Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

Posted this on the weRead Facebook app.

Can't think of how to open this review, so I'll just say "quite unlike anything I've ever read." The Exley depicted herein is an inveterate "dreamer" (might as well say "liar"), alcoholic, cynic, and lazy, listless parasite. He is a man seduced and betrayed variously by the ideas of fame, love, etc. He believes himself an artist but has none of the endurance that such a metier would call for. He is beset by the endless, gnawing apathy of the ambitiously unambitious, waiting for his life to begin and stewing in jealousy and with judgement for everyone who has managed to get on with theirs. Fearful, embarrassed, his answer is to see himself as a man apart. Frederick Exley on the page is profoundly unlikable.

So why four stars, then? Well, this book is, both intentionally and unintentionally, a very honest one; and for those of us who, like Freddy, never thought much about their futures, "prayed for rain," sulked in solitude, avoided their work, went tongue-tied, became deeply alienated, developed terrible habits, hit bottom, bounced, and hit it again, there is enough that is revelatory here that this could later be looked back on as a Very Important Book in our lives. (Don't ask me to qualify that, as I wouldn't even know where to begin.)