Bookshots: 'What's Important Is Feeling' by Adam Wilson

Bookshots: 'What's Important Is Feeling' by Adam Wilson

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

What's Important Is Feeling

Who wrote it:

Adam Wilson can write...and he does so with a certain authenticity and humor that I rarely see...If you enjoy the cohesive element in collections, then I can't recommend this book enough.

Adam Wilson, author of Flatscreen and 2012 winner of the Terry Southern Prize.

Plot in a box:

A series of shorts—mostly involving young Jewish men living on the east coast who do drugs, pine over women, and experience failure in both life and love.

Invent a new title for this book:

Failings on the East Coast

Read this if you like:

Gary Shteyngart

Meet the book's lead(s):

An assortment of young Jewish men that are romantically deficient and/or casual drug users.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Jesse Eisenberg.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

In a shitty hot apartment...no thanks.

What was your favorite sentence?

When I was stoned I was still horny, I just didn't feel so angry about it.

The Verdict:

What's Important Is Feeling falls into the same trap that many collections do, in that it's too consistent in regards to its theme, its characters, its setting. Many of the leads are young Jewish men struggling with love, relationships, and their transition to adulthood. They do drugs. They live on the east coast for the most part. What this amounts to is a collection in which each story is an echo of the previous one. They aren't carbon copies, but they aren't wholly different either. Some people prefer this type of cohesiveness; I don't happen to be one of them. And I can't ignore the fact that Adam Wilson just so happens to be a young Jewish male living on the east coast, which only further adds to the "is this story about you" topic that readers so often pose to authors.

Don't get me wrong, Adam Wilson can write...and he does so with a certain authenticity and humor that I rarely see. The credentials are there, having been published in The Paris Review, VICE, and Tin House, but I suspect these stories worked better in the context of a literary magazine than a collection. Once combined, they lose all contrast and assume a sort of generic quality. I never found myself hating or loving any of them, but feeling lukewarm about something can be just as dangerous as loathing. Wilson's prose is solid, he definitely knows how to capture the character of a young twenty-something, but I wanted a little more variety out of him. "The Long In-Between", for example, is different in that it's more female-centric, but even then we're still presented the same unlucky-in-life-and-love-on-the-east-coast story that gets dished up for the majority of the collection.

The clear stand-out for me was the title story, "What's Important Is Feeling", a piece that actually takes place on the west coast. It reminded me of an article that was written about The Canyons some time ago, which mostly documented how everything about that movie was going to shit. I quite enjoyed it. But this reprieve in Wilson's book is singular, the one hit among the many stories in which characters and settings are too close, too familiar to differentiate, and therefore, lost in the shuffle. Wilson's stories can work on their own, and they can work in the context of a literary magazine, but back-to-back-to-back is something I had a hard time with. If you enjoy the cohesive element in collections, then I can't recommend this book enough. I tend to lean towards diversity in collections. In the end, I'd much rather love/hate a few stories as opposed to feeling the same about all of them.

Image of What's Important Is Feeling: Stories
Manufacturer: Harper Perennial
Part Number:
Price:

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Comments

Sanbai's picture
Sanbai from the Midwest is reading The War of Art February 24, 2014 - 4:10pm

Without having read any of them, the stories sound very "meh" in general...

docawesome's picture
docawesome from Dallas is reading Texas by James Michener February 25, 2014 - 9:08am

Indeed. It reminds me of a workshop I took in college where every single student besides myself was writing a coming of age novel about a young, witty and neurotic Jewish boy in New York City. Not to denigrate the subject matter, but that is a story that has been told and retold a number of times, so much so that its practically its own genre. In a place where so many have gone before, if you're not doing something new and weird with it, why wouldn't your reader just pick up Kavalier and Clay, or any of the multitudes of classics of the form, instead?

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 February 26, 2014 - 10:35pm

The meh factor generally equates to the work being forgettable. At least you remember the things you hate.