Friday, September 6, 2013

Is "Necessary Errors" a Necessary Book?

Last month I flagged a fascinating Salon essay by Daniel D'Addario titled "Where's the Buzzed-About Gay Novel?" that I thought painted an (overly?) bleak picture of prospects for a breakthrough in the genre. So I'm delighted to report that reports of the death of gay literature may have been premature. Here's how D'Addario's latest Salon posting begins:

Earlier this summer, Salon asked where the buzzed-about gay novel was — the major literary novel taken seriously by critics and audiences that managed to convey in frank tones what it was like for gay people just as so many major literary novels do for straight people.

While Caleb Crain’s "Necessary Errors" may not quite be that book — it’s too particular about time and place to be extrapolated seamlessly to life in America 2013 — it’s a step in the right direction. The book, about which James Wood recently raved in The New Yorker (“'Necessary Errors' is a very good novel, an enviably good one, and to read it is to relive all the anxieties and illusions and grand projects of one’s own youth,” the critic wrote), tells the story of Jacob, a callow youth who, having just graduated college in 1990, heads to Prague to escape anything and everything that can’t be set aside for a drink at the local gay bar or an impromptu trip to another city.

Jacob meets men, sleeps with men, hangs around with friends, drinks, travels — the whole thing is episodic in exactly the manner one’s early 20s are.  And yet the novel is notably gay in its sensibility as well as its subject matter--it's hard to imagine a novel about a man cycling through women bearing as little explicit moral judgment as does "Necessary Errors." We spoke to Caleb Crain about the degree to which his book is marketable to an audience publishers fear might not pick up a gay-themed book, about the creation of a protagonist, and about the debate over whether characters must be likable.

The interview follows at that point. Color me intrigued! 

1 comment:

Tim said...

I had heard about Necessary Errors from a number of sources and had been quite intrigued. That its protagonist, however, was a "gay Flaubertian flâneur" had completely managed to escape me! Thanks, Steve, for shining a light in this dark corner. I'm sure we'll read this book. I'm not sure I can wait!