Tag Archives: James Collins

BEGINNER’S GREEK by James Collins

Beginners_greek I finished Beginner's Greek by James Collins today. It's the story of a young man, Peter, who falls in love at first sight with Holly, his seatmate on a cross-country flight. She falls in love with him too, and gives him her number on a piece of paper torn from a book, which he promptly loses. So he never calls her. The years pass, and he can't forget about her. Of course, he eventually crosses paths with her again, but she's married to his best friend by then. And the book takes off from there… will these two attractive New Yorkers ever tell each other how they feel? Will they end up together, or will they let circumstance or societal pressure or the fear of being honest get in the way of their happy ending?

Beginner's Greek is an entertaining, very readable book. It's not heavy (at all), but it sure is a lot of fun to read. Collins' writing is effortless – I can't think of a better way to describe it. The book just flowed. There were some pretty ludicrous plot twists, but if you suspend your need for a realistic story and just go with the flow, the book is quite enjoyable, if predictable.

A few observations:

  • All of the characters in Beginner's Greek live in a rarefied Manhattan existence, fueled primarily by Wall Street excess and profit. The book is only a year old, but given the current economic climate, it felt like it was written 50 years ago.
  • The last chapter is a bit bizarre and, in my opinion, unnecessary.
  • I was slightly annoyed that the main female character, Holly, was so perfect, while the other  women in the book, particularly Charlotte, had serious character flaws. It made me suspicious of Collins' attitude toward women. Are there two types – perfect, and the rest of us?

Beginner's Greek is a fun read. I've heard it described as chick lit in male drag, and I can see why.  Collins' wry observations about Wall Street and marriage and the effects of true love made the book even more appealing. A recommended read, as long as you know what to expect.

Please weigh in if you've read it!

AT A LOSS FOR WORDS by Diane Schoemperlen

First – for those of you who are planning to join the online book club for The Post-BIrthday World, I am moving the date of the online book club to Monday March 10. This should give people a little more time to finish the book.

Second, a quick note – the NYT Book Review had an excellent review yesterday of James Collins’ Beginner’s Greek. (I posted about this book in January.) The review is worth a read.

And finally, a new find: The Savvy Reader (who also posts at My Tragic Right Hip) reviewed Diane Schoemperlen’s At A Loss For Words back in September. From her review:

DianeIt’s a swift, slight novel about a middle-aged woman who suffers from writer’s block brought on by the devastating end to a love affair with a man she had first fallen for over thirty years ago.

As the narrator works her way through crossword puzzles and self-help writerly books intended to break the curse of the block, she tells the story of the relationship with a comical and somewhat cynical edge that ensures the novel hits that sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction. As most of their relationship took place over email, with the two main characters living in different, undefined, cities, it’s a wordy novel, which really works. And the irony of being wordy while working through writer’s block isn’t lost on the protagonist.

The Savvy Reader also has an interview with Diane Schoemperlen. I particularly liked this question and answer about the use of email as a narrative method in the book:

DM: The format of the novel is so refreshing. Were you influenced by forms of modern communication?

DS: Definitely. One of the most important themes of the novel is the whole question of communication. The narrator is a writer…she is a communicator. After she becomes involved with this man, she is stricken by a serious case of writer’s block. She loses her ability to communicate with anyone but him, and he’s not talking back! The phenomenon of an email romance is particular to our age. The medium is quick, easy, accessible and immediate. But it has its limitations too, as the characters in the book soon discover. And it has its dangers. You can read an email over and over again, interpreting it in as many different ways as you like, trying to read between the lines and, as often as not, getting it all wrong! You can say all kinds of things in an email that you probably wouldn’t say if you were face to face. Once an email is sent, you cannot take it back!

I’d like to read this book.

BEGINNER’S GREEK by James Collins

Sometimes I receive unsolicited review copies of books from publishers. A few weeks ago, I got one in the mail called Beginner’s Greek, by James Collins – I must be on Little, Brown’s mailing list. I glanced at it and thought it looked interesting, but then put it away and didn’t think about it until I saw a short review of it in yesterday’s New York Times. Here’s what it says:

CollinsJames Collins’s chick lit-esque first novel takes its title from a James Merrill poem about those who fear to feel intensely (“What is/Beyond analysis/Is perilous”). Mr. Collins’s protagonist, Peter Russell, a good-looking young banker, feels but has trouble acting. When he meets Holly, the love of his life, on a plane trip from New York to Los Angeles, he gets — and loses — her number. And when she turns up, years later, as the girlfriend, then wife, of his less-than-faithful best friend, he doesn’t let on that his passion for her is as strong as ever. Many coincidences later he … well, you know what happens.

Here is an interview with the author at the Literature Chick blog, which calls it "a kind of Greek comedy with a bit of tragedy thrown in [that] showcases the talent of a honest, sardonic writer who delivers a truly rewarding, entertaining read."

This book may be a little lightweight, but it still sounds kind of good. I will add it to the pile.