The Resource Upstate, James Wood

Upstate, James Wood

Label
Upstate
Title
Upstate
Statement of responsibility
James Wood
Creator
Author
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
"In the years since his daughter Vanessa moved to America to become a professor of philosophy, Alan Querry has never been to visit. He has been too busy at home in northern England, holding together his business as a successful property developer. His younger daughter, Helen, a music executive in London, hasn't gone, either, and the two sisters, close but competitive, have never quite recovered from their parents' bitter divorce and the early death of their mother. But when Vanessa's new boyfriend sends word that she has fallen into a severe depression and that he's worried for her safety, Alan and Helen fly to New York and take the train to Saratoga Springs. Over the course of six wintry days in upstate New York, the Querry family begins to struggle with the questions that animate this profound and searching novel: Why do some people find living so much harder than others? Is happiness a skill that might be learned or a cruel accident of birth? Is reflection conducive to happiness or an obstacle to it? If, as a favorite philosopher of Helen's puts it, "the only serious enterprise is living," how should we live?
Tone
Character
Review
  • /* Starred Review */ Alan, an overextended British developer carefully concealing his financial worries, visits his expat daughter, Vanessa, a philosophy professor in Saratoga Springs, and finds upstate New York, in the grip of winter, equally appalling and fascinating. His younger daughter, Helen, a London music executive, has also made the trip; both are concerned because Vanessa’s latest bout with depression included a fall and a broken arm. They also want to meet Vanessa’s substantially younger boyfriend. Wood (The Fun Stuff and Other Essays, 2012), a literary critic of the highest order, returns to fiction after a long hiatus, drawing on his extraordinary literary fluency to demonstrate just how far-reaching and profoundly enjoyable a masterful, inquisitive, funny, and provocative novel can be. Every turn in this concentrated and piquant family drama, circa 2007, opens inviting vistas onto the human endeavor, from Alan’s conflicted feelings about the old English towns he helped destroy to Helen’s passion for music and vision of its techno future to Vanessa’s mixed feelings about her relentlessly cerebral, book-rooted discipline. Here, too, is Alan’s hilariously precise and slashing tally of the differences between England and America. But it is a father’s love for his daughters that propels Wood’s beautifully distilled, archly revelatory tale bright with wise insights and thoughtful tenderness. -- Seaman, Donna (Reviewed 5/1/2018) (Booklist, vol 114, number 17, p64)
  • Critic Wood’s second novel (after The Book Against God) is the intriguing, restrained story of Alan Querry, who, in the last days of the second Bush presidency, is summoned by his confrontational older daughter, Helen, from his comfortable home in Northumberland to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. His younger daughter, Vanessa, is a philosophy professor there. Vanessa’s much-younger husband has begun to worry that Vanessa’s depression has become unmanageable. Alan also meets up with Helen, a powerful Sony record executive. Helen and Vanessa have always been opposites, differently damaged by their parents’ divorce. Now the family faces crisis as they debate questions of “spiritual sadness,” ask whether happiness is as inevitable as unhappiness, and struggle to achieve an overdue détente. Wood is at his best when he lets himself go, allowing Alan, whose daughters find him “kind, self-contained, a bit detached,” to complain about modern technology or note the subtle differences between U.S. and U.K. life, or when the narrative allows for Wood to hold forth on popular music and European philosophy; the critical bursts are stronger than the story beats. Though the novel might be a little too careful, it remains a strong performance. (June) --Staff (Reviewed 06/11/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 24, p)
  • /* Starred Review */ Alan Querry has never been to America to visit daughter Vanessa, who's teaching philosophy at Skidmore. When he learns from her new boyfriend Josh that she's severely depressed, he hurriedly leaves England, teaming up with Vanessa's hard-driving music executive sister Helen, who needs to be in New York. Somewhat withdrawn and fragile since her mother's desertion of the family, Vanessa seems stymied in her career but crazy about carefree, younger, devilishly handsome Josh. Will he really commit? Was his call for help as much for him as for Vanessa? Questions multiply as Alan wrestles with business reversals, Helen asks for help with the start-up she envisions after quitting Sony, and they both debate what's best for Vanessa, even as the sisters continue their lifelong squabbling and Alan adopts the plangent role of aging but caring parent. Can we be responsible for others' happiness? How do we manage life's "unfinished and perhaps unfinishable complexities?" What's really a life well lived? New Yorker book critic Wood (The Book Against God) contemplates deep questions while painting an indelible portrait of a family coming to grips, clarifying complex, recognizable problems as he moves his characters forward in ways that seem real and satisfying. VERDICT Pitch perfect and highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.] --Catherine Coyne (Reviewed 05/15/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 9, p55)
  • An understated novel by the eminent literary critic in which a father confronts problems in the lives of his adult daughters during a trip to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. Wood (The Nearest Thing to Life, 2015, etc.) sets his second novel in early 2007, a time of the Blackberry and Sen. Obama that seems eons ago. The story concerns Alan Querry, a 68-year-old real estate developer in Northumberland, England, whose business has turned rocky around the time he learns that his older daughter needs his help. Vanessa, 40 and a philosophy professor at Skidmore, has had bouts of depression over the years that may stem from Alan's side of the family and from her parents' "bitter divorce" when she was 15. After a recent episode, her younger sister, Helen, a successful Sony music executive in London, and Alan visit her in the States. They find her in reasonable mental health although torn between an urge to return to England and the fear that such a move would upend relations with her first serious lover, the American Josh. Helen, whose marriage is shaky, is mulling quitting Sony for a new project her father might join. Wood, who has written about Who drummer Keith Moon, has fun dipping into the world of pop music. In the course of meals and meetings that are variously tense or pleasant, the Querrys and Josh are presented as reasonable, intelligent adults whose problems are surmountable. Yes, Vanessa does ask at one point, "What if despair...kept on returning," and Alan recalls a frightening vision of "all the dead, past and future," while at Hadrian's Wall. But these are rare dark moments in a narrative that tellingly ends with a lush prose cadenza on spring's renewal without ever truly testing its characters and letting them show their mettle. A likable novel in many ways but short on the revelatory heft of serious fiction. (Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2018)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10664789
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorDate
1965-
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Wood, James
Index
no index present
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Dysfunctional families
  • Self-realization
  • Fathers and daughters
  • New York (State)
Target audience
general
Label
Upstate, James Wood
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier.
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent.
Dimensions
22 cm.
Edition
First edition.
Extent
214 pages
Isbn
9780374279530
Lccn
2017038336
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia.
Media type code
  • n
System control number
(OCoLC)1004376246
Label
Upstate, James Wood
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier.
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent.
Dimensions
22 cm.
Edition
First edition.
Extent
214 pages
Isbn
9780374279530
Lccn
2017038336
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia.
Media type code
  • n
System control number
(OCoLC)1004376246

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