Sunday, August 28, 2011

Radiance by Louis B Jones

How should one behave?

I really loved this novel. I picked it up, thinking at first it was a satire on consumerist America, Hollywood in particular, but then the book sneakily transformed itself into a meditation on how to lead a worthwhile life. That is, the themes and questions deepened to universal ones while the story remained entertaining. What is the foundation of happiness?  What are the proper actions of a responsible person?

It’s about Mark Perdue, a Lyme brain fogged physicist, in LA for the weekend with daughter Carlotta for her fantasy rock weekend. (That’s the satire). His wife has withdrawn from everyone, re-evaluating her life, quitting her high powered job and picking up trash by the side of the road after the family made a decision to terminate a severely disabled fetus. How long can her depression go on?  Meanwhile, Mark senses a soulmate in the younger Blythe, the woman assigned for the weekend to be his daughter’s “handler”.

The book is also about how a man looks at a woman, and feels guilty about desire, yet also feels completely under its power. Why shouldn’t a man take what he wants? What the woman wants? Mark’s dilemma with Blythe is set against his unease with his daughter’s increasing intimacy with the charismatic Bodie, the godlike paraplegic teen whose midnight desire to see the Hollywood sign lands them all in jail.

Overall, a very satisfying novel.  Amazing.

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