Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Author Review: Jonathan Tropper

Posted by lea at 10:24 AM
I"m getting the sense that Jonathan Tropper is the authorial version of the Hugh Grant-kind of actor - the one who never really sheds his skin so the character he plays is always the same, just different situations for different movies. Don't get me wrong, he's great at what he does. It's just that, having read three of his five books, I'm starting to get to know his protagonist all too well.

There are certain parallels that run through his books: they're all written from the perspective of 30-something, middle-class, moderately successful young men who find themselves suddenly at a juncture in their lives not of their own choosing. They all have beautiful wives/partners whose astonishing good looks add to their neuroses, and their dysfunctional families are complicated but blessed by intelligence and beauty. Every single female character in his books is incredibly beautiful (slim, sexy, smart), from partners to sisters and mothers, and the protagonists are unwaveringly witty, self-deprecating, wry and generally a good-guy, albeit with flaws.

I loved the first book I read, How to Talk to a Widower because the voice was fresh, the narrative honest and banter so witty. I loved the larger-than-life characters and got really involved in the grief and recovery of Doug Parker, after the death of his wife Hailey. It was moving and exhilarating. Then came Everything Changes. 'Hang on a minute,' I thought. 'Zach King sounds exactly like Doug Parker but now he's potentially got cancer.' Then I read This is Where I Leave You. Deja Vu.

“There is an element in all my books of people at an age when they should be established suddenly questioning the fundamental tenets on which they base their lives,”says Jonathan Tropper in an interview. “I am not sure exactly what draws me to that theme, but it may be that it is a very middle-class thing. I grew up in an upper-middle-class home and live in an upper-middle-class suburb. I think there the dangers are not so much external, because we are all pretty insulated, the dangers are internal.”

He is the master at 'internal danger' - the writer of angst-ridden monologue for intelligent young men everywhere... but I really wish he'd try something different because he is definitely a good writer and I'd love to see him stretch his craft further. There are three words lurking in the back of my head that I'm loathe to commit to paper (figuratively): one trick pony.

But even Hugh Grant broke out of the mould with his characters in About a Boy and Bridget Jones's Diary. There's hope. So please Mr Tropper, prove me wrong.

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