Monday, March 21, 2011

The Light at the End of the Dock

In the wake of 9/11, I clearly remember an interview on the news with a man, who was declaring that for the first time in his life, he didn't feel like an African American, but instead he felt like an American.  As a fellow American, I could relate to that, and felt a similar sense of unity.  In Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, the events of 9/11 seem to have the opposite effect on Hans, a Dutch man, and Rachel, his British wife.  Soon after the attack, Rachel feels the need to leave New York for her home, London, leaving Hans to fend for himself.  Hans reconnects with his home by becoming involved with a group of cricket players from all around the world, who find themselves in New York. 

Much of Netherland is centered around this group of cricket players, and in particular, a referee named Chuck who takes Hans under his wing.  This is a group with which Hans, an analyst for a major bank, would not normally associate.  However, it is to these people that Hans turns, somewhat blindly, when his life is at its lowest point. 

There's an obvious Gatsby reference toward the end, which sets Hans up as the Tom Carraway character to Chuck's Gatsby.  Cricket in America plays the role of Daisy.

When this book came out in 2008, everyone was reading it.  I tried to be contrarian and ignore it,  but when I heard that then Presidential candidate, Barak Obama, was reading it between campaign stops, I knew I would have to read it.  I would have read it sooner if I had known that O'Neill had written part of it at Yaddo. 

Next up:  The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walters

Still Listening to:  What is the What by Dave Eggers

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