Tournament of Books 2020: Fleishman is in Trouble

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s “Fleishman is in Trouble” is a readable book. The pages fly by as you absorb them, looking for something, anything, more than superficial, entitled, dull misery. I kept waiting for the promises humour to appear. I kept waiting for the novel to get to even the basic insights in David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” as it dug into the daily grind of its rich, white, healthy, able-bodied, cis-gendered, supremely selfish and childish characters. I kept saying, “so what, who cares?” and the novel didn’t answer. What things it had to say about women’s place had been said much more poignantly by authors with a better story to tell.
There is some attempt at narrative sophistication, but that doesn’t land. Akner chooses to use the second person for parts of the narrative, but she doesn’t commit, doesn’t fully create a witness account. Then there’s an attempt to mirror a fictional narrative within the narrative, a magazine article like telling of a divorce falling apart. Again, Akner pulls her punches, the comparison of “divorce story as written by a man vs. divorce story as written by a woman” doesn’t land. At some point I started hoping that she would pull off a trite move like revealing that she’s gender switched the narrative all along, just so I could have something to look forward to. Toby talks about rich people not knowing how to deal with tragedies or hardship in a novel devoid of any tragedies or hardship, as a character, in a cast, that has never truly dealt with the terrors of the world. The only character that has the potential for some depth, Rachel, is rendered as a selfish, driven, social climber with no empathy to anyone but herself.
The novel, like its characters, is pleasantly whiling the time as the world around it burns and it eats beef lo mein.
I read this book as part of the2020 Tournament of Books, where it’s up against Jami Attenberg’s “All This Could Be Yours” in the first round. Both novels are about rich, white people going through a crisis of sorts, but Attenberg’s novel has a depth to it, the darkness of Victor vs. the light of its post-Katrina New Orlean’s residents, that makes it worth spending some time with.
If you’re looking for a “Sex in the City Post Divorce” type of book, “Fleishman is in Trouble” may be what you’re looking for. Otherwise, I’d avoid it.

Tournament of Books 2020: Fleishman is in Trouble

Dare to Dream: Eurovision 2019 Tel Aviv Euro Village

A quick sketch on location of the Eurovision 2019 Tel Aviv Euro Village as it was filling up.

Leuchtturm1917 Sketchbook, Super5 0.7 fountain pen and Rohrer and Klingner Lotte ink.

Dare to Dream: Eurovision 2019 Tel Aviv Euro Village

Tournament of Books 2019: The Challenge

Each year for the past 15 years The Morning News has run the Tournament of Books — a March Madness like competition for books published during the previous year. It’s fun and light-hearted and super interesting because unlike other literary prizes, you get to see the judges’ thought process as they decided which book progresses and which doesn’t.

I first learned about it a few years ago through Field Notes, who sponsors the competition and issues a special, limited edition notebook to accompany it. At first I just bought the notebook, because I was a budding Field Nut and that’s what Field Nuts did. A year later I read and enjoyed some of the books that were in the competition, and I started to really look forward to reading the judges’ debates on each round.

Which brings us to this year, which is the year that I’ve decided to finally challenge myself to read every book on the Tournament of Books 2019 shortlist. That’s 18 books total, and as the tournament starts in March, there’s very little chance that I’ll be able to finish reading all of the books in time for their round. That just means that I’ll be following along a little later than usual, but I don’t think that it matters much.

What’s challenging isn’t just the sheer volume of books, but also their topics. There are no “light read” books on this list. There are books about death, prison, war, bigotry, racism and all the other “wonderful” sides of humanity. It would be a tough challenge on a regular year, but as I’m struggling with death and sickness in my family, this will be extra tough.

So why am I doing this? To challenge myself. To make myself a better, more empathetic human being, and hopefully a better writer. And because I can.

Tournament of Books 2019: The Challenge

Quick Update

Here’s what’s going on in a nutshell:

  • Back to writing while I figure out what to do with my first novel (beta readers, synopsis, etc).
  • I’ve deleted Tweetbot from my phone again. I’ve really cut down on my social media lately, and it’s time to once again take a step back from Twitter for a while. It just makes me so angry and frustrated lately, to no good end.
  • Listening to Serial season 3 (talk about angry and frustrated), MBMBaM, Do By Friday, Roderick on the Line, Felicitations and the Pen Addict. I’ve really cut down on my technology podcasts for the past few weeks, because there’s only so many times you can hear a bunch of dudes talk about their iPhones or watches.
  • I’ve managed to return to journaling, and my running is back on track. I’m still spending a lot of time in the hospital, on the phone with the hospital or researching health things on the internet for my mom, but I’ve managed to eek some sort of balance into the craziness of it all. Keeping my head above the water at this point, which isn’t bad.
  • Drawing and reading like crazy, instead of watching TV or playing video games, which is a net positive for me.

 

Quick Update