Sunday, August 4, 2013
Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain Review
Necessary Errors is a stunning work. Jacob is a young man teaching English in Prague just after communism has fallen. Crain is a literary critic (well known and respected) publishing his first novel. They are both stepping into new territory and exposing their vulnerability.
In both cases, the attempts are worthwhile endeavors.
Jacob is struggling with who he is and how to fit in the world. A coming of age story is a classic narrative and one that I personally have difficulty sometimes embracing. As with a love story, and it usually does contain a version of one, being sympathetic and age appropriate can be hard to master when looking back. Crain does it (very well). I felt for Jacob. He's smart but also unsure. Reading the book I can see the man he's shaping into. I can remember my own struggles.
However, what I liked best about the book is different. Crain creates a world and takes us into it. That's the kind of writing where book length becomes an advantage. We want to stay here, in this world of the author's imagination. I've been to Prague and perhaps that helps but who can say for sure. Crain has the dialogue, the imagery and the developed characters that allow us to stay a while and feel welcome. He creates places, scenes and personal interactions that help my curiosity and attention.
Jacob is also gay. I hate pointing that out but do think a disclosure matters. For me, having gay friends and also a bias that all relationships - romantic or not - stem from the same place, this reality is just one more variable in a complex web of interactions. But some readers are looking for the related insights and others are closed to them.
Nuanced, rich and delicate in its imagery and human interactions - this book is a worthwhile read. I loved it.