Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Scott Spencer – A Ship made of Paper

Scott Spencer – A Ship made of Paper
Spencer's 2003  novel should cement his reputation as the contemporary American master of the love story.
Daniel Emerson is a New York City lawyer who has returned to his hometown of Leyden, N.Y., a picturesque Hudson Valley village, with his girlfriend Kate, a novelist, and her daughter, Ruby.
Kate drinks and obsesses about the O.J. Simpson trial instead of writing fiction. Daniel finds himself falling in love with Iris Davenport, an African-American grad student at the local university. Iris is married to Hampton Welles, an investment adviser.
 The book records Iris and Daniel's affair from both perspectives and poses the question, is their fleeting happiness really worth so much ruin? For ruin there is a-plenty: Daniel thoroughly humiliates Kate, destroys his financial status, becomes a subject of gossip in the village and inadvertently mauls Hampton in an accident with a roman candle, making it almost impossible for Iris to leave him.
Spencer is an unerring writer. He describes the two couples at a local concert: "From time to time, Kate must glance at Daniel. His eyes are closed, but she's sure he's awake. Hampton takes Iris's hand, brings it to his lips, while she stares intently ahead.
And then, Kate sees Daniel glancing at Iris. Their eyes meet for a moment, but it has the impact of cymbals crashing. It is a shocking, agitating thing to see. It's like being in a store with someone and watching them steal something."
Kate's violated sense of order is captured in perfectly chosen metaphors. This book, in which matters of sex and race are treated with unusual frankness, could well be both the critical and commercial surprise of this spring season.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information

Review from Booklist
A violent incident sends Daniel Emory, a successful white New York lawyer, back to his Hudson River hometown, where he is ensconced in edgy domesticity with his girlfriend, Kate Ellis, and her daughter, Ruby. His daily routine of taking Ruby to day care introduces him to Iris Davenport, a black woman whose son is Ruby's best friend. Daniel develops an obsessive attraction to Iris, who embodies for him the possibility of release from an emotional distance he has felt all his life. Iris tentatively returns the affection, yearning for her own respite from a frosty marriage to Hampton Welles, an investment banker, resident only on the weekends. A freak snowstorm affords the opportunity to begin an affair that sets in motion fierce jealousy--tinged with racial animus--in Kate and Hampton. This is an engaging novel of passion, romantic longing, race, class, family responsibilities, and the riveting anxieties of a couple embroiled in a relationship that cannot end well. Vanessa Bush
Scott Spencer was born in Washington, D.C., raised in Chicago, and now lives in upstate New York. He is the author of nine novels, including Endless Love, Waking the Dead, A Ship Made of Paper, and Willing. He has taught at the University of Iowa, Williams College, and Columbia University. His nonfiction has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, O, Harper's, and The New York Times.
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