Chuck's Reviews > Next

Next by James Hynes
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May 23, 2010

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Read in May, 2010

Taking a cue from several august literary predecessors, James Hynes devotes this entire novel to one day in the life of its principal character, Kevin Quinn. As might be expected, Hynes provides much more than a chronological narrative; Quinn's day is filled with reveries, recollections, and interior monologues that collectively add up to a realistic, full-scale, and penetrating psychological portrait of a middle-aged man who hasn't yet come to terms with himself. Hynes isn't Woolf or Joyce, but he's smart, insightful, and entertaining.

The story opens as Quinn is flying from Ann Arbor to Austin for a job interview. Readers familiar with those locations will appreciate the myriad references to local landmarks, although anyone else is likely to find them a bit overdone and gratuitous. In any case, Quinn lands in Austin early in the morning, with hours to kill before his interview is scheduled to begin. The intervening episodes are increasingly bizarre, culminating in the sort of Gothic ending that Hynes has favored in other books (e.g., Publish and Perish and The Lecturer's Tale).

Overall, the description of Quinn's day in Austin requires more suspension of disbelief than do the events of his recollected past, although it's the latter that provide most of the keys to Quinn's character. Quinn's final interior monologue is believable enough, but it's much less memorable and extravagant than the context in which it occurs. As is often the case, however, perhaps it's the context that makes the content possible.

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