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How the Dead Dream - Lydia Millet I really did not find anything redeeming in this book. I have itemized the most annoying points below, but really the whole thing was just a waste of time.

1. We have the overblown, overwritten masturbatory non-sensical language: "He was reminded of the potential for all shackled beasts to break from their bonds and rise, their ragged wings beating, into the stratosphere." What? Shackled beasts are not usually birds (shackled beasts tend to be the grunt workers like mules and horses and oxen, etc). How the hell are they going to beat their ragged wings?

2. The main character is such a ridiculous mess of inconsistency that nothing (and I do mean nothing) about him makes sense. He starts out very American psycho and Wall Street and worships the dollar: "he felt keenly that money was both everything and nothing, at once infinite, open potential and an end in itself." He is corrupt and manipulative and fairly sociopathic (and certainly interesting): "...forget the subtleties of right and wrong, the struggle toward affinity. In the lurch and flux, in all the variation and the same, it was only money that could set a person free." Or what about: "His crafitness in boyhood, his single-minded enterprise--all was for the sake of gain, for gain was his religion, simple and stunning. No grown man could love accumulation as fully as a boy did. Indeed he never recaptured the joy of that love, and it passed out of his grasp."

And then he meets Beth and accidentally kills a coyote and his building project facilitates the extinction of the kangaroo rat and he finds a dog and so all of a sudden we are not supposed to believe that he is love with nature? Everywhere? Always? But wait, he is not so in love with it that he quits his real estate development business (even though he has touted that he pays MILLIONS IN TAXES last year and so could clearly just retire) and focus on saving the manatees or something. Instead, he continues working slavishly but also (sometime, when, how, I don't know I mean I know people who work 60-80 hours a week, they don't have energy to research extinct animals at night) spends all this time learning lock picking and stalking zoos and studying animals. BUT HE DOESN'T ACTUALLY DO ANY GOOD. This hyper-pragmatic guy does not think to donate money or time to the cause, he just stalks the animals.

3. The religious overtones were just annoying. At first, I thought was hysterical that his hyper-religious mother thinks that hell is IHOP. And certainly, the fact that Millet assigns a hyper-religious character can only mean that either she is hyper-religious or she is mocking Catholicism. But then, Beth dies because mom forgets her cross and we get "It was a bestselling love story, beautiful sad mother and perfect child, and in the background the absent father, pure energy, who was apparently benevolent despite appearances to the contrary, who was present despite his apparent absence, good despite his apparent cruelty, right despite his apparent wrongness, and beyond that all-knowing" and then T. goes kind of crazy over the Jesus doll at Beth's grave and needing to save it from the mud and as T lays pseudo-dying and hallucinating about his own mother-worship (which is simultaneously gross and long winded and just boring), I am left to only believe that Millet is proselytizing.

4. He never named his dog. She is always just "dog", even when she is missing, even when her leg is being amputated. Millet really needed to name the fucking dog.

5. The paraplegic character was totally unnecessary and random and just stupid. Yea, I get that she is adding depth (or just trying to Jesus-ify T. more) but really? I mean, really?

Overall, Millet doesn't know what she wants to do with this book. She is trying really, really hard to make a comment on the distinction between loneliness and being alone and the importance of nature despite capitalistic desires, but ultimately she just falls way short and nothing is consistent or interesting or plausible in any way.