Monday, March 24, 2014

"Leap Year," by Peter Cameron

Reading Peter Cameron’s novel “Leap Year” (Harper & Row, 1990) reminded me of the question of whether to read earlier fiction by an author you have just read for the first time and enjoyed. If you are fortunate, you will read all her/his earlier fiction and enjoy and appreciate it all. But in some cases, you will find that – not unnaturally – the earlier fiction is weaker, less developed, than the recent novel you are so taken with. This latter is basically what just happened to me with “Leap Year.” I had been thrilled to “discover” Peter Cameron through his stunning 2012 novel “Coral Glynn” (which I posted about here on 5/1/12), and then looked for and read his 2006 novel, “The City of My Final Destination,” which I also liked very much, although a little less than “Coral Glynn,” and posted about on 5/19/12. Recently I ran across and picked up “Leap Year,” written 20-plus years earlier than “Coral Glynn,” and found it entertaining but rather glib, with far less depth and maturity than the later novel. “Leap Year," Cameron’s first novel, is the story of a group of friends in New York City in the 1980s. There is much about love, sex, family, life changes, careers, occasional violence, and the city of New York itself. I definitely kept reading with some interest, but it is not a novel I will long remember. So to go back to my question of whether to read earlier fiction by a writer you have just discovered: I have no definitive answer, but I suggest at least checking out the writer’s earlier work, through reviews or browsing. I know I am not able to resist doing so.

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