Some books inspire me to write more. French Exit is one of them. Patrick deWitt also wrote Sisters Brothers (made into a feature film starring Joaquin Phoenix). This novel has been described as a ‘tragedy of manners’. The characters are social outcasts; one, a tart widow, and possessive mother; the other, her grown-up son, mired in a permanent state of arrested development.
Here’s a passage:
Susan thought of Malcolm as an exotic pet, a stopgap antidote to postcollege doldrums, but then something terrible happened, which was that she fell in love with him. It was like an illness coming on; it loitered on the edges of her consciousness, then pounced, gripping her mind and heart.
Frances had had enough. She pulled a bottle of perfume from her bag and began spritzing the bouquet of flowers in the center of the table. The waiter looked on from the sidewalk, wondering what she was playing at. Malcolm knew, and he studied his mother admiringly as she removed her lighter from her coat pocket: click! She held the flame to the bouquet and it went up in a ball.
He writes with a droll wit, and some passages will make you laugh at loud. I know I will be reading this one again and again, as I did with Sisters Brothers.
There is a psychic space that this book exists in that is in the same arena as the show Arrested Development, which showcased similarly eccentric and dysfunctional characters.
Seek this short novel out – highly recommended.