book review: The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection

Title: The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection
Author: Martin Page
ISBN: 978-0312379964
Pages: 192
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Review source: publisher
Rating: A

Life had never been so wonderful; he was benefiting from the effects of breaking up without any of the inconveniences. During his earlier romantic failures, his unhappiness prevented him from taking advantage of the comfort that came along with them. To really enjoy the recovery process, realized Virgil, it’s better not to be sick.

What would happen if you received a message from someone breaking up with you and you couldn’t remember ever that individual or a relationship of any kind? That’s the conundrum for neurotic advertising executive Virgil. This unsettling message, from a woman named Clara, sends Virgil on a two-week mission to find out if there’s something wrong with him and to also uncover details about the mysterious Clara. First, Virgil runs off in a panic to his psychiatrist with his answering machine in hand to get her take on what he feels is a colossal dilemma. He feels that he’s suffering from a dire condition; he has apparently erased all memories of Clara and in doing so his brain must be malfunctioning in some manner. Virgil has never been very successful with relationships.

He missed Clara. He missed the woman he couldn’t remember. For twenty-four hours he’d thought they’d had something; he’d imagined their love with sincerity. Then he’d spent a week pretending to weep over their separation. With amazement, he realized that the revelation of their non-relationship didn’t erase the construct of his attachment. As if playing at being brokenhearted actually had fractured his heart.

The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection by Martin Page is unlike any novel I’ve read. Page has a unique style and perspective that he infuses throughout the pages [perhaps because he’s French]. I found myself laughing and wanting to share passages with friends. There’s a peculiar absurdity in the story and Virgil is quite the character. He’s analytical, successful in business but not in his personal life, and befriends the hookers on his block. Virgil remains quite particular and has a penchant for retro things: black and white films, records, and an orange Bic with a black point. The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection is a refreshing novel that provides an astute commentary on navigating the dating world. The end result proves to be both hilarious and sardonic.


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