“This was the sort of stuff Tyler thought about while listening to concerts. He’d bob his head back and forth, but he wouldn’t dance. He’d listen, but he wouldn’t let the sound consume his thoughts, no matter how loud it was. He was always thinking about some obscure topic, or planning out how he’d react if someone tried to mug him on the way home from the show, or maybe just mapping out routes for how he’d climb down from the rafters if he found himself stuck there for some reason.”
Dominic Peloso’s third published novel follows late-20s-something Tyler as he searches for meaning in all the wrong places. A resident of Washington, DC, Tyler is an introvert and displays the behaviors and ways of thinking that come along with that introversion. An extrovert will most likely find him difficult to “get”, but an introverted reader of the novel will find him or herself grudgingly acknowledging the traits they share with him as they map out their own routes for climbing down from the rafters.
In the way that Catcher in the Rye captured the post-WWII confusion and anger of the generation to which Holden Caulfield belonged, Peloso’s First World Problems in an Age of Terrorism and Ennui, captures the zeitgeist of the “Gen-X” generation in a pre-9/11 world, a generation which had no defining cause to be passionate about when they were growing up. Times were good in the USA. Capitalism was humming along nicely with only a few embarrassing moments. An unpopular war was in the past, and the memory of weapons fired on our own children on college campuses had changed forever the policy-maker’s methods of handling dissent.
Tyler hates the passive approach of his generation to the issues of the day and the lack of passion found in their protests, but mostly, Tyler is bored. Despite a good-paying job and a girlfriend whom most would consider quite a catch, he has nothing to be passionate about, and his job doesn’t engage his creative and active mind; for Tyler, disaffection breeds ennui.
Tyler battles his boredom through the intellectual exercise of thinking up creative ways to engage in revolutionary acts and publishes his ideas on his website, CHOAS, in hope of attracting the attention of other “revolutionary thinkers”. Yet the truth is Tyler does nothing, takes no action, allows life to happen to him or not. Additionally, with the excruciating self-consciousness of the introvert, he assumes that everything that happens in his vicinity is about him. In his very internal world, Tyler is an important actor on the revolutionary stage, waiting only for cool, like-minded individuals to discover him.
That September 11th, Tyler is forced to reappraise his writings and his life in a new context. I leave it to the reader to judge the outcome of that reappraisal and determine what it means to them. The book, after all, is not about the tragedy that occurred that day but about the personal reactions it invoked in those who viewed it over and over again. The conclusion of Mr. Peloso’s tale is not meant to be inspirational or patriotic but to reflect the reality of a particular generation of Americans around what one would assume is, for them, a pivotal historical event. This, it does extremely well.
Mr. Peloso is an accomplished writer who draws believable and realistic characters. The strength in the novel is in its voice. His writing feels effortless; despite placement firmly within the literary fiction realm, the author plays no games with language that could disrupt the flow of the story. Until quite near the end, nothing much really happens, yet the story moves along at a good pace. Then, on the pivotal day, the POV shifts from third person limited (Tyler’s perspective only) to first person in each of the character’s voices. This lends the ending a feeling of immediacy and intimacy and provides a wider perspective on the events of 9/11 as they happen than would be the case if the narration remained with Tyler alone.
If you’re looking for action, adventure, suspense, and a thrilling conclusion, look elsewhere — First World Problems in an Age of Terrorism and Ennui is a work of literary fiction which focuses the reader on the internal events of its primary character. However, if you enjoy novels like Catcher in the Rye and Joseph Heller’s Something Happened, I recommend you pick this one up. I rate it against those 5 star books as 4.5 stars. At the time of this review, it was available at Amazon.com for $4.99. You can head directly to the purchase page by clicking here.
You can also (and definitely should) enjoy Dominic Peloso’s ongoing mixed media sad-but-beautiful-two-line-stories on a weekly basis at the “Tiny Ghosts” website at www.tinyghosts.com