It is a good book, I think. It seems to have a great deal of humanity and energy — and a sort of dark humor that I find very appealing. It took him many, many years to write this book. I’m sure that it was a process — as my agent said today — “full of false starts.”
The book is set in Buenos Aires, in the mid-70s. It opens in a graveyard, which is a particularly interesting place to open a novel, and the story takes a while to get moving.
Englander — like Junot Diaz — struggled to write a novel following a phenomenally successful short fiction debut. This is heartening. I wonder what the relationship is between speed of writing and quality of writing. Do writers do their best work slowly?
And what is the relationship between reading and writing? Do writers do their best work when they are also reading extensively?