Friday, July 03, 2015

My Stewart O'Nan Summer

West of Sunset - Stewart O'Nan.  Instead of the predictable Gatsby-era take, O'Nan explores the last three years of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life, when he was employed in Hollywood as a scriptwriter. This book hit all my happy buttons: Scott hangs with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, and even better, Humphrey Bogart is his neighbor. Also, seen through Scott's eyes during brief visits, Zelda comes to life even more thoroughly than she did in the famous biography of her by Nancy Milford. O'Nan so accurately conveys the weird combination of tenseness and tedium that goes with spending time with someone experiencing mental problems. This is O'Nan's latest novel (published early in 2015) and although I haven't made it through all of his works yet, I have a feeling that this is his best one.

The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan. One Halloween night, five teenagers riding around in a car are in a fatal accident. Three die, one suffers severe brain damage and the other is unharmed. The novel properly begins on the first-year anniversary as the ghosts of the three dead teenagers follow the actions and thoughts of the unharmed teenager, who has survivor's guilt; the mother of the brain-damaged survivor, and the cop who was there when the accident happened. There's that same slice-of-life quality that made Last Night at the Lobster so good, but it's also quietly chilling with flashes of sharp, dark humor, like a Shirley Jackson novel.  The ending reminded me of a Coldplay song and I wanted to weep. Weighing in at less than 225 pages, this 2003 novel by O'Nan would be a great read for the R.I.P. Challenge.

The admiration continues. Next up: Wish You Were Here.

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