Friday, March 19, 2010

Everything Changes: Dude Lit with Heart

Many people's immediate reaction to Jonathan Tropper — author of last year's critically acclaimed This Is Where I Leave You, one of my favorite books of 2009 — is to pigeonhole him as the dude version of chick lit writers like Sophie Kinsella, Lauren Weisberger and Candace Bushnell. Everything Changes certainly has elements of what could be considered "dude lit" — laughably bad dialogue, silly gratuitous sex scenes, drugs and rock'n'roll. Even the cover art plays into this notion of "for fellas only."

But I'd argue that Tropper is so adept at describing the psychology of relationships and love and connecting his readers to his characters that Everything Changes moves well beyond a brainless genre fiction novel to a memorable, affecting literary experience. At least, that was the case for me. I loved Everything Changes. Frankly, I was surprised by how much I liked it, and how it's stayed with me since I finished it several days ago.

The story is about 32-year-old Zack King. Ostensibly, his life is great — he lives rent-free with his millionaire buddy in New York City, is engaged to the beautiful, intelligent Hope, and has a well-paying job as a consultant. But then Zack wakes up one morning and pees blood, and then his long-absent father reappears, and then he begins to realize he's in love with his dead best friend's widow, and then he has a career-threatening crisis at work. That's a helluva lot to deal with in one week, and everything begins to, well, change.

The idea of the book is that even though Zack's life seems to be moving in the direction any early-30s dude would be happy with, he's really stuck in the neutral middle of just about every facet of his life. He's conflicted about his feelings for his fiance Hope and Tamara, the woman he thinks he really loves; he's a middle man at work, helping match up American companies with overseas manufacturers; and his ridiculous Viagra-popping father's re-emergence, has him torn between anger at his prolonged absence, skepticism about his real motives, and the possibility of forgiveness. And all this is weighing on him at once as he considers the possibility he might have bladder cancer.

The resolution is decidedly messy, as everything does, in fact, change. But following Zack through his decisions — both good and poor — and Tropper's acumen for explaining them, make Everything Changes just an out-and-out good time. Both male and female readers will enjoy this book. For females, Tropper provides a pitch-perfect peak behind the proverbial curtain of what the hell goes on in the male mind. For dudes, there are several "ah, yeah!" moments where Tropper describes something you may have thought about but aren't able to articulate. Again, at least that was the case for me. Though Everything Changes isn't quite as good as This Is Where I Leave You, it's still a great read — perhaps a good introduction to Tropper if you haven't read him at all.


  1. Huh.... "dude-lit" who'da thunk it? Sounds great!

  2. Dude Lit? LOL...first time of hearing that. I will probably read more of him or similar books.

  3. You need to copyright "Dude Lit"!!

  4. My Creative Writing professor gleefully spent an entire class talking about "Dick Lit," huh.

    The cover of that book, though. Uhm. Yeah.

  5. That actually sounds pretty good to me even though I'm not a dude. :) I'm not sure if I've ever read anything that would be classified as "chick lit" though so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

    Greg, I love your blog because you always review books that I probably wouldn't otherwise have heard of!

  6. yet another author I hadn't heard of and might have to consider. I've already added Philip Roth to the "to read" list. I left you an award on my blog. You can go here to claim it:

  7. @Jeanne, Myne, Kath - Wish I could take credit for "dude lit" but I'm sure I've heard that somewhere else before.

    @Sasha - Yeah, the cover art is just silly. It doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the novel, really - more just a marketing ploy.

    @Fictionfanatic - Hey, thanks - that's really nice of you to say. I hope you'll check out Tropper - he's great!

    @Holly - Woohoo! Thanks!

  8. I met Jonathan Tropper years ago,when his first book came out,Plan B(the indie bookstore where I worked at did a signing event for him)and he was a very nice guy,so it's been great seeing how well his career has been going.

    Dude Lit is a much better genre moniker than Dick Lit(which has been bandied about for quite a while now)and I hope it catches on:)

  9. @lady T - I'm jealous you got to meet him! He seems like he'd be an awesome dude to sit with in a bar for a few hours. I plan to go through the rest of his catalogue now, too - How To Talk To A Widower is next....

  10. He does seem like a guy you would enjoy a beer with -the only book of his I have read so far is This is Where I Leave You and I really liked it! I will have to read some more of this books.