What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2011.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Board with "The Great Night"

I found out about "The Great Night" via one of those summer reading lists to which I too easily fall prey (helpful hint to magazine editors: if you want me to read your book, see your movie, or listen to your album put it in a list of "Thirty Things You Must Do/See/Read Right Now!"). And while these lists have led me to read half of well-publicized, yet poorly written, novels in the past, this one did not lead me astray. "The Great Night" is a fantastic book crammed with long sections of gorgeous passages that punch you in the solar plexus.

Now for the difficult part. "The Great Night" is a modern retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," set in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park. I know, I know - it sounds lame, but it's THE EXACT OPPOSITE. The way Adrian has the fairies (stay with me) interact with the human world is so poignant and heartbreaking that it causes you to view your surroundings through different eyes. I don't know if I'm ever capable of looking at a squirrel the same way again.

I'm not big on giving plot descriptions, especially for a book where so much of the fun is seeing how he slowly unveils the characters' interconnectivity. But suffice to say that the three lovers, all heartbroken for different reasons, are endearing and it's relevatory how he can make their very unique stories of pain so relatable. Molly's childhood was excerpted in the "New Yorker" a while back, causing Adrian to be named one of their "20 Under 40" (I was named "Most Improved" in my Freshman Kayaking class, so I too know what it's like to be acclaimed.)

Would it help or hurt if I said it's like if David Cronenberg directed Shakespeare's comedy? Because some of the fairies are so grotesque that I was literally biting my fist, eyes scrunched up in horror, while reading sections. Or that the Mechanicals are a group of homeless people putting on a musical version of "Soylent Green?" Okay, my trump card: there are a couple of group sex scenes. Did I lose you? Or just add fuel to the fire?

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