Midlife-crisis novel has enough inventiveness to feel fresh

07/13/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

“I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” by Courtney Maum (Touchstone, 336 pages, $25.99)

Richard Haddon, the morose British artist at the center of Courtney Maum’s amusing and yet still heartfelt new novel, used to be devoted to the avant garde. He made mixed-media collages using saw blades and driftwood and melted ramen noodle packets. He wrapped toy soldiers in Bubble Wrap to make a statement.

Now, though, things have changed. Richard’s art has finally found a market, but he’s deeply unhappy about the conventional turn it has taken.

“I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” is a midlife-crisis novel, but Maum shows enough inventiveness and wit to make Richard’s dilemma feel fresh. He knows he’s made a mess of his life even as he sabotages himself, and she invests readers in his fate while being perfectly clear he’s responsible for his own bad behavior. Trying to deserve our blessings and failing is just so painfully human.

With this warm, reflective novel, Maum seems to be nodding sagely at what we know to be true: Life is a mess, it’s always a mess, and the struggle to be a better person goes on forever.

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

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