Gregor, James. “Going Dutch: A Novel”, Simon and Schuster, 2019.
A Look At How Some Live
In “Going Dutch: A Novel”, author James Gregor wonderfully captures how his main characters thinks and that he sees himself as sympathetic even when he behaves in a horrible manner. Gregor explores contemporary social mores in a wonderful novel that keeps you turning pages as fast as you can.
Richard is a graduate student who is tired of the gay dating scene and he is lonely even though he is rarely alone. Still in his twenties, he is constantly surrounded by friends but that does not help his sense of alienation. He is anxious and is dealing with severe writer’s block and this could damage his graduate funding, make him poor, without direction and single.
Anne, his brilliant classmate offers to write his papers in exchange for his company even though he is obviously gay. But he needs her help, and it’s nice that Anne has brought him into her lifestyle. As might be expected, what started as a relationship based upon help becomes a great deal more complex.
Then a one-night-stand with Blake, a good looking and successful lawyer is becoming more serious and Richard is unable to cut himself off from Anne and her lifestyle of privilege. Both of Richard’s relationships head toward something more serious and he realizes that from which not much good can come.
This novel is a look at relationships today’s digital age as well is an exploration of love and sexuality, and what we seek from and do to each other. Every few pages we find some kind of look that brings us to laugh, to be mortified and to admire and this is no easy task for a writer. Gregor gives us a look at contemporary social mores.
The plot, the characters and the relationships are deeply engaging and the prose is lyrical. There are notable secondary characters and he way he writes about New York liberal intelligentsia is wonderfully satirical. Richard’s double life must come crashing down and when it does, it is spectacular. The three main characters are human and very complicated and they share what they think about life. We see what Richard can’t—that his actions are driven by shame and insecurity.
Richard does not move forward because that’s the choice he has made. He relies on pity and sympathy and he is unable to make a choice. He’s self-centered and has no sense of no morality. Most of us will not agree with many of the choices that the characters make. We spend six months with Richard and learn that he relies on stipends for his studies to finance his existence. In addition to lavishing money on him, Anne does some of his academic work and when the relationship begins to take a new direction, Richard begins to question his sexuality. With Blake things become ever more complicated. All that Richard can bring to any relationship is to make the other person feel needed.
We hope that Richard might grow up and become a better man. He isn’t lovable or fascinating but what is unique is that the book is. The idea of gay millennials trying to survive the modern online dating scene to find the right person is great but let’s face it, no one in this novel is likeable yet taken as a whole, the read is a very fine experience.