Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 23

"Martin Bauman, or the Sure Thing" by David Leavitt and "Joe College" by Tom Perrotta

I've been looking forward to writing this blog post for quite awhile. I'm treating these books as one novel. Both Perrotta and Leavitt seem to publish novels on the same schedule. These two came out in 2000; their novels "Little Children" and "The Body of Jonah Boyd" came out in 2004; and "The Abstinence Teacher" and "The Indian Clerk" came out in 2007. (I haven't read either "Clerk" or "Abstinence.") Back in 2000, I read "Joe" and "Martin" almost back-to-back, so they seemed very much like one novel. Of course, the narrator of Leavitt's novel is gay and the protagonist of Perrotta's novel is straight, but here's the thing -- they both take place, at least in part, at Yale at the same time; i.e in 1980 or 1981, when Jodie Foster was there. (This is when I was in college, only I was going to Wesleyan.) The novel talked about many of the same places and events, including the presence of Foster on campus. And both dealt with how neither protagonist really fit in; Perrotta's, especially, deals how the lead character's blue collar background contrasts with his privileged education. So as I was reading these books, I kept hoping the two lead characters would run into each other; alas, that didn't seem to happen, unless I missed something. I don't think Perrotta dealt with Gordon Lish, on whom Leavitt's character crushes seriously. One more thing the novels have in common -- if these novels are autobiographical, both authors are very, very hard on themselves.

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