles and failings of those around him, and the vicissitudes of modern urban life: internet trolls, buy-to-let landlords, open marriages, and the threat posed by more sensitive men. But the wonder of The Adulterants is how we feel ourselves rooting for Ray even as we acknowledge that he deserves everything he gets.

I’ve been noodling over how to review Joe Dunthorne’s The Adulterants. I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it, and I’m also kind of “eh?” because I think I didn’t quite get it. I think this novel is supposed to be satirical, with a kind of ironic distance, so we can laugh at the clueless white dude who is super proud of having black friends and gay friends, whose wife is a quarter Turkish (I think), and he would have been very supportive of his wife had she decided not to have the baby (her body, her choice, right?). It really just comes off as the narrative of some sad-sack idiot who isn’t even as remotely woke as he thinks he is. He kind of deserves everything that happens, particularly since he learns absolutely nothing. The book is more eye-roll inducing than funny.

Lord, grant me the self-confidence of a mediocre white dude.

The Adulterants will be available on March 6.

Dear FTC: Thanks to Tin House Galley Club for the ARC.

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Best American · mini-review · stuff I read

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017 edited by Hope Jahren

33503528Summary from Goodreads:
“Undeniably exquisite . . . Reveal[s] not only how science actually happens but also who or what propels its immutable humanity.” —Maria Popova

“An excellent introduction to the key issues in science today.” —P. D. Smith, Guardian

“[A] stellar compendium . . . Delightful to read.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

A renowned scientist and the best-selling author of Lab Girl, Hope Jahren selects the year’s top science and nature writing from writers who balance research with humanity and in the process uncover riveting stories of discovery across disciplines.

When October rolls around each year, I eagerly snatch up my stack of HMH’s Best American Series titles (Essays, Short Stories, Non-required Reading, Science Fiction and Fantasy; RIP Infographics) but the collection I read first is always The Best American Science and Nature Writing.

The 2017 edition is an excellent collection of science writing selected by Hope Jahren. Jahren chose articles not only about advances in science but about the lives and events behind the scientists’ discoveries. Of particular importance are two essays about the sexual harassment that women suffer in the sciences (apparently it is hard to conduct one’s self in an appropriate professional manner ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, which is completely not hard at all, ugh #whyaremen. Don’t bother @ing me). Highly recommend.

Dear FTC: I read My Own Damn Copy.