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Wednesday, April 14th, 2004


The Epicure's Lament

by Kate Christensen

Have You Read About the Lonesome Loser?

A review by Adrienne Miller

Hugo Whittier, the antihero of Kate Christensen's tremendously entertaining third novel, is every bit as tormented, irascible, self-hating, and funny as any other classic loser of contemporary literature. Think Martin Amis's John Self, then add dashes of Montaigne and M.F.K. Fisher. Poor Hugo once fancied himself a writer of sorts, but now, at forty, he finds himself decaying decorously at his family's faded estate on the Hudson (name: Waverly). He's dying -- or so he claims (Hugo isn't what you'd call a reliable narrator) -- of too many cigarettes, which means Hugo, being the loser he is, is determined to smoke even more: " 'If I don't smoke I'll likely become agitated and froth at the mouth,' I rejoined pleasantly. 'I have to smoke. It's my human condition.' " Like all great narcissists, Hugo is extremely amused by himself, but bored to tears by everyone else. His lush solitude is broken when two things happen: 1) His older brother Dennis, nursing wounds from a wrecked marriage, decides to move back to Waverly, and 2) a letter arrives for Hugo from his sort-of-ex-wife Sonia. The plot of The Epicure's Lament is rather thin, but no matter: You'll find yourself intensely involved with Chistensen's epigrammatic Hugo.

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