the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.


In books on May 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm


Finished Joseph O’Neill’s quiet, thoughtful novel last week. It made a lot of year-end lists in ’08, and garnered several “Gatsby-esque” comparisons from reviewers enthralled by the “scene” of Netherland. It deserves its accolades–for its depiction of New York not as a sprawling mass of humanity, but rather something human itself: A lover, a friend, a therapist, a spouse. It is the relationships (though, as O’Neill points to, the word seems more of a place-holder than lived experience) of the novel that are sticking with me. 

Netherland plays with the idea and action of the sport of cricket, and the reader quickly notes in the intermittent pocks of the cricket bat, the never-ending tedium of groundskeeping, and the strange things the game does with time, that O’Neill sees in this sport a metaphor for those incommunicable, mundane, and odd  things we call relationships.

The novel circles around the subject  of 9/11–confronting the events of that day only once, in a terse cocktail party conversation. We emerge from that exchange with the disconcerting and sobering observation that “normalcy”–whether in our jobs or friendships or marriages–simply doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.


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