Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lunch Bucket Paradise (Fred Setterberg)

--The blurb--
"Here are the postwar dreams of a working-class California suburb, and the struggles[...]of those who came of age in that time and place[...] Fred Setterberg evokes that time when cake mixes, washer-drier combos, and a patch of lawn could inspire hope of even better things to come."

--The review--
Fred Setterberg's Lunch Bucket Paradise promises a vibrant picture of burgeoning America in its baby boom years. While this is achieved to a degree by the writer's occasionally eloquent prose and precise descriptions, as well as the way in which he brings his parents to life for the reader ('classic American characters', it's true, to quote some of the accolades on the back of the book), for the most part the novel was little more than a disjointed and dissatisfying read. This was exacerbated by a lack of resolution and the novel being inexplicably chopped into two different parts (one consisted of the main narrative, while another seemed to be made up of a rambling pseudo-political commentary), leading to a feeling of total disconnection from the book's original purpose. A greater sense of streamlining and focus would therefore appear to be required.

In many ways I was reminded while reading of the work of Doc Togden (although Setterberg's work is certainly better formatted as well as being better expressed in places). This is not a compliment; while we all have the story of our lives, it does not mean that all of our stories are worth telling. I was disappointed to find that Setterberg's work consisted mainly of swearing and discussion of sex and violence, which may appeal to ex-rugby players who miss the banter of the locker room, but did not appeal to me. The occasional moments of luminosity in description or character were not enough, for me, to save the novel as a whole.

I had also been hoping for a few more universal aspects of this novel which more of us would be able to relate to. Perhaps American baby-boomers can find things in here that they recognise on a personal level; as a British female born in 1980s England, I couldn't - not even in the loosest of ways. I now have no idea what to do with this review copy that the publisher so kindly sent me; perhaps I'll leave it lying around at work and see if an American baby-boomer picks it up.

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