The Posthumous Affair by James Friel
Tupelo Press • $16.95 • ISBN 9781936797011
Published May 31, 2012

James Friel’s new book, The Posthumous Affair is a novel full of novels, whose characters use Friel’s story as material for their own. Daniel, a delicately effeminate boy, and Grace, an obese and imaginative girl, meet as children and play with a red balloon in Washington Square. The novel follows their subsequent intermittent and complicated reunions.

Friel’s awareness of the craft and process of writing lends a charming familiar feeling to the novel, as the characters process the stories they are writing in the same way Friel must have processed his creation of them. Most of all, it is a novel that exploits expectation, flipping archetypes on their head with an obese heroine who falls in love with a dainty boy who, try as he might, cannot separate her enchanting mind from her grotesque body in order to love her back. In the end, the two are bound by fate to a "posthumous affair:"

They could have been beneath the water, and she a mermaid singing to him, until he noticed her thick hands, the ink-stained and stumpy fingers, her sturdy arms, the generous parabola of her chest, that she had a body underneath all that green, a body blood-filled and real, sorrowful and heavy. She would weigh him down. He would never rise. He needs must rise.

"With some people," he said slowly and deliberately, "the only affair I can imagine would be a posthumous one."

He broke her gaze and looked up into the sky.

She looked into the water, the fountain freckling and distressing their reflection.

What do you think of their posthumous affair? What are you reading this week?

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