Jason's Reviews > If You're Not Yet Like Me

If You're Not Yet Like Me by Edan Lepucki
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's review
Jan 22, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended for: Elizabeth, Ceridwen, karen, Greg, Fleshtone, Soutas.... You. And you, too.
Read in November, 2010 , read count: 3

Pretty damn wonderful.

I've now read this three times. I confess: I know Edan, but I don't like anyone that much to make me rave (rather than issue a polite 4-star "Huzzah!" with exactly that kind of formal stiffness which ought to give readers of such reviews pause), let alone re-read. (Who's got time? There are incoherent action thrillers to stream on Netflix, and facebook profiles to stalk.) It's a significant fact, as you take stock of this rave, that I re-read three times, against all precedent and prevailing wisdom.

Let's be honest: I read it three times because its brevity invited return.

But let's be clear: each return was a renewal of joy, my pleasures progressing from voice (swaggering and sweet and self-loathing in equal measures; stage one) to purpose (a brilliant comic embrace of human failing, keyed like the best comic writing to forgiveness and hope, even as the narrative turns with a sneer at pathos--more on this in a moment; stage two) to prose (ohhhhhhhhhh wooooooooooow; stage three).

Stage three just completed. And, e.g.,

On long car rides, I saw myself running along the freeway shoulder, or in the brush, barefoot but in full armor.

Read that aloud. There's a song in the riffs of the repeated r's and f's and percussive buh's (buhrush, buharefoot, buhut). I hear Joellyn so precisely, and I almost don't care what she's saying, I just want to close my eyes and hear her sing more.

The next two sentences:
I assumed the woman I'd become would be vicious and beautiful, the roar of some exotic animal made physical. It's not so strange, to have high expectations.

I think it's hard to write comedy, to be a comic writer. Far harder than wringing easy tears out of identification-happy modern readers, seeking out the next big Painful Event to cathartically endure and fret about. But, instead, the comic writer rebuffs easy embraces: Joellyn's self-deprecation doesn't simply supersede her narcissism, and her clear-eyed assessments of her own pain are tempered by the incisive way Lepucki reveals how J causes pain, and the precise way she uses a comma, an aside, a finely-crafted sentence to tease out a laugh. This isn't merely softening blows, the sugar of a comic line sweetening the painful medicine of Real Writing, or throwing in a pah-dum-pum rimshot and shtick to turn the work, like treacly soft-spined taffy, into another Hollywood-ready Dramedy. No. This is the revelatory precision of a great writer whose style is perfectly attuned to her clarity about--her harsh judgment of and her generous refusal to punish--human behavior. This is Atwood-good, people.

This is one of the best works published last year -- a great novella coupled, in the mainstream edition, with an even better short story. It's the first of what will surely be a stream of amazing works. Edan is an astounding writer.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Edan I am looking forward to receiving a review from you, Mike. Please be honest--I need the feedback!

message 2: by Jason (last edited Nov 22, 2010 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason Honestly, it's great, Edan. It's very, very hard to write comedy -- I don't mean Bruce Vilanch oneliner crap. I mean the serious work of complicated, character-driven, conceptually rigorous, linguistically playful comedy. I think only great writers can really nail it -- Lorrie Moore, Victor LaValle, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Thomas McGuane come to mind. These aren't great writers who can do comedy; their greatness is tied to their comic chops. This novella--and the "Lion" story, which I reread . . . you're in that league, E. I promise a longer, careful review, but I'm blown away.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I've been curious about Lorrie Moore for a little while now. Any thoughts about a good place to start with her?

Edan Thank you, Mike. As always, your opinion means so much to me.

Jason Moore--Birds of America. I don't think her novels ever completely succeed, but good lord her stories are phenomenal, and that's probably the strongest collection.

Also buy this one by Edan.

Tuck lorrie moore's "life like" are good short stories too. "birds of america" is best though. probably

message 7: by Krok Zero (new)

Krok Zero Great review, Mike. I really think you ought to try Sam Lipsyte -- he's just the kind of comic writer you're after, I think.

message 8: by jo (new)

jo yay edan!

message 9: by jo (new)

jo Elizabeth wrote: "I am going to feel bad for the next book that gets four stars from you. I shall go look for this one one though..."

well it has to have formal stiffness too. :)

message 10: by jo (new)

jo yeah, we will know.

message 11: by Edan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edan I'm going to go masturbate now.

message 12: by jo (new)

jo Edan wrote: "I'm going to go masturbate now."

jesus almighty did we need to know that?

Jason We can go ahead and stipulate it for me, as a general course of action undertaken before or after posts.

Jason Oh--Krok, which Lipsyte to start? (The Ask?)

message 15: by Krok Zero (new)

Krok Zero Home Land and The Ask are both terrific; I started with the former and slightly prefer it, but The Ask has maybe slightly broader appeal...it's your call, I suspect you'll dig 'em both.

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