Thursday, September 24, 2009

How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet

When I read the discussion over at Citizen Beta, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of How the Dead Dream. I am used to Millet being funny and exact, her stories steeped in the research behind them and the book they were describing seemed much more vague and traditional.

Instead of presidential obsessions and ghost physicists, Millet looks into the life of a money-obsessed boy named T. who turns into a calculating man with few attachments, the kind of guy who thinks things like this: “The market made a fool of you by giving you what you wanted. But this did not make him resent I; it merely earned his respect. From the day you were born you were called upon to discern what to choose.” I don’t read many books with unlikable protagonists so I was interested to see how T. and I would get along.

Of course, this being a novel, things have to change. T.’s emotional stillness is shaken up by increasingly uncomfortable events, culminating in a desperate bid for peace in a wild and dangerous landscape where money means nothing. The problem with this book is that I could anticipate every dip in T.’s fortune and even the means of each; it was boring to have guessed right every time. Millet seemed to want to give T. some depth and humanity with these turns in his fate and his subsequent actions, but it didn’t really work for me.

Millet’s writing kept me reading once I gave up on anything unusual happening with the book, but by the last section I just wanted to move on.

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