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We read The Drawbacks of Living, Peter Cameron’s new book containing two short stories. They are The end of my life in New York, 2010 and After the flood, 2014. We like this author and we love his major works, in particular, The City of Your Final Destination(2006) and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (2007). This book was a good read. It develops themes that are central in the author poetics proposing two very well written and fascinating short stories.

These two tales show Peter Cameron’s great ability to analyse the human soul, the interpersonal and social relations. In particular, in The Drawbacks of Living, he focuses on “life as a couple” and relationship dynamics. However, as often in his stories, his characters have to face almost tragic events. They are in those situations when, after having struggled to build and shape their lives in a way that makes sense for them, they had to see everything falling apart and life itself losing all its meaning. 

Resilience against personal crisis 

The core of the plot in Cameron’s stories is often the analysis of a personal crisis, however, he is always able to reveal much about catharsis and resilience. He writes about the capacity of every individual to re-build meaning against the irrationality of personal catastrophes. In fact, in this book the main characters are two couples coping with terrible circumstances trying to live witout being overwhelmed by sorrow.   

Reading their stories is like seeing everyday life crystallised by the pain. There, these characters are moving with their actions and interactions. By doing so they can reveal themselves to us with an emotional honesty able to deeply move. The strength of Cameron’s prose lies in shaping emotional mosaics that beyond the pain can show hope in ourselves and in the relationship that we are always able to mutually established.  

Reading The Drawbacks of Living 

We were able to attend the Book Pride 2019 event with Peter Cameron who was interviewed by Anna Lombardi from Repubblica, with Federica Manzon and Giuseppina Oneto on the genesis of The Drawbacks of Living. It was very interesting. See below a short extract.

Peter Cameron’s answer about the political dimension of his work showed a great sensibility toward the role of literature in the contemporary world. Its role is fundamental because it is able to educate to empathy, strengthening the sense of community and caring toward others and life in general. If we carefully consider these statements Cameron’s writing is even more extraordinary. Not only it allows to explore the human soul but it can also promote love for reading and writing underling their social functions.

In this way his work, in particular, a political dimension: spreading the sense of community and the respect for others and for what is external to us. This book is a quick read, not only because it’s short but also because of the clarity and grace of its style which is able to be at the same time accurate and direct. It is always a pleasure reading Peter Cameron’s book as we feel like getting closer to emotional universes that are different from ours: as we get to know them, we start loving them as if they belonged to us. 

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