Bizarre, fun, cynical, emotional, educational, superficial, entertaining – there are many different adjectives which could be used to describe The Friends of Allan Renner, but its genre might not be quite so easy to pinpoint. I guess you could categorize it primarily as literary fiction, although some of which occurs is too narrative in style to pigeonhole it as such – furthermore, often the description doesn’t even apply. The friends of the piece are the very small handful of individuals who are prominent and influential in Allan’s life as he approaches forty, and his sometimes mundane, sometimes unusual and ultimately outright absurd experiences with them. It is at times laugh-out-loud funny (imagine a stoner web designer going on the rampage with a mace) and at other times heartbreakingly poignant; Andrae is a tremendous author, who manages to pull off all of these different styles and moods. I think there is an allegory, or underlying metaphorical narrative throughout, but I don’t really know that for sure; if there is, it is a little lost on me. In this respect, you could perhaps compare some aspects of its connected yet cross-genre anthology feel with a less fantastical and less eventful answer to Cloud Atlas.
Fundamentally, a tangible sense of French-style arthouse underlies some of the dialogue and discourse, particularly in its continual reference to independent film from around the world, packed full at times with profound analysis of artistic media, reminiscent of any low budget movie from the 90s shot in monochrome (or starring Ethan Hawke). Of course, you know it is a novel of the times, because it is compulsory for this type of literature to take the occasional swipe at politics (mainly Trump, of course). The main protagonist can be annoyingly virtuous at times, and if you are sensitively to the right of centre, you might find the odd irritation here (Allan is unsurprisingly a Democrat, who happens to live in Florida, so you can probably predict his social and political bugbears). But it all really only adds to the layers of his character, which could be described as anxious, self-righteous, traumatized and a fantasist. Fortunately, this book is as much about the interactions as it is Allan Renner’s personality. It doesn’t really go anywhere storywise, so just enjoy these encounters.
A good book, extremely well written, which will appeal more to the arthouse (last part excepted) and the high-brow comedic alike. An easygoing read, which actually felt a fair bit shorter than its lengthy word count. Its most important quality, though, is that Andrae can really write, and I look forward to his next.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: dave-j-andrae comedy fiction literary-fiction fantasy