• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Unbridled Books (November 7, 2012)
THESE THINGS HAPPEN takes place right now, even as we speak … it’s the tale of a modern family, set among Manhattan’s progressive, liberal elite, the adults all prominent in their professions, rearing their children to be the same, confident that nothing much can harm them, ever.
The story starts when WESLEY BOWMAN, 16, sharp and funny and defiantly individual, moves downtown from his book editor mother’s home on the Upper East Side home to live with his father and his partner for the fall term of school; Wesley, becoming a man, feels the time has come for him to more closely know (his words here) the “man from whom I did, actually, spring.” Kenny, who came out after his marriage to Wesley’s mom ended, is a much-honored gay-rights lawyer, a regular on Rachel Maddow, Charlie Rose, a frequent contributor to the Op-ed page of the New York Times.
But Wesley, when he moves in, finds his father distant and inaccessible; he has much more luck connecting with his father’s partner, George, a former actor/dancer who now runs a theater district restaurant. George is present, genuinely interested, fully at ease with himself; all the things Kenny is not. He and Wesley become like father and son, really, and not because George is in any way trying to supplant Kenny. It’s just that these things happen.
Then everything changes. When Wesley’s closest friend surprises him and everyone else when, after being elected class president, he comes out at the end of his acceptance speech. The two boys find themselves at the center of an act of violent, homophobic bullying (even though Wesley is straight). Within the family, tolerant facades crumble as George, suddenly, becomes suspect. Wesley’s mom values and cares for him, and has worked to have a relationship with him, as she suspects this will assure the presence of Kenny in Wesley’s life. But, now, with Wesley in the hospital being held for observation (“When did I,” she wonders, “turn into someone whose kid is held for observation?”) isn’t it her duty to wonder and worry about what might have been going on when her back was so progressively turned? Did she fail to keep her son safe? Does she, indeed, know him? Does she know George, so delightful and pleasing, an author of agreeable evenings? And, more worryingly, does this accomplished, insightful, deeply curious woman really, in the end, know herself?
These Things Happen is a sharp, laugh-out-loud funny, ultimately deeply moving story about the way we live now and the alertness and awareness we have to cultivate in order to do it. It’s about the assumptions we all unknowingly hold that we take in from the culture around us, no matter how free from “all that” we think we might be; the received convictions just beneath the surface that need only the right spark to catch fire. In this novel that fire burns its way through the stories all the characters tell themselves about themselves; no one is who they were at the start, and all must find the courage to truly, for the first time, face who they are.
When Richard Kramer was a senior in college he took a fiction writing class in which the students had to write a (longish) short story in the course of the term. Mr. Kramer did the assignment. When he read it in class, it was savaged by the teacher and the other students. Facing graduation, and having no idea what he wanted to do, he sent out fifty packets of his college writing to magazines and newspapers all over the country. His first response came two weeks later, when William Shawn, the legendary editor of the New Yorker, called to tell him they unfortunately had no job to offer but wanted to know if he might somehow see his way (exact quote) to their buying the short story he had sent along to them.
He saw his way. Somehow.
They then turned down his next six efforts. So he got a series of young man’s jobs in New York City, winding up as a singles host on a cruise ship that sailed back and forth between New York and Bermuda, and a teacher of English to an apartment full of busboys who had escaped from Vietnam on boats. While doing these things he wrote a spec episode of the TV series Family. It sold, Mr. Kramer went west, and over time he became the winner of Emmy and Peabody awards for his work as producer, director, and writer on such beloved shows as thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, Once and Again, and Tales of the City. And he met Cary Grant.
These Things Happen is his first novel.
Richard’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, November 6th: What She Read …
Thursday, November 8th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Friday, November 9th: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, November 12th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, November 13th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, November 14th: Lectus
Monday, November 19th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, November 19th: Books, Thoughts, And a Few Adventures
Wednesday, November 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, November 26th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, November 27th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, November 28th: Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, December 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, December 4th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, December 5th: Dreaming in Books
Thursday, December 6th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, December 13th: Beth Fish Reads (guest post)
Friday, December 14th: Peppermint PhD