Isn’t it weird how, sometimes, a good review can make you not want to read a book? That’s what was happening to me with Michiko Kakutani’s review of Joseph O’Neill’s ‘Netherland.’ Oh, great, I was thinking. Another ‘coming of middle age’ story. And it has resonances of ‘The Great Gatsby’! And the narrator starts drags himself out of a depression via sports — cricket — and a friendship with a “charismatic Trinidadian entrepreneur and storyteller.” Oy.
But then I read this, from the Times‘ excerpt from the first chapter, and decided to suspend my probably-dumb prejudices.
“Now that I, too, have left that city, I find it hard to rid myself of the feeling that life carries a taint of aftermath. This last-mentioned word, somebody once told me, refers literally to a second mowing of grass in the same season. You might say, if you’re the type prone to general observations, that New York City insists on memory’s repetitive mower—on the sort of purposeful postmortem that has the effect, so one is told and forlornly hopes, of cutting the grassy past to manageable proportions. For it keeps growing back, of course.”