Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A Meaningful Life
Steve Dore lent me A Meaningful Life. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time, he’s turned me onto something incredible.
In this case imagine a story that combines the misanthropic satire of Evelyn Waugh the rapid-fire humor of Woody Allen’s prose and a touch of French existential literature.
What you get is the story of Lowell Lake a totally banal married middle class schlub who comes to the realization that his job, his marriage and his life are totally meaningless. What’s his solution? Why, gentrify. Meaning buy an old mansion in Brooklyn (The book was written in 1971. Could we still imagine a modern version? I’m thinking of you Olympia Downtown Association) once owned by some ‘important figure,’ kick out all the people living in it, and bask in self-important reflected glow of owning and restoring a house someone ‘important’ once lived in. In other words, it’s no solution. But its fair to say the for the author, L.J. Davis, this is the whole point. And in the case of people like Lowell his satire is spot on.
Without giving away more plots details, the book also gives an entirely hilarious biography of Lake has plenty of amusing interactions between Lake, his parents, his wife, his in-laws (like I said Woody Allen) and others. It also has one of the finest endings I’ve read. Not quite Sentimental Education or The Stranger but pretty, pretty good.