Tag Archives: three stages of amazement

THREE STAGES OF AMAZEMENT by Carol Edgarian


I just finished Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian, which is one of those books that captures a very particular point in time in a very particular place, for a very particular demographic. In this case, it’s recession-era (2008) San Francisco among formerly high-flying venture capitalists and entrepreneurs facing the end of limitless possibility and funding.

The couple at the center of it are Lena and Charlie, married with two small children, including a sickly toddler born premature and facing a host of medical problems. Charlie has left a stable job as a surgeon in Massachusetts to pursue his dream of starting a company that facilitates remote, robotic surgery by first world doctors on third world patients. Charlie’s startup is running out of cash, and his long hours have taken a huge toll on Lena, who is trying to hold things together at home on her own. Charlie ends up accepting funding from Lena’s estranged uncle Cal, a legendary venture capitalist in the Valley, who may have his own motives for funding Charlie’s venture over the objections of his partners.

Three Stages of Amazement is a good book with a very large flaw. Here’s the good: I really liked the story, which sucked me in early and never let go, and I thought Edgarian’s depiction of the world in which Cal and his wife Ivy lived was especially powerful. Her writing, for the most part, is sharp and observant, with little details that are both familiar and fresh at the same time. It took me back to San Francisco, where I lived for a time, and vividly conveys an uneasy, disorienting period of time that hasn’t entirely gone away.

Here’s the bad: the dialogue, especially between Charlie and Lena. While some of Edgarian’s dialogue was pretty realistic, there were some sentences that characters said to each other that were just completely off. I can’t imagine real people talking this way. Here’s an example: “Charlie, you have been in this house less than an hour and I have watched you chew and I have listened to your stories, but your you has yet to come through that door.” or “Lena, listen, if you’re going to write the script, don’t make us small.” Just odd little exchanges that I had a hard time accepting, and that were jarring when I got to them.

Sadly, those inconsistencies in the writing took Three Stages of Amazement down a notch for me, but I would still recommend it. Lena was a frustrating character, but I found the rest to be memorable and interesting, if flawed. In the end, this was a worthwhile read.

 

Three New Books, Hot Off The Presses

In my travels through magazines and book reviews over the last few weeks, I've come across some new releases that look to be worth investigating. Thought I'd share them here:

When Tito Loved Clara, by Jon Michaud. Here's what EW had to say:

Michaud Clara Lugo — born in the Dominican Republic, raised in New York City's Inwood, ''the neighborhood of parks and bodegas, of rivers and bridges'' — escaped a painful childhood when Cornell offered her a full scholarship. Now a librarian, married and living in the New Jersey suburbs, she finds she cannot scrub herself clean of the past. Her sister, her pregnant 16-year-old niece, and her old high school sweetheart Tito, who's suddenly reappeared after 15 years, see to that. It's entertaining to watch the smart, piquantly funny Clara desperately try to impose a library-like order on her life. If only Michaud hadn't felt the need to load When Tito Loved Clara down with so many soapy plot twists! B+

The Adults, by Alison Espach. From Amazon:

Theadults In Espach's charming coming-of-age debut, 14-year-old Emily Vidal's life begins to veer off course at her father's 50th birthday party when he announces that he and her mother are divorcing. The birthday night ends with dad kissing the neighbor, Mrs. Resnick, in the woods, where Emily and Mrs. Resnick's son, Mark, discover them. The disorienting discoveries continue: Mark's ailing father commits suicide, and Mrs. Resnick is pregnant with Emily's dad's baby. With dad off to Prague and her mother undone by the affair and hitting the bottle, Emily loses faith in all the adults around her, even as she is becoming one of them. Emily starts an affair with an English teacher 10 years her senior, mostly to see how far she can go, which turns out to be pretty far. She and the teacher, Jonathan, who leaves teaching to become a lawyer, return to each other again and again as Emily graduates from college and moves to Prague to be with her father. Espach perfects the snarky, postironic deadpan of the 1990s and teenagers everywhere, and her ear for modern speech and eye for fresh detail transform a familiar story into an education in what it means to be a grown-up.

And Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian, which seems to be everywhere. From The New York Times:

Edgarian Carol Edgarian’s Three Stages of Amazement shares a surprising amount of common ground with last year’s most argued-about novel, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Whatever the overarching themes of either book may be, it’s the sharply observed detail and intensity that matter: the spectacle of high-strung, hot-blooded, restless people conflating their own private crises with the political and economic turmoil of their times. What Halliburton and the Bush era were to Mr. Franzen, Silicon Valley and the Obama presidency are to Ms. Edgarian’s turbulent, furiously compelling book.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has read these yet – worth pursuing? Thanks!