David Daley of Salon reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Suburban novels, much like many American suburbs themselves, have fallen on hard times.
Yes, there are some terrific books about the 'burbs, only few lately that feel like they're trafficking in the great realist tradition of John Updike, John Cheever and Richard Yates, whose novels and stories in the '50s, '60s and '70s defined the quiet despair of the men of Metro-North.
Today, Tom Perrotta's satires of strollerland feel overly broad. Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" brilliantly portrays the dark side of McMansion marriage, but it's so brutal you want to avert your eyes.
Ted Thompson's terrific debut novel, "The Land of Steady Habits," feels like a natural extension of Yates' classic "Revolutionary Road" or Updike's Rabbit series. Call this elegant, witty and economical novel "Rabbit, Meltdown."
It is the story of Anders Hill, who finds retirement no more fulfilling than he did his career in finance, or parenthood, for that matter. So he throws everything away, beginning with his wife and then most of the friends they accrued, but never really liked, across decades in Connecticut's wealthy suburbs of steady habits.
What he can't burn to the ground himself is what the divorce settlement and then the economic collapse does for him.
Before long, Anders is living in a sad condo complex, his ex-wife decides to get re-married, and, well, long, lonely mornings with the newspaper don't feel satisfying, either. So he checks his pride and shows up at the neighborhood Christmas party he'd attended his entire adult life and ends up smoking marijuana with the host's teenage sons and his friends. Things only spiral down from there.
It's not a stretch to say that this is the first great novel about post-crash American disillusionment, the flip side of "The Wolf of Wall Street." Inside the ruined heart and soul of Anders Hill is a warning: even the life you think falls short of your dreams must not be taken for granted.