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Next (2010)

by James Hynes

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3101862,674 (3.49)11
Kevin Quinn is a standard-variety American male: middle-aged, liberal-leaning, self-centered, emotionally damaged, generally determined to avoid both pain and responsibility. As his relationship with his girlfriend approaches a turning point, and his career seems increasingly pointless, he decides to secretly fly to a job interview in Austin, Texas. Aboard the plane, Kevin is simultaneously attracted to the young woman in the seat next to him and panicked by a new wave of terrorism in Europe and the UK. He lands safely with neuroses intact and full of hope that the job, the expansive city, and the girl from the plane might yet be his chance for reinvention. His next eight hours make up this novel, a tour-de-force of mordant humor, brilliant observation, and page-turning storytelling.… (more)
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http://damnarbor.blogspot.com/2011/01/next-novel-of-ann-arbor-boomer.html

Hynes' writing engages and entertains, and, as an Ann Arborite, I liked recognizing both physical and character traits of the city (i.e. Nichols Arcade and the self-righteousness with which some in the Ann Arbor population shop at Whole Foods).

By the same token, Kevin's angsty indecision rings gratingly familiar as well. His anxieties and preoccupations--the inadequacy of his mid-level job, memories of the sexual exploits of his twenties, his reluctance to have a child, the disintegration of his marriage as a result, his simultaneous pandering to and complaining about his current much-younger girlfriend and her desire to have a child, the threat of another terrorist attack (while the most understandable, also the issue over which Kevin has the least control)--read a little tired and ridiculous to this twenty-something's sensibilities. Is this the experience of an adult in the 21st century? I'm sorry you hate your secure employment and that you are unable to communicate your desire to remain childless to your romantic partners.

And then there were the classic delusions the baby boomers seem to roll over and over on their tongues, like a blotter paper of acid, back when it used to be good:
It's just that once upon a time, Ann Arbor was different, Ann Arbor was above all that suburban class-warfare bullshit. Okay, maybe it never was, not really, maybe it's the soft-focus blur of mid-life nostalgia, maybe he's been soaking for too long in Ann Arbor's marinade of pretension and infinite self-regard--but he remembers his college days and a few years after as a time of great leveling, when even the mouthy daughters of Southfield furriers and the guilty-rich daughters of GM executives found the lanky son of a middle manager from Royal Oak exotic; when everybody he knew voted for the Rainbow People's Party candidate for mayor, a sexy manager from Borders; when the owner of Big Star Records used to hold parties in the basement of his house in Burns Park and supply the weed himself; when the term "politically correct" was a joke that lefties told on themselves. Sure we were smug, thinks Kevin, sure we were superior, but I was part of something then, I belonged in Ann Arbor in a way that I never belonged at Somerset Mall or in Bloomfield Hills or even Royal Oak for that matter. I was one of them.

The whole thing made me wistful for another book of Mrs. Dalloway persuasion: Saturday, by Ian McEwan, about a surgeon on the day his adult children visit him and his wife. Of the same generation as Kevin, Saturday's protagonist Henry Perowne meditates on similar themes--growing older, terrorism in the West, war--but Henry does not feel like a 50-year-old adolescent prematurely thrust into adulthood. Was that Hynes' point? That the boomers are overgrown teenagers, interminably stuck in the 60s and 70s, completely ill-equipped to survive in our changing world?

In that case, mission accomplished. ( )
  jostie13 | May 14, 2020 |
The concluding 30 pages redeemed the book, but only to a degree. The nude model of Mrs Dalloway bothered me. The arc's return was deft and I didn't expect that.

Next should've had an enormous impact. Stray meteors in the tundra turn more dirt than this. It did garner the best novel from The Believer.

I suppose the dodge heralds an auspice. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
If ever a book was "A Day in the Life," this is it. At first I only wanted to read James Hynes' NEXT because he grew up about 15 miles from where I grew up, although he's about a dozen years younger. But his day-in-the-life of fifty-ish, commitment-phobic Kevin Quinn, the dissatisfied editor of a university publication in Ann Arbor, quickly sucked me in. Yeah, just one day, but we pretty much get Kevin's whole libidinous, screwed-up life by way of his inner monologue, stream-of-consciousness patter. The events of his day in Austin - where he has flown to interview for a job - is sort of summed up by Kevin in a single sentence: "... his seminostalgic, semihorndog stalking of Joy Luck; his fateful fall on the bridge; his emotionally tumultuous lunch with Dr. Barrientos; his epiphanic sponge bath in the men's room in Wohl's; his erotic reverie in the cab; his apocalyptic aural fantasy in the elevator just now …" Yes, this is a story rich in detail and 'location.' Ann Arbor and Austin are almost characters in the novel. I already knew something of the former city, and came away knowing plenty about the latter [where the author has resided for many years]. The story builds slowly - patience is required - but inexorably to a shattering conclusion that will leave you breathless and, well, shattered. (And you'll also suddenly 'get' the significance of the cover photo.) This is fiction of the first order. Bravo, Mr Hynes. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Jul 30, 2018 |
I don't even know how to star this. It's kind of like a mash-up of Mrs Dalloway from the point of view of a straight white guy and some crazy apocalyptic movie. The writing is strong throughout and then when the plot makes that turn, it bumps up a notch so I spent the last third of the book holding my breath and fighting back the tears. I need to think about this for a while.
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
With only three sections and no chapters, this book is a wall of text. But it's a clever and rather fascinating book. Kevin Quinn is our narrator--really, we spend the book in his head. We spend a day his last day with Kevin as he heads to a job interview for a job he's not even sure he wants. And as he spends the day in Austin--a rather ridiculous day, yet not ridiculous at all--we meet the people he meets, and get a glimpse of life in Austin.

Of course, we also learn all about his past--past loves, his childhood, the choices he has made and how he feels about those choices now that he is middle aged.

( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
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Kevin Quinn is a standard-variety American male: middle-aged, liberal-leaning, self-centered, emotionally damaged, generally determined to avoid both pain and responsibility. As his relationship with his girlfriend approaches a turning point, and his career seems increasingly pointless, he decides to secretly fly to a job interview in Austin, Texas. Aboard the plane, Kevin is simultaneously attracted to the young woman in the seat next to him and panicked by a new wave of terrorism in Europe and the UK. He lands safely with neuroses intact and full of hope that the job, the expansive city, and the girl from the plane might yet be his chance for reinvention. His next eight hours make up this novel, a tour-de-force of mordant humor, brilliant observation, and page-turning storytelling.

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