Archive for February 11th, 2015

A day in the life: Modern Cubicle Man visits Texas and reminisces about his life in James Hynes’s ‘Next’

February 11, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 11, 2015

Next, a 2010 novel by James Hynes, conveys the thoughts and experiences of a middle-aged man over the course of a brief trip to Austin, Texas.

The book’s main character is Kevin Quinn, an academic editor at the University of Michigan who has spent his entire adulthood living and working in Ann Arbor. He’s traveled to Texas for a job interview with an outfit called Hemphill Associates. The company’s offer to pay for plane tickets for the journey surprised Kevin so much that he neglected to ask for a hotel, so Kevin is taking a day trip without any luggage whatsoever. During the few hours that he spends in the state capital, this man will spend a great deal of time reminiscing about his life and fretting about his future.

Many of Kevin’s musings revolve around women he has known. He’s dating a younger woman named Stella, who is also a tenant in his house. He met Stella a few years ago, after Beth, his longtime girlfriend, got pregnant by another man and moved out to have the family that Kevin would never agree to start with her.

When, sitting in a coffee shop with four hours to kill before his scheduled interview, Kevin sees the beautiful young woman who sat next to him on the flight down to Austin, he impulsively leaves the shop and begins trailing her. This woman, whom he initially knows only as Joy Luck (because she intently read Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club throughout the entire plane ride) becomes a sort of Beatrice to Kevin’s Dante for the early part of his journey through Austin.

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