A FORTUNATE AGE
Bloomsbury, July 2015, RRP $32.99
I took up A Fortunate Age under considerable misapprehension as to the time period in which it is set. Somehow missing both the details in the blurb and the first line, which literally features the word “1998″*, I launched into it believing it was about my generation. I am 26 right now and was interested to “see what an author some twenty years my senior thought about it all. Would it involve angering stereotypes? Would I find it self-deprecatingly humorous? Despite very quickly correcting the flaws in my understanding, and after fighting a bout of cynicism about reading a book about 20-somethings in the late 90s, I decided to persevere. And admittedly, I expected to hate this book. I didn’t.
On the face of it, Joanna Rakoff’s novel about coming of age is not something I would have chosen to read. It is contemporary fiction, a genre I generally dislike, and once the immediate connection with myself had gone**, I expected I would despise the characters in all their trust-funded, New York whininess. Yet something in Rakoff’s confiding, urgent tone, which reminded me a little of 19th century novelists, kept me going. Though I found most of the characters irritating and some themes and elements troubling, I enjoyed A Fortunate Age. I enjoyed it rather a lot.
Blum, William (Common Courage Press, updated edition October 2008, ISBN 978-1567512526)
In 2009, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” 
Many thought the prize undeserved – on the grounds that Obama appeared too much the enemy of peace. Had he won it, they asked, for prosecuting a war in Afghanistan? Or instead for his proposal to expand the United States military? Or for his plan to send “at least” two additional American combat brigades to Afghanistan? Continue reading
Puzo, Mario (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969, ISBN 9780399103421)
Visiting Matt and Darryl meant sneaking through the lair of a cranky, nocturnal gremlin that had lodged itself in their living room. Tread too hard on a loose floorboard and it would jolt awake. In almost one breath it would shout obscenities, accuse you of freaking it out, demand to know your name and ask to borrow twenty dollars until Sunday.
The gremlin had a fringe of long hair around the edges of a bald scalp. In front, a silvered chain linked a piercing through its nose to a piercing in its right ear. Out in public it affected a knobbed staff and a billowing khaki duffle coat. In Darryl’s living room it wore a bathrobe (supplemented on occasion by something it’d “found spare” in Darryl’s clothes hamper). Continue reading