Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Intimates by Ralph Sassone

“Maybe I should show up naked,” he’d said to Maize one night, to which she’d replied, “Not your style, Robbie.  You don’t even like to be naked in the shower.”-The Intimates
The Intimates is a timely novel in a world where well educated young people are entering into a job market crippled by a recession.  All the securities of college life have vanished and a Bachelor’s degree gets you a job as an unpaid intern.  Having been there and done that myself I can assure you that it is a truly humbling experience.  Like being pantsed in public or walking around with a very noticeable booger swinging in the breeze all day without anyone having the courtesy to tell you it’s there.
Sassone’s debut novel would have been a thoroughly fulfilling read if there had been a hundred extra pages.  Ok, maybe just 50, but it definitely needed more than what was there.  The vague details and choppy plot of The Intimates overshadows  the engaging, albeit underdeveloped characters, and witty dialogue.  At the end, I found myself thinking “that’s it?” rather than “I want more.”  I find Sassone’s work even more distressing because he holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has taught his craft and various college over the course of his career.  Hopefully, he is better at teaching than writing.
The Intimates follows the lives of Maize and Robbie, two friends who date in high school until Robbie’s revelation that he’s gay and Maize’s revelation that she’s a slut.  No really, it’s true.  Maize and Robbie feel like caricatures of the characters found in most trying-to-be-too-clever novels found in bookstores today.  However, the problems Robbie and Maize face do have a ring of truth to them.  Robbie has to face the fact that his mother has never come to terms with his sexual preference and that his father is still clueless about the matter.  Maize’s post-college overconfidence is shaken by a narcissistic boss who does everything he can to make Maize as miserable as he is.  Although Maize is about as warm as an anal thermometer, I could associate with landing a truly awful job right out of college and being haunted by a former boss who really isn’t worth your time.  Basically, the characters don’t really know where they’re going--just like the plot.  There is a slight sense of resolution during a warm fuzzy scene between Robbie and his mother, but Maize still seems completely lost despite some artificial soul searching scenes.
In short, this is not a book I can recommend.  Although it has the makings for a good story, Sassone can’t seem to bring all the pieces into cohesion.