Thanks to Sam Gridley for the mention!
Originally posted on The News from Gridleyville:
My alter(ed) ego, as part of his role in hosting a fiction series at Philadelphia’s Musehouse, has been reading new novels by two interesting authors. Liz Moore’s Heft (W. W. Norton) focuses on a housebound ex-professor who weighs more than 500 pounds—a grotesqueness that I thought would put me off. Overall, there are too many characters in contemporary fiction who don’t resemble anyone I know. It turns out, though, that hefty Arthur Opp isn’t grotesque at all, not in ways that count; he’s extremely human and decent and has a fine appreciation for the finer things in life, including but not limited to crab rangoons (“a crunch followed by lush bland creaminess”). He’s a good man whose story of lost love and found friendship grows more fascinating as it proceeds.
Very different but equally entertaining is Marc Schuster’s The Grievers (The Permanent Press), the tale of a prep-school graduate who arranges a memorial event for a classmate who has committed suicide. Marc satirizes every institution in contemporary America from schools to banks to chain restaurants, and his main character, Charley Schwartz, is a smart-ass who never had a good intention he couldn’t undermine with stupid comments. But Charley, like Arthur, grows on the reader, and once he has slashed away everyone’s pretenses, including his own, he finds a way to connect with people at the end.