Check out Phillip Clement’s review of Highlights of My Last Regret (Limehouse Books, 2014), a cutting satire of modern relationships, and the second novel from California-based author North Morgan.
North Morgan’s second novel, Highlights of My Last Regret, is a terrifically well realised satire of modern relationships. Dark and uncompromising in tone, the subtly realised novel is by turns hilarious and provoking, illustrating the difficulties of trying to live as an adult in a world which would appear set on keeping us children. Powerfully provocative, it invites readers to recognise that, however seriously we might take our lives, we always know that there is some perspective from which this seriousness can be questioned.
‘Why am I doing this?’ I’m thinking. ‘Why don’t I end it?’ No, it’s fine. There are some positives: the part of her brain that doesn’t begrudge me. The most obscenely high cheek bones I’ve ever seen. The fullest lips. Her thin, long limbs. The bored look she wears when she’s distracted like it’s a huge drag for her to even exist. How everyone thinks we’re a great couple. The fact that she cares enough to try to make me a better person. This relationship is good for me, it’s good for me, it’s good for me.
Highlights focuses on Parke Hudson and his beautiful but paranoid girlfriend Ryan (whose skill at tracking her boyfriend would make even the NSA blush) as they make increasingly desperate attempts to mute the destructive influences on their doomed relationship.
It’s nearly midnight now and just before we go in Ryan gives me a couple of missed calls, which I duly ignore. She then texts me informing that she knows I’ve gone out.
Following them from a typical pool party in L.A. to her family home in Albuquerque and ending in the viscerally realised Coachella; Morgan creates a decadent montage of exactly the kind of self-loathing and psychically damaging lifestyle one might expect from a child of a plutocrat. Interestingly, Morgan has since revealed that Parke is the son of Maine, the protagonist from his debut Exit Through the Wound; though the actual effect of this is academic as Maine makes little physical impact on the pages of the novel. Far more interesting is the way he deals with the (rather unique) affections laid on him by his alcoholic mother. But I’ll leave you to uncover the details of that yourself.
Like the hero of Albert Camus’ philosophical novel, The Outsider, Parke Hudson goes to excruciating lengths to distinguish himself from those who, as he would have the reader believe, are closest to him. More content is he to appear as separable from ‘the game’. He progresses through this quiet bildungsroman atop a stallion of forced and idealised indifference, laughing in the face of what the average human might refer to as ‘feelings’.
Sure, it’s easy to hate Parke. I spent much of the first third of the novel doing so. But as the novel progresses, Morgan ensures that Parke’s otherwise insulting cynicism is tempered with just enough humour as to make the slow motion train crash towards his eventual epiphany and Dickensian redemption enjoyable.
We might not be perfect for each other, but at the end of the day you have to draw the line somewhere, get off the carousel and spend the rest of your life with whichever partner you are with at that point.
Doubtless there are those who will tell you that Highlights of My Last Regret is a ‘psychopathically self-involved’ and misogynist road-trip story. Don’t listen to them. They’ve missed the point. It’s hilarious.
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