Bookshots: 'Among the Ten Thousand Things' by Julia Pierpont
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Among the Ten Thousand Things
Who wrote it?
Julia Pierpont, a Brooklyn-based writer who works for The New Yorker. She received her MFA at NYU as a Stein and Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow. (She’s also pretty great on Twitter.) This is her debut novel.
Plot in a Box:
The Shanley family breaks apart after a package of printed emails and messages arrive at their Manhattan apartment from the father’s ex-mistress.
Invent a new title for this book:
Things You Learned Early
Read this if you like:
Domestic dramas and Jennifer Egan.
Meet the book’s lead(s):
The Shanley Family, an affluent family of four living in Manhattan. Jack, the father, is a self-involved conceptual artist, and Deb, the mother, is an ex-Ballerina turned dance teacher.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett, recreating their magic from Blue Jasmine.
Setting: would you want to live there?
Someone else’s sizeable Manhattan apartment … for free? We all know the answer to that one. (Texas and Rhode Island sound pretty cool too.)
What was your favorite sentence?
Falling in love is just an excuse for bad behavior.
The decisions we make can differ when we realize we’re serving as role models. We may even treat ourselves better that way.
Among the Ten Thousand Things would have been a completely different novel if Deb, the mother, had been the first to find the letters from her husband’s affair. His tendency to wander isn’t news to her, she’s already well aware. What changes is that her 11-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son have read the evidence—“show me your cunt”—without the niceties or excuses. They have seen cheating in its most vulnerable confessions: “I can’t explain why i get so sad when you make me so happy.”
Pierpont’s entertaining debut is a domestic drama that investigates the way family evolves after being fragmented. When the novel isn’t tackling life’s questions about time, loyalty, and loneliness, it’s sprinkled with humor, like the youngest Shanley daughter’s Seinfeld fan fiction (a highlight of the book that rivals Modern Seinfeld). Pierpont also makes an unexpected nod to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse halfway through the novel, flashing readers forward in time through the family’s quiet home after a sudden death in the family. Unlike Woolf, Pierpont uses this as a quick flash that slings readers right back to the present day. (A structural choice that reads almost as a spoiler.) While this might not set well with some readers (ah, the burden of foresight!) this is a drama-filled debut worth taking with you to the beach this summer.
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