The Year of Endless Sorrows
Fresh from the Midwest, the narrator of Adam Rapp's The Year of Endless Sorrows is a nameless Huck Finn who lucks out and secures an apartment near New York's Tompkins Square Park. Nicknamed Homon, he shares the place with his brother and aspiring actor Feick, his best friend, Glenwood Ledbetter, and the Loach--a bizarre, semicatatonic roommate who produces incredulous amounts of bodily waste.
During the day, Homon toils as an editorial assistant for a major publishing company, making copies and cataloging files for juvenile higher-ups. At night, he struggles to write Opie's Half-Life--his novel about "acute knee pain and the end of the world" that spends much of its time holed away in the apartment freezer. Then there's his sex life: a strange relationship with the boss' wild daughter, an idealized romance with an adorable Polish girl, and compulsive one-night stands with his right hand.
Yes, our hero is an aspiring writer. Yes, he's fresh meat just waiting to be masticated by the wild urban landscape. All too often have the plights of young men like Homon formed the backbone of countless memoirs, coming-of-age stories, and debut novels. What makes Endless Sorrows stand out from its peers is the way Rapp renders these experiences. Homon's bleak story would be even bleaker--probably near indigestible--were it not for the imaginative wit with which his adventures are detailed. This is not a rags-to-riches, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story. The sorrows on display--whether it's the loss of family and friends or a gruesome bout with genital infection--are endless.
At times, Rapp's book reads less like a novel and more like a sociological and scatological study of the twentysomething urban American male. Put four of them in a cramped apartment and the end result might look something like Homon's description of his place: "corroded grouting plaguing ninety percent of our household tiling . . . a damp, sour odor not unlike the smell of rotten trout wafting from underneath our dead refrigerator . . . the plexus of zit guts, boogers, dandruff, toothpaste spittle, and other unknown personal matter clogging the margins of the bathroom mirror . . . the moist, corduroy-like hide forming on the dishes in the sink."
There's even a dead squirrel in someone's room. While that last bit might be a stretch, few works of fiction in recent memory so, ahem, eloquently capture the experience of reckless male life. What hangs heaviest in the air, however, is the stench of Homon's personal and artistic disillusionment--more noxious and affecting than his unwashed underwear, stale farts, and salty man-sweat.