Monday, July 20, 2015

Best Summer Reads 2015: The Year Of The Midlife Crisis

'Summerlong' has been recognized as the Summer 2015 blockbuster. Wayne Clark's novel 'he & She' has been named as one of 16 best summer reads by IndieReader. Both center on the subject of midlife crisis

Exactly 50 years after the coining of the term “midlife crisis” readers might be excused for wondering whether this is the year of the midlife crisis novel. Two novels, one by its title and the other by virtue of having been named one of the 16 best summer reads of  2015, have done belly flops into the normally placid summer reading pool. The former is ‘Summerlong’ by Dean Bakopoulos, and the latter, ‘he & She’ by Wayne Clark. The two authors take approaches as different as summer and winter but their characters are motivated by nearly identical fears and presentiments about the course of their lives.

The summer blockbuster ‘Summerlong’ was described by Ron Charles, editor of the Washington Post’s Book World, as a story for adults about adults going wild one summer in the tiny town of Grinnell, Iowa. Its main characters, a deeply indebted real estate agent named Don, who is haunted by the ghost of an alcoholic father, and his wife Claire, a writer originally from Manhattan who hasn’t written in a decade, or, more precisely, since having had her promising career supplanted by all-consuming motherhood. Charles describes them as always teetering between despair and bliss.

A review of ‘Summerlong’ by Ellen Emry Heltzel in the Seattle Times is entitled: “Too Hot to Handle in a Midwestern Summer”.

Both main characters, Don and Claire, are around 40, perhaps younger than most people who walk into a spotless glass window called midlife crisis. Heltzel, in her review, points out that in terms of marriage we often talk about the Seven-Year Itch. In Claire’s case, the “get-me-outa-here” moment doesn’t occur until Year 15. Midlife crisis doesn’t have a schedule.

From Don’s point of view, according to a New York Times review by Jennifer B. McDonald his “long, mostly happy” marriage is in a state of putrefaction.

In Clark’s ‘he & She’, the middle-aged protagonist, Kit, realizes through an alcohol haze that the soul that once wanted to translate great literature and play great music has evaporated somewhere along the way. He doesn’t have a marriage to blame it on, just himself. Like Claire in ‘Summerlong’, Kit is all but friendless.

In his desperation, Kit all but invents a solution, latching onto an image of a young woman he finds while aimlessly browsing the Internet. She turns out to be a dominatrix. He has never met a dominatrix in his life, nor considered seeing one. But in his befuddlement he convinces himself against all logic that she will be his salvation, and the pursuit begins.

‘Summerlong’ comes to an end with Don and Claire in a booze-fueled night with other partners at a lake near their little town. The Times described the lot of them as “libidinous, delusional and increasingly intoxicated.” Though the Times calls the tale a “muddle of fantasy and emotional baggage,” the characters are seeking the same resurrection as Kit sitting alone in his apartment on a hot and humid Manhattan night. They all want to taste life again.

“Because there’s so much talk about midlife crisis these days,” says ‘he & She’ author Wayne Cark, “it seems people are coming out of the woodwork to point out that it’s not a physical or chemical illness. Of course it isn’t. It’s just what happens to many people when they’re getting on in years and they realize they’ve allowed their life to become something they can no longer identify with. The realization that time is getting shorter, whether you’re 40 or 60, makes the realization all the more desperate.”

A review of ‘he & She’ by IndieReader summed up the last-ditch, mad search for meaning as: “A remarkable investigation of a man attempting to save himself from stagnation.”

“I’m not a psychologist,” says Clark, “but I’d lay odds that people, regardless of age, who have someone or something to feel passionate about don’t get snared by midlife crisis.”

Wayne Clark is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at 'he & She is available at Amazon and other book retailers. More information, including a blog post on the subject of the 'summer of midlife crisis' , is available at Clark's website at

About Wayne Clark:

Award-winning author Wayne Clark was born in 1946 in Ottawa, Ont., but has called Montreal home since 1968. Woven through that time frame in no particular order have been interludes in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Germany, Holland and Mexico.

By far the biggest slice in a pie chart of his career would be labelled journalism, including newspapers and magazines, as a reporter, editor and freelance writer. The other, smaller slices of the pie would also represent words in one form or another, in advertising as a copywriter and as a freelance translator. However, unquantifiable in a pie chart would be the slivers and shreds of time stolen over the years to write fiction.


Wayne Clark