Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last Night at the Lobster, by Stuart O'Nan

Okay, here's the back-story. My son's friend's mom is in charge of a yearly charity luncheon where Big Name Authors come to speak. The mom knows I'm studying creative writing, so she shares the top secret authors' names with me before they're made public. And, because I'm the worst liar in the world, it's not worth it for me to even try to hide the embarrassing fact that I never recognize any of the names! Yup. That's me: Literary fraud. This year she trotted out Stuart O'Nan's name and, once again, I had to confess ignorance. My next move, naturally, was to find out who the hell O'Nan is. I scoured his titles and, naturally, looked for his shortest book! And that's the story of how I made 160-page "Last Night at the Lobster's" acquaintance.

O'Nan's title certainly had me quizzically tilting my head. Couldn't imagine what this novel could be about. Turns out LNATL has a simple premise. It's a lean, tight portrait of Manny Deleon, the manager of a Connecticut Red Lobster on its last day before closing for good. Not an edge-of-your-seat novel, not a plotty book, but an eerily dead-on character study. And man, oh man can O'Nan write! In this way books are like life: when you come across something truthful, you just know it. You automatically connect. So even though, at first glance, LNATL seems to be about the closing of a chain restaurant, in fact it's book about life and loss.

What can I say? A former O'Nan ignoramus, I'm now a staunch O'Nan fan. LNATL gets two claws. (Sorry, too cheesy to resist.)

No comments:

Post a Comment