Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Rapture by Susan Minot

I was in the mood for some short books when I last went to the library, and that's why I grabbed this and Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster. (And the other reason I got this book will become clear shortly.)

Rapture is one of those books arranged around a conceit, like most of Nicholson Baker's novels. It's set during a defined period of time, and focuses intently on the thoughts of the characters at that moment. It's the kind of thing that can lead to tours de force, or to massive failures, depending on the writer. (This, I'd say, is neither -- it's interesting and well-done, but doesn't quite reach that breakthrough point.)

I'm two paragraphs in, and have been quite boring so far, so I guess I can give away the great titillation factor of Rapture: it's the story of one illicit relationship, told through the thoughts of the two participants during one afternoon act of oral sex, well after the relationship ended. I don't believe these two people talk to each other in the "now" of the novel, though the bulk of the short book is flashbacks, from one point of view or the other, to various points in their relationship. So, to be crude, Rapture is the story of one blowjob.

Since Rapture takes place entirely in these two people's heads -- and they don't particularly communicate with each other during the course of what I hope you'll forgive me for calling the novel's action -- it relies heavily on their psychological portrayals being true and believable. They're both believable people, and their lives are interesting enough to sustain a short book (especially one with some tastefully literary prurient interest as well). But Minot is a well-known literary writer, and this book made a stir when it was published a few years back, so no one needs me to tell them it's good.

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