Kevin McAllion's Reviews > NVSQVAM

NVSQVAM by Ann Sterzinger
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's review
Mar 30, 2017

it was amazing

No book I’ve read has summed up the deepest, darkest thoughts of middle-aged men more brilliantly than this wonderfully dark comedy. That it was written by a woman makes it all the more remarkable as Ann Sterzinger gives voice to the feelings most men have at some stages of life but never dare to express, especially to their nearest and dearest. Lester Reichartsen has no such fears and regularly rains insults down on both his wife and nine-year-old son. This should make Lester an immensely unlikeable character but the genius of NVSQVAM is that you actually feel sorry for him and wish that his life had turned out better. Lester’s midlife crisis, fuelled by alcohol and a burning sense of injustice, builds throughout the course of the book as things take an increasingly desperate and dark turn. Our anti-hero yearns for a lost youth that brought him minor fame as the lead singer of a rock band and turns to the bottle as he struggles to carve out a more cerebral career in the world of academia. That he pins all the blame for his troubles on the birth of his son, a child prodigy who makes Lisa Simpson look like an uneducated boor, makes his home life even more miserable. The promise of an affair with an 18-year-old undergraduate is the only light Lester can see at the end of a tunnel that seems to have no end. You’d think this would make NSVQVAM a rather depressing read but it never fails to entertain, thanks to Sterzinger’s biting wit. She has a wonderful turn of phrase and dissects the banalities and irritations of consumer culture with such a skill that one can only read on in envy. NVSQVAM is also littered with witty gems in the footnotes at the end of each chapter, most notably her summation of the 9/11 attacks (“In 2001 Muslim-extremist terrorists staged a spectacularly violent attack on a civilian monument in the US, which – having recently suffered an undemocratic election itself – retaliated by picking an Arab nation, apparently at random, to violently democratize”).
That proves Sterzinger is a fearless writer and NSVQVAM is a book that you will either love or hate (the author describes it in the afterword as ‘the profound commercial failure you hold in your hands’). It could probably have benefitted from a bit of a trim as the book is a weighty tome and some of the dream sequences add little to the plot but you can forgive such a gifted writer for over-indulging in places. Witty asides can be found on almost every page and although the ending of the book is typically bleak, Sterzinger brings the humour back with a hilarious epilogue. I was going to say this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time but it’s actually one of the funniest I’ve ever read. I will definitely be checking out more of Sterzinger’s work. Do yourself a favour and unearth this hidden gem.

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Reading Progress

February 17, 2017 – Started Reading
February 17, 2017 – Shelved
February 17, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
March 23, 2017 –
82.0% "Loving this wonderfully dark comedy but I'm dreading to find out what misfortune befalls poor Lester next"
March 30, 2017 – Finished Reading

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