Take for example Billie Eilish’s short story “The Last Day of Heaven” by Jasper Fforde. An older man, rich and powerful, dies suddenly and leaves behind a mystery.
The death of a famous man brings a new era of politics, intrigue and power to a young boy and his friend. The boy is young, but the friend is not. Both were educated at an English boarding school where learning was primarily “survival.” The study of “literature” for survival, and not for intellectual education or growth, was the curriculum.
The young man becomes enamored with the forbidden world of literature. Although the rest of the boys in his class have already discovered rock and roll, women, drugs and crime, the young English man becomes obsessed with novels, how to make them, what to do with them and, above all, how to get his hands on some of the most secret, precious and, as yet, untouchable literature.
A few years later, when the young man is about to be drafted into the military, he falls in love with a beautiful woman, an American citizen, from a wealthy family in California. The woman, the granddaughter of one of the richest men in America, is not interested in any kind of romance and quickly realizes she has fallen in love with a man who, by all accounts, has no idea of what a woman thinks or feels.
The woman’s father can hardly wait until her mother, a writer, gets ready to publish her first book. (After all, the Americans are so hot to produce poets.) The young man plans to use his literary contacts to land the first ever US publishing contract for a novel. Unfortunately, his attempts to contact a famous British publisher fall through because the publishers consider him just another “working stiff.”
When the war is over, the young man ends up studying literature abroad in France, and writing the first American novel. He was not even aware of the fact that the literary elite considered him to be too poor, too old and too stupid to be worthy of the coveted Pulitzer prize. He is, however, very proud of what he calls his “first American novel.” The “first American novel” won the Pulitzer Prize.
Interestingly enough, this is not the story I read in “The Age of Complaint.” No, this is the story of my beloved and respected mother, who wrote her first novel under the name, “Louise Katcher.” It is an amazing story, but it is just as much of a story about the challenges of motherhood as it is about the challenges of writing fiction.
The similarities between these two stories are so great that it seems almost a pity that the author of “The Age of Complaint” would end up with such a shallow, self-indulgent and disappointing book. At least “The Age of Complaint” had its readers rooting for the protagonist, but at times, “The Age of Complaint” makes me want to curl up in a ball and never open its pages again.
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