Reader’s Notebook, 1/18/18

Two more notches on my 2018 reading belt.


Mrs Fletcher – Tom Perrotta
Perrotta’s books all feel similar. They often center on sex, although none of them can be described as salacious, and the problems that sex causes in our lives. There is usually a strong element of nostalgia, where one or more major character wants desperately to turn back the clock to a time – days, weeks, months ago – in the past before they fucked up. And they’re usually quite good.

Mrs. Fletcher ticks all those boxes. It centers on Eve, a mid–40’s divorcee who is about to take her only son off to college. Before they leave for campus, she has a very unfortunate moment: she overhears Brendan receiving a good bye gift from his high school girlfriend. Key word receiving. Wink wink, nudge nudge. And Brendan uses some language while receiving his gift that shocks Eve into wondering what kind of son she has raised.

After Brendan’s departure, the book splits between a third person accounting of Eve’s new life and a first person look at Brendan’s life on campus. Although Eve has a master’s degree, she returns to the local community college to take a course on gender. That class opens her already progressive mind to new ideas. Combined with her loneliness, she soon spends her nights looking at porn and having fantasies that both excite and confuse her. Meanwhile Brendan tries desperately to get laid at school, only to become attracted to a woman who is very different that what he thinks he wants. Secondary characters flow in and out of the tale, all with their own moments of reckoning when they find themselves attracted to people or ideas they hadn’t considered before.

As always in a Perrotta novel, both Eve and Brendan make regrettable choices, although Brendan’s is far more damaging to his life and that of his new girlfriend.

Mrs. Fletcher is equal amounts hilarious, thought-provoking, and cringe-inducing. Just what Perrotta was going for, I bet.


Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball – Jack McCallum
This is a good book about an odd pairing. Half of the book is devoted to the playing career of NBA legend Jerry West, specifically the 1971–72 season when West won his only NBA title as a player and his Lakers won a still-record 33 consecutive games. The other half looks at the current Golden State Warriors, which came out of nowhere to become the most dynamic, interesting, and popular team in American sports. West, until this summer, served as a special assistant to the Warriors ownership group and helped them make several key personnel decisions as they built around Steph Curry.

I say that’s an odd pairing because I’m not sure those two things go together, despite West’s presence on both ends of the timeline. The ’72 Lakers really didn’t have much in common with the current Dubs. They ran, but did so in an era when everyone still ran, and didn’t revolutionize the NBA the way Golden State has done. They were built around fairly traditional personnel, with West and Gail Goodrich on the perimeter and Wilt Chamberlain anchoring the defense inside. Even Wilt, a singular player in NBA history, was on the downside of his career and somewhat limited on offense. Unlike Steph and Kevin Durant, who are in the primes of their own singular careers and helping to redefine basketball at all levels.

Those disconnects felt weird to me. “Why is McCallum writing about this?” I kept asking. Not that both stories aren’t compelling; they definitely are. He reports and writes those stories well. They just feel like stories that should have been separated into two distinct books. Or, better, the focus be between how West built the Lakers in the 80s and 90s as GM with how he helped the Warriors pick players. There’s a little of that, but it feels tacked on at the end, as if McCallum couldn’t find the common threads he was searching for and knew he needed to strengthen the old West to new West connections.

Oh well, a quick and interesting read anyway.