Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley (Simon & Schuster)

Buy it now from our Amazon.com store – Insignificant Others: A Novel

Having read three previous novels by McCauley, I knew to
expect sharp wit and keen observation.
A prevailing air of despondency was something new.  Aging is something few people look
forward to, and McCauley’s character, Richard Rossi, is ever-aware of his
fading looks despite his two workouts per day and the increasingly limited time
he has to make major changes in his life.
These depressing facts come packaged with the general misery of the Bush
Regime including what Rossi sees as the irreparable decline of America and
Richard’s unpleasant high tech place of business with surly co-workers and
clear glass walls everywhere which leave zero privacy. 

I think some readers will initially have trouble warming up
to Richard.   At first, he’s a
bit cold with his sister and just about every female in the book.  He’s also more than a little disturbed
when he finds out his partner, Conrad, is having a long distance affair while, hypocrite
that he is, he’s had his own “insignificant other,” Benjamin (married with
kids), for several years.  Richard
does relate that he and Conrad have something of an unspoken agreement, and he follows
the belief that gay relationships should be “handcrafted” instead of following
a heterosexual model to allow for the needs of male libidos.  (Richard notes that the only long-term
relationship he knew of where it was evident that two partners still retained a
strong sexual spark was a lesbian one.)

However, Richard becomes both sympathetic and dynamic.  In a former career, he was a
psychoanalyst, and it’s apparent he’s accustomed to playing the role of the one
who holds up the mirror and shows other people their true selves.  Through the efforts of several
characters, including his sister, his hot Brazilian personal trainer, his
partner’s business associate, and his protégé at work, Richard begins to see
new facets and new solutions.
Sure, not everything comes up roses, but I found this to be hopeful and
honest, even with the unavoidable heartbreaks.        

Insignificant Others
is poignant, thoughtful, and filled with subtle humor.   McCauley’s take on the present
time also makes this book sharply relevant and discerning.  A lovely read.

P.S.  If you’re
looking for some side-splitting hilarity, you might want to pop over to Stephen
McCauley’s blog
and experience the shenanigans of McCauley’s imaginary (I
hope!) summer assistant who is quite thrilled about his role as the Hot Naked
Neighbor with No Lines in a very bad community stage production. 

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas 

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