Last week I read Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament, and it's a deeply satisfying book, although the author loses the courage of her convictions at the end. Suffice it to say that Hugo Whittier is one of the more inspiring protagonists I've come across lately, all the more so because his specific predjudices and general misanthropy make it clear that his tale wasn't originally intended to be an uplifting one, even if Christensen finds the temptation irresistable. A few choice quotes:
"Talking precludes thought or consideration; most interpersonal yakking is prompted by the concomitant desires to appear to be something and to get something, commerce and advertising masked as 'social communion.'" [p. 139]
"Underneath she was white and smooth as an oyster out of its shell, quivering with briny juices and piquantly yielding to the teeth." [pp. 178-9]
"I am still that young Hugo, the way a withered apple is its fresher self as well as its rotted self, both at once. Midlife is like standing on a high peak looking down at the plains, temporal and spatial simultaneity; it's a congruence of life and death, ashes that you came from and the ones you're headed toward becoming." [p. 203]
At least the optimistic coda makes it slightly more likely that we'll see Philip Seymour Hoffman in yet another role he'd be perfect for.