Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Honor and Really Bad Weather

So this book was billed, by no less than Augusten Burroughs, as a laugh-til-your-stomach-hurts novel, and the tweedy fellow I spotted with it was laughing out loud.  But I never once laughed reading this book.

Sure, the characters were amusingly larger than life, but I felt the core conflict, between fraternal twin sisters and the coolly cruel man who marries one while in love with the other, had too much emotional weight for the ridiculous situations to be funny rather than poignant.  The novel, with its twins, one a nymphomaniac, the other secularly celibate, reminded me of Half-Life, by Shelley Jackson*, which I really loved.  Half-Life is narrated by one of a pair of conjoined twins, in a world in which such pairings are increasingly common due to nuclear fallout, and the desire to be separated and finally live alone.  The narrator of National Book Award Winner has a similarly love-hate relationship with her twin, who completes her and yet imprisons her in their yin-yang dynamic.

An enjoyable read, but it doesn’t live up to its billing (though it does have really bad weather, so maybe a good pick for the next big snow).  My next Subway Book Club pick, The Collector, is waiting for me at the library when I return from my holiday vacation.  In the meantime, I’ll do a little personally selected reading, starting with Byron in Love: A Short, Daring Life.

*You may recognize her name from her Skin project, in which she enlisted 2095 volunteers to each have a word from her short story tattooed on his/her body without knowing what the whole story was in advance.

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