Hynes’s latest follows in the tradition of Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses in that the novel relates the thoughts and actions of its protagonist through the course of a day. On this day, Kevin takes a trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Austin, Texas for a job interview. He begins the novel on the jet that takes him from a midwest of “native decency” to a much more ethnically diverse Texas.
Hynes, unfortunately, does not write with the bravura of a Woolf or Roth. He does not bring anything new to the subject of horny aging men. Kevin wanders Austin breaking down physically and emotionally, yet tenaciously aroused. This is Philip Roth's Kapesh without the same incisive self-awareness. Our ostensibly third-person narrator does not close the gap. What that leaves us is with are some well-told anecdotes that do little besides get us to the big plot development, the twist that is supposed to inflate the mundane with meaning. The surprise feels inauthentic. The ending rather lame. Kevin’s sudden insight is less an epiphany than a momentary deviation. The ruts of his mind are too well-trod for Kevin not to slip back into them if given the chance. In the end, Kevin is mostly pathetic.
It has some literary ambition, but lacks what it takes to make it to the next level.
Kevin Quinn will experience, three times the day this novel takes place, the sensation "as the ground rushes up to meet him." How he responds depends on where in Austin, Texas, circumstances place him. Some he's planned for, most he hasn't. For, he wanders, similar to another part-Irish fictional walker in another city a century before on another day the middle of June, lured by the wonder and hubbub of what he sees. Michigan-born James Hynes, now living in Austin, conveys-- … more
I've always enjoyed James Hynes as an author who writes well, can deliver a good zinger with panache, shares my bemused exasperation at the follies of academic life, and - most importantly - spins a good tale. Earlier books of his that I've read had several aspects in common - a definite sympathy for the underdog, the skewering of those in power in a plot involving some element of the fantastic (zombies, magic powers, the occult, ancient druidic ritual). In "Next", Hynes forgoes … more
This book stands out as one of the most inventive, engrossing, and entertaining books that I have read in the past year. The novel grabbed my attention on the first page and held me throughout, not as a cliffhanger, but simply as the ruminations of one Kevin , the main character, an American ubermensch, as he wanders around a new city, following unknown women, many of whom excite his desire, reviewing his life, ruminating over his relationships, trying to decide where life will take him next. He … more