Guernica Magazine

A Deliberately Wonky Sense of Morality

On Andrew Martin’s debut novel, Early Work. The post A Deliberately Wonky Sense of Morality appeared first on Guernica.
Cover image: Macmillan.

Nearly every review of Andrew Martin’s Early Work describes the novel’s love of literature. In the New York Times, Molly Young calls it a “book crammed with books,” in which “Renata Adler, William James, Anthony Powell, Philip Roth, Thomas Mann, J. M. Coetzee, Don DeLillo, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood make cameos.” Similarly, in The New Yorker, Katy Waldman argues that “Early Work’s fetish is bibliophilia; it’s at least as romantic about literature as it is about romance.”

But Early Work’s love affair with literature is—true to form—messy and morally complex. Even as the novel reads as a paean to the literary life, narrated by a character who wants to be a writer above all else, it surreptitiously raises the question of what it means to care about literature—or whether it means anything at all.

At the is Peter, a youngish writer who smokes weed and lolls about more often than he writes. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his longtime girlfriend, Julia, who is a medical student and poet. But when a writer named Leslie moves to town, on a break from her fiancé, his attraction to her throws things into disarray.

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