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Friday, June 23, 2006

Julia Glass' The Whole World is Watching


I was awake at 3 a.m. this morning, hungrily devouring Julia Glass’ new book, The Whole World Over. When I first picked up the book, it took me a while to get immersed. Thursday was another extremely warm day in the Bay Area (and the day we learned the earth is the hottest it has been in 2,000 years) and I spent the day at the pool, reading. By dinner time I was hooked. When the heat woke me in the middle of the night I happily turned on the lamp to read some more.

Most of the reviews compare The Whole World Over unfavorably to Glass’ National Book Award winner, Three Junes. I think it stands up well. It tells the story of Greenie Duquette, a Greenwich Village pastry chef who is vaguely dissatisfied with her life. Like Three Junes, Glass brings in all sorts of well-drawn characters who are going through their own domestic disturbances. Glass always has strong male gay characters, and she treats their quests for love and family as seriously as she treats those of her straight characters.

Her writing is peppered with metaphor and detailed descriptions of the food that Greenie cooks. She brings in 9/11, AIDS, parental loss, having babies, Western water wars, and whether little boys are better off living with their mothers and fathers. The characters have to balance their search for personal happiness with responsibility to others and community. I totally believed her characters and their tribulations, and was sorry to have the book end.

4 comments:

Armand said...

Hi- I recently stumbled across your blog and I really like it because it's literature oriented, easy on the eyes (the design is nice and simple) and the posts are thoughtful but not very long. Thanks for blogging. I'll check in when I can.

As an aside, I started reading the novel, Happyland by J Robert Lennon, which is being serialized in Harper's. While it has some sensational overtones (think, if you saw it, Desperate Housewives season 1) the plot was strong, and it pulled me right in.

Sorry if this comment appears multiple times. I’ve been trying to submit it, but the blogger engine seems to not be accepting it.

cheers-

Armand

ed said...

Frances: Despite the overwrought ending, I actually liked "The Whole World Over" more than "Three Junes" (which I was a bit lukewarm about). I find that Glass's flaw as a novelist is that she isn't nearly as confident about her great ability to unearth the nuances of human behavior. (I was particularly fascinated by the Alan-Greenie marriage.) She feels compelled to throw in melodramatic story arcs (AIDS, September 11, lost memory) to keep the reader's attention. But I find these to be largely unnecessary, because Glass is pitch-perfect as a naturalistic observer. And I only hope she'll throw off these shackles in future novels. Nevertheless, she's definitely a novelist to watch!

rdl said...

Great review- made me want to go right out and get it, adding it too my list. Interesting blog, will visit again when i can read more.

Eileen in NH said...

I finally got around to reading "The Whole World Over," and went through this novel like Sherman through Georgia. I couldn't put it down, it was that absorbing. I found myself wanting to know more about Walter & Saga and their clans than Greenie & Alan. I even thought the insertion of 9/11 events were not just gratuitous. I wasn't wild about the ending, but I would highly recommend this book. Glad you liked it, too!