Following The Uncertain Hour, Browner’s latest tracks the emotional peregrinations of precocious Wes (who describes himself as a “typo” in the world’s story) the day after he drunkenly loses his virginity to Lucy, a rumored temptress at the elite private school they attend on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Lucy but Delia, a serene Buddhist senior, for whom Wes had been pining this past year. What about love? Has Wes had it wrong this whole time? As if this weren’t enough for a distraught 17-year-old, he must also contend with an as yet unwritten paper on War and Peace; a mother stricken with MS; a deadbeat dad; and a lovable little sister Wes wishes desperately to protect from the cruel world (but doubts he’ll be able to). Throughout the day, Wes attempts to make sense of his sexual transformation and is continually thwarted by the unpredictability of the world and its inhabitants. Thankfully, Browner avoids a saccharine resolution, opting instead to let Wes’s struggles work as a meditation on life, love, and disappointment. Wes learns to delight in the ambiguities of the world, a place he realizes is far more complicated and beautiful than even Tolstoy’s masterpiece could ever convey. (Oct.)
"A deeply compassionate novel by a very fine writer."
Praise for Everything Happens Today
"A deeply compassionate novel by a very fine writer."
—Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland
"Browner (The Uncertain Hour) has crafted a stupendous, thought-provoking, devilishly delicious novel that reads like Zen koan meets Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with some modern "english" that sets the plate spinning. Highly recommended."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"A light, modern and keen look at the discord between whimsy and prudence."
Praise for Jesse Browner's The Uncertain Hour
"A sumptuous and affecting novel."
—Michael Lukas, San Francisco Chronicle
"If I say that Jesse Browner's The Uncertain Hour is a truly original work of art, I hope I won't scare anyone off. It's also the most engrossing page-turner I've picked up in a long while."
—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
"The Uncertain Hour is that very rare thing—an historical novel of love and ideas not only free of pedantry but also serious and entertaining...As one would expect from an award-winning translator of both Jean Cocteau and Rainer Maria Rilke, it's also elegantly written with a narrative so well-relaized that it's easy to overlook the 46-year-old author's formal audacity."
—Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
"The Uncertain Hour is...elegant meditation on such matters as the nature of love, what makes a good life, and whether there can be such a thing as a perfect death. I don't know which to praise more: the author's feat of historical reconstruction, or his boundless powers of invention."
—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind
Sixteen-year-old Wes, the protagonist of this literary experience of teenage angst, attends Manhattan's elite Dalton School but lives downtown in the Village. A modern Holden Caulfield with an iPhone (though he's both smarter and more interesting than Salinger's antihero), Wes tolerates a mentally absent father, cares for a slowly dying mother, and protects his younger sister. The narrative proceeds organically through Wes's turmoil about losing his virginity to the "wrong" person. As he comes to grips with his fears, the unexpected happens; he is pleasantly surprised by life and rediscovers the authenticity of a real human relationship. In the midst of this tumultuous awakening, we experience his closeness with real people. This is magic. This is hope. In addition, we learn how to cook sweetbreads! VERDICT Browner (The Uncertain Hour) has crafted a stupendous, thought-provoking, devilishly delicious novel that reads like Zen koan meets Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with some modern "english" that sets the plate spinning. Highly recommended.—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA
An angst-filled day in the life of a young man whose hope for an idyllic relationship is intruded upon by life's rich realities.
The latest from Browner (The Uncertain Hour, 2007, etc.) is a rumination on young love and the promises therein. Browner's Caulfield-esque ruminator is Wes, a 17-year-old living in Greenwich Village with his dying mother and an emotionally departed father. What is sweet in Wes' family life is his ebullient relationship with his little sister Nora, who calls him "Daddy-O" and whom Wes obviously adores. Unfortunately it's a day of massive self-recrimination for Wes, who has come home on the Walk of Shame after losing his virginity to a lovely young thing named Lucy. This development has shattered Wes' fantasy of following up on his box of fantasies dubbed, "This thing with Delia." As Wes inoculates his guilt with old Elliot Smith lyrics, his friend James is one of the few to tell him the truth. "There is no thing with Delia," James says. "There never has been a thing with Delia. It's all in your head, like a piece of shrapnel." Though there is plenty of navel-gazing in Wes' restrained sense of panic and gloom, Browner does a fine job of mixing the incongruities of modern communication—readers may wince with every ping of the iPhone—with the timeless anxiety of young people finding their way. "I seem to be paralyzed by the challenge of doing the right thing," Wes confesses. "It's not like it's straightforward, the way you might think. There seems to be a trick to it, like a trick of the mind, or a trick or perspective, or something."
A light, modern and keen look at the discord between whimsy and prudence.