Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Astral

Author Kate Christensen seems to specialize in writing novels about people you would never in a thousand years want to spend any time with if you met them in real life. So what kind of voodoo writer magic has to happen for an author to make you enjoy a book even though you dislike the main character? Beats me but Kate Christensen has it. Read The Epicure's Lament or Jeremy Thrane or The Great Man. Don't however read her newest novel, The Astral and expect the same magic. The Astral is the story of a weak and complaining middle aged man's autopsy of his marriage, when he isn't begging his wife to take him back. It sounds like a phone call you would try to dodge not a novel you would want to read.

Harry Quick is a 57 year old poet living in Brooklyn with his wife of 30 years, Luz. When Luz discovers a new collection of poems in his notebooks she is convinced that Harry is having an affair. Harry did have an affair once but that was twelve years ago and he and Luz worked past it. His poems are always about women, this is writing not an affair. Still, Luz kicks him out and destroys the new poems. Now Harry is a 57 year old homeless poet. As he bicycles around his gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood trying to remember the new poems, sponging off people for places to sleep he ruminates on what went wrong in his marriage and his life.

Harry's story or rather Harry's thoughts are interrupted by drinking, a couple jobs, his interactions with his two adult children, some friends and the characters of his neighborhood. The citizens of Harry World are interesting people. Although they are not crucial to the plot because there isn't one, they do offer respite from Harry's boring me, me, me. Ultimately as engaging as these characters are, they are nothing more than examples of some of the other choices good and bad that people make.

The Astral is a very long short story in which tedious whining rules the day. Too bad.

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