The Orange Spotlight
Under The Small Lights by John Cotter (Miami University Press, May 2010)
John Cotter calls his debut novel a coming-of-age story, but the truth is that the main character never really figures too much out. What Cotter captures is the feeling in youth that someone else is everything you what to be. The book is about aspiration but on an almost disturbed level. The main character, Jack spends more of his time trying to live the life that he feels others around him are living. He wants so badly to be with the woman that two his friends were with, and although she is married to his friend he still pursues. His life seems to be a constant play filled with new characters to emulate. Yet he is not the only one living this way. His friend Star also finds herself chasing various lives that are not her own. It really is a valuable commentary on life at twenty and how friendships are formed and lost because of our own confusion.
The story starts out as a love triangle and turns in a pentagon later on. Cotter tells his story in a poetic language and references poetry and poets often. The sub-story is his aspiration to be a playwright mainly because his high school friend, Bill, also wants to write plays. Nothing every really materializes from either aspiration despite several trips to Walden Pond. The story is also an interesting look at the mind of a writer who is always worried he hasn’t read the right books or missed the great tale. The most stable character in the book seems to be the one who the other seemed the most worried about. Star seems to have found a reality that is surprisingly real through drugs and friend named Mara. Throughout the story she is pursing Jack and wishing to be Corrina, but is still the most realistic and grounded in the truth of each situation.
Overall Under The Small Lights is a great summer read and story that can relate to several types of readers. I feel it applies to young, to those that wish they were young, the actor, the playwright, the drunk and the drugged, the lost and the found, the loved and the lovers, it captures a lot in just 187 pages.ShareThis