This is an adult book.
It isn’t an adult book due to the content which is obviously sexual in nature with the title being a play on the stereotype of sex as education. It is an adult book because the sentences were like tiny pencil shavings worked over into a constantly dug-up time capsule. At first I was like, “har har, my education, how many people have tried to this while using the sexual deviance of a young twenties female.” However, reading this book was like an education in writing prose. It’s clear that Susan Choi is a professional at writing a sentence. That woman could wear a suit and tie as a “period specialist.” I would love to get my education from Susan Choi on writing. This isn’t to say that I wanted to write down every sentence. They weren’t beautiful, or delectable, they were just so well-written that she could win a sentence quiz bowl for women in bed. The sentences were so good, they were disgusting.
The story on the other hand, maybe not my favorite. I think it’s an interesting story that’s definitely been done with a twist by Francine Prose in Blue Angel. The novel depicts the story of a professor-student relationship, but not quite what the reader is expecting. The book opens with a description of Nicholas, a professor of humanities where Regina is a graduate student. He is the conventional Shakespeare professor; argyle socks, corduroy slacks, geek frames, humble buttoned tweed coat. Obviously, the reader assumes he will be the love interest, but we are sorely disappointed after the vast description of his loveliness.
This is a story of love & lust in a partnership. The couple is two beautiful women, entwined in more than just bed covers. I think this part of the story went on a little too long. I was drowning in love sequences between the two of them. The minor characters are much more powerful and I almost miss that Laurence didn’t travel through to the end of the book. I really expected him to pop up like Dutra in the new life of the characters who had moved around, carried their pasts like collectibles from previous generations. Dutra, as a minor character, and major towards the end, is an idealist. He’s one of the few idealists left and although he makes poor decisions throughout the monotony of the book, he’s probably my favorite character in the story. Then, the other honorable male is Laurence who is in the E.E. Cummings of marriages with his wife, so in love, he blushes at the thought of scandal. I loved both of these strong male sidekicks. I was even really in like with Nicholas who gets buried throughout the text and is eventually overcome by his son, Joachim.
Mainly what you need to know is that this is a love story. It’s the same as every other love story, complicated. Love being all of these things: (Thank you, Thesaurus.com) Byzantine, Daedalean, Gordian, abstruse, arduous, can of worms,
convoluted, difficult,elaborate, entangled, fancy, gasser, hard,
hi-tech, interlaced, intricate, involved, knotty,labyrinthine, mega factor,
mixed, perplexing, problematic, puzzling, recondite,sophisticated, troublesome,
various, wheels within wheels, etc.
The true depth of this novel comes in learning how to write by reading. I always love listening to writers in coffee shops who go on and on about the importance of reading, or not. Some writers believe they don’t have to read in order to be great at their craft, but that’s like being an actress and never practicing in the mirror. Susan Choi’s novel is a book you read in order to learn your own craft. If you need to understand grammar, comma placement, the way to twist a sentence in the middle like the stem of an apple, you read this book, all 304 pages. I believe in this book for its pure craft, its content may not be the most exciting content of a book, but it will keep you drumming. Thank you, Susan Choi for raising that bar. Now, my Great American Novel will have to be even stockier.
There is a child involved named Lion which is literally the name I discuss with the darling all the time for a child. It got so bad last night, the repetition of the baby’s name, that I was looking up other names that mean Lion to see if the boy could hook into any of them. Yea, that’s right, I’m planning baby names, you can judge me now. You know when you read my blog, you always get a strange personal side note.
My Education by Susan Choi will be out from Viking (Penguin) on July 3rd. It’s got a brilliant late-night cover of a woman reading by flashlight or e-reader with a shapeless body on the other side of the bed. Pick it up to feel like you’ll never write a brilliant sentence again. Keep crumpling up that notebook paper and playing novel trashketball.