The Year of Endless Sorrows
I loved this book. And that is all the more impressive because I wasn't expecting to. Adam Rapp is an accomplished playwright with a growing reputation. But playwrights do not always make good novelists. However, The Year of Endless Sorrows demonstrates that he is just as formidable as a novelist as he is a playwright. This is a novel that should be read.
A thinly disguised autobiography, The Year of Endless Sorrows tells the tale of a young man who comes to New York City in the early 1990s to become a writer. He and his best friend from college, his younger brother and a parasitical depressant known as The Loach descend upon a tenement apartment building in the East Village. His buddies call him Homon, his best friend is The Owl. His brother, Feick, is already a successful theatre actor, flush with cash. The four young men all have creative aspirations, and all four arrive at varying degrees of success and happiness. Homon likes to shoot baskets in Tompkins Square Park, but a knee injury forces him to give up shooting baskets for a very long while. And thus, Homon begins writing a novel which, in his own words, is about acute knee pain and the end of the world.
What brings force to this bildungsroman is the tension between Homon's Midwestern background and his New York lifestyle. Homon evinces a middle of America set of values, and he seems to live by a personal credo of honesty, decency, and make your own way in the world. You get the feeling that he has probably shopped at Sears. And yet he obtains a low paying job in publishing, an industry known for hiring trust funded Ivy League graduates. He lives in the East Village, which, in the early 1990s, is still squalid with a bizarre mixture of foreigners, miscreants, homosexuals, artists and poseurs. His modest Midwestern background gives him a distinct point of view. It's almost as if Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer had arrived in New York City circa 1992.
But even more important is Rapp's writing. He is wickedly funny and ordinary scenes are infused with the surreal. He paints such vivid scenes that it is as if he splashed oil upon a canvas. He is a very powerful writer.