The Wisdom of Perversityby Rafael Yglesias
I should have told. Julie’s right: I would have saved dozens of others. Jeff, Julie, Sam, the academy kids, the Huck Finn boys, everyone else was ignorant or greedy or scared or confused or overwhelmed by bullies, but I was strong enough—I could’ve pushed him away. I did push him away. I saved myself and let everyone else suffer. Me and
I should have told. Julie’s right: I would have saved dozens of others. Jeff, Julie, Sam, the academy kids, the Huck Finn boys, everyone else was ignorant or greedy or scared or confused or overwhelmed by bullies, but I was strong enough—I could’ve pushed him away. I did push him away. I saved myself and let everyone else suffer. Me and the god of creation—we’re the villains of this story. Brian and Jeff were best friends, growing up together in New York City in the late 1960s. Then something happened that drove a wedge between them, ending both their friendship and their childhood, something that neither ever spoke about . . . at least until their shared secret resurfaced some forty years later, forcing them to reunite and, along with Jeff’s cousin Julie, to face the consequences of their years of silence. In The Wisdom of Perversity, Rafael Yglesias, the critically acclaimed, bestselling novelist and screenwriter and the author of A Happy Marriage, winner of the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, and Fearless, the basis for the cult film by the same name, has crafted a novel that tells the stories of three childhood friends who join together as adults to acknowledge the ways in which their lives were altered by the actions of a predator, a predator who now, many years later, has been exposed by more recent victims yet is on the verge of escaping punishmentthanks to his wealth and influence. Damaged in different ways by the events of the past but all sharing the same feelings of guilt and anger for allowing this man to go unpunished, leaving him free to abuse others, Julie, Jeff, and Brian band together to force a public outcry that will assure that he will finally face justice. With a tone that cleverly mixes humor with stark reality, The Wisdom of Perversity is a groundbreaking novel that by giving a voice to the youthful victims of sexual abuse will inspire both praise and debate. “Many contemporary works of fiction are bold,but few are this courageous . . . Rafael Yglesias has written a frightening, evocative, and intensely compassionate novel that manages somehow to do the impossible,shedding light on one of the darkest corners of this human theater.” —Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life “The sly courage, the deft intelligence, and the fierceness of vision that we, his fans, have come to expect from a Raphael Yglesias novel all blaze brightly forth—and cast very dark shadows—in The Wisdom of Perversity.” —Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist
In past books, author and screenwriter Yglesias dealt with media success (Hot Properties), parenting (Only Children), survival (Fearless), and love and loss (A Happy Marriage). But this latest work of fiction is probably his most nakedly autobiographical, mirroring his Slate article about being sexually molested at age eight. In 1966, Brian Moran and Jeff Mark are nine-year-old best friends living in Rego Park, Queens, who are both molested by Jeff’s middle-aged cousin, Richard Klein, an NBC vice president, who also molests Julie Rosen, another cousin of Jeff’s. All three children keep silent, and Brian and Jeff stop speaking to one another. Forty years later, when Klein is publicly accused of molestation, Brian, now a successful screenwriter, Jeff, a producer and director of Hollywood blockbusters, and Julie, an archivist for the New York Public Library, are forced to confront one another about what really happened when they were children and whether or not to break their decades-long silence. As the story moves toward its emotionally devastating climax, the author refuses to allow his characters anything approaching an easy resolution. Instead, he shows how a combination of guilt, fear, silence, and hidden agendas conspire to allow sexual predators to go unpunished. In the end, this novel dramatizes some dark truths about the continuing fallout of being a victim of abuse. (Mar.)
Three New York friends, in their childhood and adult selves, deal with a wily pedophile in an affecting novel that is big-screen lurid without being superficial or too slick. In his 10th novel, Yglesias (A Happy Marriage, 2009, etc.) presents the children's past trauma and their present-day reckoning in alternating chapters. Jeff's adult cousin, Richard Klein, has already molested the 8-year-old boy when his predatory attention turns to Jeff's best friend, Brian. The third victim is Julie, Jeff's young cousin, who is 11. It's hard to say whether the more devastating scene is the 23-page playlet in which Klein traps Julie on his lap in a room full of adults and children and forces the boys to watch him secretly molest her; or the paragraph in which Jeff makes an imaginary adventure of his desperate efforts to dispose of bloodied underwear without his mother's knowledge. As adults, Brian is single and a successful screenwriter, Julie is a library archivist and married with a teenage son, while Jeff, on his third marriage, is the top film director in the U.S. After years apart, the three reunite because Klein has just managed to elude exposure in another scandal and the trio is debating going public. Yglesias provides several revelations that ramp up the shock in an already awful tale and add a touch of Agatha Christie-like mystery. The author's experience with Hollywood as a producer and screenwriter (his own novel Fearless and other scripts) brings color and humor to the Brian and Jeff characters. Early in the book, a strange apologia for a character named Aries Wallinksi, who is clearly Roman Polanski (could this be a roman à clef in more ways than one?), previews many of the novel's themes and then reverberates late in the story with Julie's cry: "I want people to understand it isn't just priests and a couple loner weirdos." Yglesias of course exploits headlines and Hollywood to tell his tale but not without sensitivity. Most important, he shines a Kleig light where it may be most needed, into the parlors and playrooms where many Americans endure or perpetrate these nightmares.
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Rafael Yglesias is a novelist and screenwriter, the son of writers Jose Yglesias and Helen Yglesias, who instilled in him the need to aim for psychological realism in his writing. Raised in Manhattan, he dropped out of high school to finish his first novel, Hide Fox, and All After, which was published in 1972. After writing three novels by the age of twenty-one, he stopped writing books between 1976 and 1984 and concentrated on starting a family, making a living by writing screenplays, none of which was produced. He returned to novels in 1986 with Hot Properties, followed by Only Children in 1988, The Murderer Next Door in 1990, Fearless in 1993, and Dr. Neruda’s Cure for Evil in 1996. He also resumed writing screenplays, with the first to be produced, Fearless, based on his own novel. In all he has had five films produced. After the publication of Dr. Neruda’s Cure for Evil, Yglesias took another break from writing novels, mostly because of the illness and death of his wife. He returned to novels with the publication of A Happy Marriage, an autobiographical story of his first marriage. It was awarded the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and became a bestseller. His website is www.rafaelyglesias.com.
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The author is perverse. He should use his talent on another theme