Saturday, May 19, 2012

"The City of Your Final Destination," by Peter Cameron

When I finally, belatedly, “discovered” Peter Cameron (see my post of 5/1/12 on his newest novel, “Coral Glynn”) for myself, I decided to read more of his fiction. I have now read “The City of Your Final Destination” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002). I was partly drawn to it because it is about a young and insecure academic, Omar Razaghi, who needs to get permission from the literary executors of the late Jules Gund, a writer from Uruguay, to write an authorized biography of Gund. This permission is extremely important to Omar, as he needs this project for his fellowship stipend. The novel starts with two strands, two stories. On the one hand, we learn about Omar, and on the other hand, we learn about Gund’s executors: his wife and his mistress, who now live together a bit uneasily (yes, it is strange!) in Uruguay, and his brother, who lives nearby with his partner. The executors are divided about whether to sign the permission papers. In desperation, Omar spends all his available money to travel to their isolated location in Uruguay to try to persuade the executors in person, thus bringing the two stories together. The usual misunderstandings, approaches, rejections, kindnesses, agreements, refusals, entanglements, and other common human responses ensue, as we might expect when people are mixed together in unlikely groupings. Although several of the characters are a bit prickly, we grow to appreciate and even feel affection toward them all. Based on the two novels by Cameron I have read so far (and I will probably read more), he seems to like the classic literary situation of mixing people in fairly isolated settings and seeing what happens. I am personally very partial to novels with such situations. The all-important point, as always, is the people, with all their emotions, interactions, quirks, inconsistencies, and other hallmarks of humanity. While reading this novel, I had a similar feeling to the one I had reading “Coral Glynn”: at first I resisted and was even put off a bit by the oddities of the settings and characters, but somehow it all “worked,” and I think I am, although late to the party, becoming a Cameron fan.

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