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Under the Small Lights (Miami University Press Fiction) Paperback – May 17, 2010
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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From the Back Cover
Under the Small Lights is a lyrical take on the lives of lost 20-somethings, lust, and the state of art. Jack, Bill, Star, and Corinna grow up without roadmaps, with dubious role models, and with more pills and gin than they know what to do with. They are actors in search of roles, and they are betrayed in these roles by real life. This is a novel about the doubtful possibility of collective love and the painful experiences which, once having endured them, we wouldn't be without.
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Top Customer Reviews
That was my experience of being 20, anyway, and John Cotter nails it with his cast of slightly aimless, self-involved, but basically decent kids. He takes them from winter through summer with a series of small transformations packed densely as a dwarf star; nothing happens and then everything happens. The action is hazy with drugs, gin and peach fuzz, the dialogue stutteringly realistic, and you come away with the sense of having been witness to a sharp sliver of life that they'll always hold at arm's length.
That was a year I remember as being uncomfortably fraught with longing and excitement in equal parts, and the characters, while not always lovable, are in love with all sorts of things--including but not limited to each other. The book left me feeling a little stoned and wistful, in a good way. Like the moneyed New England beach town where much of the action takes place, 20 is a fine place to visit and a good place not to have to live for too long. Cotter writes with compassion and generosity, and their story rings true.
Cotter's story brings to mind the tale of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "romantic egoist," Amory Blaine, in his debut novel, 'This Side of Paradise.' Both Amory and Jack recite poetry to impress; they grow through sacrifices made for friends; they drink to embolden themselves; they drink to escape. But there's also a craftsmanship that Cotter shares with Fitzgerald. Both writers used prose, verse, and drama to communicate their stories. Both relied on small, intimate glances to shape the reader's view of a young man on his way to adulthood. Both allowed their counterparts to err, and err deeply.
Jack's attention flies from Corinna--the wife of his friend, Paul--to playwriting to drugs to poetry to fame to hope to recklessness, and back again. He's a kid who believes wholeheartedly in his own hype, who is almost everything he wants to be, and that's close enough to reality to yield inertia. So how could a young man with so many misbegotten ideals withstand an entire novel without growing tired, whiny, or irksome?
With a capable author. Cotter interweaves scenes from the wayward summer of Corinna's and Paul's first year of marriage with snippets from one integral scene from the previous winter. Through this, we watch Jack unfold. He performs as whomever he assumes his friends want him to be in that moment, leading to the reader's full view of his every facet.Read more ›
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