People in my line of work have to sift through a lot of press releases and other forms of flackery, all of which we take with a stalactite or two of salt. It’s part of the job. Nevertheless, I confess to having boggled at the blurbissimo I encountered on the back of my advance readers’ copy of Andre Dubus III’s The Garden of Last Days, which will be published by W.W. Norton in June.
Here it is, in its entirety:
One early September night in Florida, a stripper brings her daughter to work. April’s usual babysitter is in the hospital, so she decides it’s best to have her three-year-old daughter close by, watching children’s videos in the office, while she works.
Except that April works at the Puma Club for Men. And tonight she has an unusual client, a foreigner both remote and too personal, and free with his money. Lots of it, all cash. His name is Bassam. Meanwhile, another man, AJ, has been thrown out of the club for holding hands with his favorite stripper, and he’s drunk and angry and lonely.
From these explosive elements come [sic] a relentless, raw, searing, passionate, page-turning narrative, a big-hearted and painful novel about sex and parenthood and honor and masculinity. Set in the seamy underside of American life at the moment before the world changed, it juxtaposes lust for domination with hunger for connection, sexual violence with family love. It seizes the reader by the throat with the same psychological tension, depth, and realism that characterized Andre Dubus’s #1 bestseller, House of Sand and Fog–and an even greater sense of the dark and anguished places in the human heart.
I didn’t read House of Sand and Fog, so I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility that Andre Dubus III is a serious writer. Still, it isn’t very likely that I’ll be reading The Garden of Last Days, much less reviewing it. I don’t mind having my intelligence insulted by publicists–some forms of suffering are hard to avoid–but a critic can only be expected to swallow so much guff, and the Norton publicity department just blew my quota for 2008.