JR: There seems to be a kind of wild kinetic energy to Mr. Peanut, the debut novel coming this summer from Knopf. The author, Adam Ross is no where to be seen in these pages, which always signals to me that the trick has been achieved, there is no reveal, the illusion is complete, because you’re only watching the characters that all seem to be present, like they could be your next door neighbors, standing right next to you in line at the train station. I didn’t read any clichés in this novel; the dialogue is crisp, so much so, that I was emailing snippets of it to friends and co-workers as I read the book. On the whole it’s a procedural, but I’ve likened it to a John Cheever story, because Ross has such a keen taste for marriage and what it really feels like to want another woman, or when your wife is wanted by another man. Recently I’ve been reading the John Cheever journals, which are kicking my ass, but nothing has held my attention in the last few months like Mr. Peanut. A lot of people will point to the Hitchcock moments, which Ross doesn’t hide behind, he’s actually really up front about it, and it works for the story. If you set aside the detective aspect of this book (which would be a huge mistake, because it soars, and I’m not a fan of procedurals), you’re likely to find Mr. David Pepin, a normal and well adjusted hater of his own wife. You see…he wants her dead, and it takes the entire novel for you to want her dead too. JC read this book after I raved about it, and I think a lot of people will be reading it when it hits in June. To be honest, I just wanted to be the first kid on the block to tell you about it, now that advance readers copies are circulating.
JC: Yeah, there’s no doubt that a lot of people will be reading and talking about Mr. Peanut in June. And for good reason. The story Adam Ross tells is spectacular. Leaving aside the procedural for now, the Hitchcockian skeleton to this story is brilliant. Ross shows you a picture you think you’ve seen before, maybe dozens of times, and then he deconstructs it in a hundred strokes. He mines the tiny gaps in a story you’ve heard, tugs at loose threads and produces something that is an homage, yes, but that also works beautifully in its own right. It’s just mesmerizing.