McCauley is back with a new book and it is a good one. Richard Rossi, a fifty-something fitness-maniac, an ex-psychologist who ended up as an HR manager in a software company seems to have made it. He has both a boyfriend called Conrad who is younger and natural blond (if you don't mind the highlights) and an insignificant other, Benjamin, he meets for sex on a fairly regular basis. The book traces a difficult year in the life of Richard which forces him to question what he used to find certain and important. The plot is rather loose and you should not expect many big thrills here, the overall impression is rather of a chunk of life which had been going on before and will continue after you close the book. Richard temporarily loses and gets back his boyfriend, breaks up and gets back with Benjamin. Conrad tries to replace Richard with another sugar-daddy. An expected raise and promotion go to an unexpected candidate. Personal trainer quarrels with his crazy, drug-addict boyfriend. The cast of characters is quite impressive and McCauley is good both at inventing them and at them and at giving them life even if their part in the novel is quite small. But it is not the plot that really attracted me to this book. McCauley is eerily successful in describing the US in 2006, two years into the second term of George W. Bush. The image he draws is extremely subtle, a remark here, a description there (take a closer look at the two fitness clubs and the virtual reality golf club!), but it is extremely convincing. On the surface it is a book about a successful gay man who is starting to lose it (his physical prowess, boyfriend, position at the company etc.) but on a deeper level it is a book about country which slowly falls apart at the seems. Somewhat scary but thought-provoking reading.
Richard, McCauley's narrator in this novel, is a Trollope fan. So, presumably is McCauley, and it shows for this book is, like a Trollope novel, above all an acute observation of character and behaviour. As too with Trollope, many of the minor characters, like Walmi, the gym instructor, or Brandon (a brilliant portrayal of youth vs. Richard's middle age)are as vividly and meticulously depicted as the main protagonists. Of the main protagonists, Ben, the married man who is gay, is the most poignant torn as he is between his sexuality and his love for Richard -a word neither man would use at the beginning of the novel - and his love for his wife and family. If I have one reservation, it is the irritating headings to paragraphs which add notthing, break up the flow and assume that the reader is too dim otherwise to work out what is going on emotionally on the page.
Overall a really good read, with great characters, reflections on the times...and different lives. There is humour funny and dark, there are people you will sympathize with and some you will grow to dislike. If you like a book that deals with people, their relationships, the secrets they hold... or think they do, and probably a snap shot on a life we might like to lead but never will...Read on.
in Stephen McCauley's new novel, "Insignificant Others", but that's okay. His novels are small works of art, where character development is first and foremost. Richard Rossi, a 50ish gay man lives in Boston, with his "SO", Conrad, but he also has an "IO" (insignificant other) on the side. The "IO" is a married man who's torn between his love for his wife and family (and his position in society) and his sexual desires.
Richard is a man who keeps life at a distance. He has many friends, from all parts of his life - work, social, gym, family - so he has a social life, but he's a man who lives a lot in his mind. It's safer there; less real involvement with people and their problems. And the people in his life do have problems, many of which Richard feels compelled to help out with. He wants to help, but he doesn't want to be really involved, at least til towards the end of the book, where he realises his life would be better if he actually engages in it and makes some definite decisions. The ending is a little ambiguous, which is really okay.
McCauley is such a good writer that all his characters are interesting. Even the minor ones. That's a real writer's talent.