Every time I read a Stephen McCauley novel I wonder why I haven't greedily plowed through everything he's written. I love the way he understands the unspoken nuances of our most important relationships, and the delicate touch that outlines them without explaining them. I love the dysfunctional families and the quietly wrong relationships. I love the way even the wrong people in the wrong relationships are introduced without prejudice. And I love a guy who understands that not all high school English teachers' suicides are unexpected.
And then the moment I put the book down I remember why it's taken me so long to pick up another one. It's exhausting. It's terrific, but it's exhausting. The freakish families and their endlessly awful communication strategies, the lover who remembers exactly why he's with his partner and still recognizes the desperate need to leave--it's very real, and it's a draining experience. And when the book is over, I can't just dive into another one. I have to let it sit a while and catch my breath.
Which is why, having just finished "The Easy Way Out," I'm slightly peeved to discover that McCauley has another book out just this month. This is especially improbable because it has been AGES since he published a novel (okay, not ages, but 5 years--long enough for my book metabolism to go into starvation mode and store my unread McCauley novels like fat for the winter). I know I'm being punished for the neglected stack of weeklies on my coffee table, one of which surely would have tipped me off about the new book, "Alternatives to Sex." I know I should have known this ages ago, when I could have chosen another book to read this week. But I don't care. I'm going to sulk and read something by Sven Birkerts, and nuts to McCauley's new book. I'll read it when I've forgotten how much I like him, and he'll just have to learn to live with the disappointment.
And in the meantime, like a bad dieter, I am sneaking snippets from his blog. What? Too hypocritical?