The Book of Get­ting Even

Ben­jamin Taylor
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012
This com­ing-of-age nov­el is told in a detached nar­ra­tive voice that echoes the cen­tral character’s feel­ing of dis­place­ment. Gabriel grows up in New Orleans, the son of a rab­bi who preach­es Tal­mu­dic cer­ti­tude and is also described as a trol­list sav­age,” while the tox­ic home envi­ron­ment makes his moth­er con­stant­ly sick. It is also their insis­tence on phi­los­o­phiz­ing and val­ues and reli­gion which he calls super­sti­tious mon­u­ments to wish­ful think­ing and mind-numb­ing rit­u­al repet­i­tive­ness” that irk Gabriel. When he arrives at Swarth­more Col­lege, he immers­es him­self in the world of sci­ence, nature, and ratio­nal­i­ty. He falls phys­i­cal­ly in love with Dan­ny Hun­dert; and spir­i­tu­al­ly with his twin sis­ter Marghie, as well as with their Hun­gar­i­an Nobel prize win­ner par­ents and their writer friends, who sum­mer togeth­er in Wis­con­sin. But romance is pierced and sub­plots of get­ting even revealed, when Dan­ny becomes an anti­war activist and is impris­oned; Marghie gains all her author­i­ty on affairs of the heart vic­ar­i­ous­ly from movies; and the Hun­derts com­mit dou­ble mur­der by tak­ing anti-depres­sants. Gabriel soon real­izes Had the furi­ous crav­ing for oth­er, nobler ori­gins been only a blind?” Tay­lor writes about very heavy themes with a heavy hand, yet skirts many side issues, like Gabriel’s homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. He con­cludes that where­as in the nat­ur­al world there is order and instinct, man must guess, nego­ti­ate, make history.
Karen J. Hauser received a B.A. in art his­to­ry from Stan­ford. She has worked at var­i­ous muse­ums and at Sothe­by’s and cur­rent­ly does com­mu­nal vol­un­teer work.

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