I didn’t really think I would like the subject matter of The Fall of Princes, but I enjoyed Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife, so I thought I’d give it a try. I have to say, though, that for most of the novel I found the protagonist repugnant.
As a young man, the protagonist, who isn’t really named but is called Rooney once or twice, becomes a successful trader on Wall Street. Still young, he loses his job and everything else and spends his middle age living in the past.
That’s about it. We learn this in the first chapters of the novel and then it repeats. Each chapter is either a record of excess wherein he and his friends throw millions away on clothes, food, booze, drugs, and sex, or it’s a pathetic present-day story about something like ordering nice clothes and sending them back. Even after his failures, he doesn’t seem to learn a new value system.
The novel is set mostly in the 80’s and is supposed to be a paeon to New York’s glamor, glitz, and grit. But I was appalled by the lack of morals of these people, all engaged in gorging themselves on everything. They are young and perhaps can be excused for getting carried away. However, though the main character learns a few lessons by the end, they are long in coming.
The onset of AIDS at its worst adds the darkest overtones to the novel. The protagonist, who has lived through years of having sex with everything that moves, of course has to worry about AIDS. But this portion of the book is stated so savagely, it’s hard to know what to think about it. It’s as if the author thinks you have to have lived in New York in the 80’s to mourn someone who died from AIDS.
I did find that the last few chapters redeemed the novel somewhat, those and the fact that it is so strongly written. However, in its story of one excess after another, it seemed virtually plotless. These main characters were just too crass and brutal for me. That’s probably the point, though.