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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You", killing Holden Caulfield

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You- Peter Cameron

Marketing is lying. Advertising is all about cheating. And that does include literature. Yes, I know I sound infuriated. I am. This is not going to be a merciful review.

Critics have saluted "Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You", Peter Cameron's latest novel as "one of the all-time great New York books", a "comic gem" and the (here it goes, hear the drums rattling) perfect modern version of "The Catcher in the Rye". Now that's what I call advertising a book, don't you think?

Of course, "Someday..." is not what the ads say. To begin with While reading it, I couldn't help myself but thinking on how soon we were going to see a film adaption of the book, directed by the responsible of Little Miss Sunshine or Cameron Crowe... and while preparing this review I realized the screen version already exists. It’s understandable; the book has all the ingredients to be considered a potential “cool” film (even the indie ticks abound) but without losing any cross-over appealing… meaning without having any substance. Because, being honest, to me, this book is rather pointless, seriously empty.

I’m very sorry to say that “Someday…” is full of cheap tricks and bad writer resources. To avoid a tiring monologue or a book of young adult introspection, Cameron uses a psychiatrist. He also has an oracle character, James’s Grandma. Someone has even pointed out that it’s her own version of Holden Caulfield sister Phoebe. My goodness. Of course parents are divorced and odd, and her sister is dating an older married man. There’s even the shadow of 9/11 there. If Cameron quickly refuses to use that factor for the story, then why do we have that conversation? And then we have the resolution of the book, of course. I won’t spoil the “revelation”, but what gives sense to the erratic behaviour of main character James Sveck, that justifies the whole novel, is really lame as an argument. Comparing that to Holden Caulfield is offensive.

As a character, James Sveck is another main “concern” for me. He is just irritating, not fun (the only funny thing to me was the housing thing). But aside from that, he is completely untrue, like the rest of the characters. James thoughts and words are the ones of the author, not the ones from a heavily confused 18 years old kid. He is supposed to be extremely smart, to the point of being obnoxious. He talks about Denton Welch and architecture, and has really boring obsession for objects and brands, but he doesn’t know what alopecia means (just an example of incoherency).

I do believe “Someday…” is just an attempt to make a little novel (short, that’s another one of the few positive things) that fits ideally under the Young Adult label, of a kid looking to grow-up in a world that is confusing to him. It does aim to have a moral lesson (another “issue”): James will survive and grow stronger. Take life as a constant lesson, some of them are painful, but you will learn anyway. That might be a rather enlightening conclusion (it looks like a bland self improvement book to me) for a teenager to read, but to salute this as one of the best books published lately is ridiculous.

SCORE: 2,5/10

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