Sunday, March 2, 2008

Someday This Pain be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

James is recently graduated and is headed off to Brown in the fall. Except he isn't sure he wants to go anymore. Instead he researches real estate in the Midwest and thinks what he really needs in life is a porch he can sleep on. Why go to college when you'll just be surrounded by people your own age - especially since you've never really liked people your own age?

As you can probably guess, James is depressed. He is an extremely intelligent young man who has never been able to make connections with people. Because of this he tries to convince himself that he just doesn't really like them and prefers to be alone. James uses language as a way to push people away. This works very well since the author's writing is spectacular. He has a way with words that makes James' voice extremely vivid and readable.

Even so, I found James to be an extremely unlikeable character. I almost wondered if James wasn't just depressed but also suffering from a personality disorder, or had a touch of the autism. Anything, really, that would explain his supreme inability to understand social situations. There is one situation in particular that made me think there was something fundamentally wrong with him (I don't want to spoil it, but it has to do with him creating a fake profile on a dating site and not ever really getting why the other person - or his mom - was so upset about it). To me his problems just seemed to go beyond depression and I found that I did not feel terribly sympathetic to his plight. I found him to be rather humorless, maybe a bit superior, and I wonder if that isn't the real reason I disliked him. Feeling sorry for yourself only goes so far and I find it a tiring thing I'd rather avoid, both in the books i read and the people I know. I'm a bit sad that I didn't end up liking James. The writing was terrific, but it isn't a book that I can say I truly enjoyed simply because I never rooted for James to emerge a better person. I wanted to shake him and tell him to get his head out of his ass. But mostly I wanted him to go away so I never had to think about him again.

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