Sweet Vernal Zephyr

Succinct Book Reviews
(aka Creating & Whit)

18: The summer of confusion at the crossroads of college and life.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You

by Peter Cameron

229 Page Hardcover, 2007

It's time for eighteen-year-old James Sveck to begin his freshman year at Brown. Instead, he's surfing the real estate listings, searching for a sanctuary—a nice farmhouse in Kansas, perhaps.

Although James lives in twenty-first-century Manhattan, he's more at home in the faraway worlds of Eric Rohmer or Anthony Trollope—or his favorite writer, the obscure and tragic Denton Welch. James's sense of dislocation is exacerbated by his willfully self-absorbed parents, a disdainful sister, his Teutonically cryptic shrink, and an increasingly vague, D-list celebrity grandmother.

Compounding matters is James's growing infatuation with a handsome male colleague at the art gallery his mother owns, where James supposedly works at his summer job but where he actually plots his escape to the prairie.
My review guidelines can be found HERE.

• Simple and straightforward, we are in the head of an unsure teenager.
• The obscured face helps the reader put themselves in the narrator's place
• The long title is presented within a red block and almost as a poem with strategic tabbing

• Pre-College Summer
• Manhattan
• Divorce

• Homosexuality

• Self-absorption to the point of Anti-social behavior/awkwardness
• The byplay between brother and sister is so reminiscent of my interactions that it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
• Over-thinking conversations with your dog


A coming of age story filled with Laugh Out Loud lines but a meandering plot bringing you to the end of the book wondering if you were supposed to learn something that you missed. Not painful in the least, and in taking only a lazy Sunday to read, not a waste of time either. And yet still I wonder, what is the purpose? The entertainment is there, but it is almost as if the author set us up to expect something more with this character development (for James certainly does) and yet lets us down in the end, becoming ordinary.

The allusions to 9/11 are frequent and deeply rooted in the development of James' personality. The event affected him but he has absorbed it to become part of him. Therefore, the references are not glaring, but simply a passing statement. The way things are, or were.

Struggling with being a homosexual 18 year old is usually portrayed as an arduous task, and yet James endures with little to no effort, other than his youthful impulsiveness with online dating sites. I totally relate to his exploration of something new within himself without thought to the outside world. So absorbed in this new corner of himself that he has never opened, that he doesn't realize the possible repercussions of his actions on those around him.

This domino effect follows through with his interactions in his family. A nice interweaving of elements that makes me think this could be a memoir, and not fiction. I like those kinds of stories and therefore don't really hold it against Mr. Cameron when the story just simply ends with a predictable anti-climax.

After pursuing Ms. Cameron's website, I see that James appears in a few more stories and perhaps there is more to learn.

If you want to laugh out loud and then not be able to explain yourself adequately afterward, then pick this up and take it to the beach with your smart phone so you can look up any odd cultural references you don't already know.


Great review Sweet. :)

Thanks darling! It's a little different from my usual bullet format. I'm afraid the glass of wine I was drinking made me a bit more verbose!

That'll happen with wine. ;)

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Thanks so much for delving into my head. It's scary in here sometimes, so it is nice to have company! Don't step on the zephyr...

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Fiction & Fantasy & Erotica