The Rachel Papers

The Rachel Papers

Book - 1992
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On the eve of his twentieth birthday, Charles Highway reviews his campaign to win over a self-assured girl named Rachel.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, [1992]
Edition: 1st Vintage international ed
ISBN: 9780679734581
0679734589
Branch Call Number: AMIS M
Characteristics: 224 pages ; 21 cm

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JimLoter
Jul 11, 2012

"The Rachel Papers" is a vulgar, filthy, little book with a despicable, sociopathic protagonist ... and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the eve of his 20th birthday, Charles Highway recounts and reflects upon his life so far - a life in which he is obsessed more with cultivating a character than developing a self, seducing girls with clever mixtures of romantic poetry and pop music, and developing an intense but rather unjustified hatred of his father.

After meeting the eponymous Rachel, he starts a file on her - a plan for prying her away from her bland American boyfriend and for getting into her knickers. He succeeds on both counts, but begins to struggle with something like feelings as the relationship moves out of the intoxicating infatuation phase and beings to settle into routine. At one point, he is literally confronted with the shit, piss, and blood of real life that mar his idealized conception of his conquest.

Highway's narrative meanders along recounting significant moments from his life, justifying his prickish behavior, and revealing his true thoughts even as different words escape his mouth as dialog. He analyzes every action and reaction, trying to see all the angles and possible responses based on the overall effect he wants to achieve.

His bluff is finally, briefly called during his Oxford entrance interview by a Don who recognizes his pretentious and florid essays as the shallow, phony, contradictory regurgitations they really are. "Stop reading critics," the Don tells Highway. "and for Christ's sake stop reading all this structuralist stuff. Just read the poems and work out whether you like them, and why." But Charles can't fathom the idea that he is free to simply "like" something ... or love something, or someone.

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JimLoter
Jul 11, 2012

“Don't I ever do anything else but take soulful walks down the Bayswater Road, I thought, as I walked soulfully down the Baywater Road.”

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