Book Review of The Good Luck of Right Now (Hardcover) by Matthew Quick, Author of Silver Linings Playbook
A Catholic Priest, a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome, a woman who was abducted by aliens, and her brother, a felinophile with Tourette’s Syndrome, walk into a bar…
Either the start of a joke, or a synopsis of The Good Luck of Right Now, a new book by Matthew Quick. Quick is the author of The Silver Linings Playbook. ‘Silver Linings’ was made into an Oscar winning film. I don’t know if this new book will translate so successfully into a film, but as a book, it was exemplary. Somewhere between a koan and a fable, it was nonetheless a novel novel.
The Good Luck of Right Now is an epistolary novel–a novel written in the form of a series of letters, in this case directed to film actor and Free Tibet activist Richard Gere. The protagonist, Bartholomew Neil, is somewhat naive, but very intelligent–though his intelligence is a different type of intelligence. In fact, he seems like a high functioning autistic, like someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. He was his mother’s primary caregiver as she battled brain cancer, and as her dementia increased, they fell into a game of pretend. She called him ‘Richard,’ and he pretended that he actually was the actor, Richard Gere. Bartholomew began a correspondence with him, though whether he mails the letters is open to question. He is having a correspondence with Gere–writing letters addressed to him–but also believes they have a correspondence–that the two are one on some level. They share a close similarity, connection, or equivalence. At least in Bartholomew’s mind. Along with Richard Gere he also makes frequent mention of Carl Jung (especially his theory of Synchronicity) and of course, the Dalai Lama. Bartholomew is actually very perceptive, though not without certain lacunae.
In fact, there was one thing that I and other readers may figure out from the get go, but Bartholomew remains oblivious. In spite of a certain predictability, the story kept me enthralled. I kept thinking there might be an unforeseen twist, or else even if I could forecast the dénouement, the story unfolded so masterfully that it kept me engaged nevertheless. If parts of the plot were the same old story, there were other very unusual elements that were combined in quite an ingenious manner. For instance, how often in a quest novel is the pilgrimage made to a reliquary of the glass enclosed heart of Saint André Bessette, and Cat Parliment, in Ottawa, where a colony of feral cats once roamed free? The preserved brain of President Garfield’s assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, on display at the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, also plays a pivotal role.
I wonder what Richard Gere would have made of these letters, or what he would make of this book, should his personal assistants ever read it for him and encapsulate its contents into an executive summary? I’ll tell him one thing, there is nothing scandalous or libelous in it. It casts him in a very good light. If anything, it places him on a pedestal.
If this book were to be made into a movie, I would cast Justin Timberlake as the young Richard Gere. Wendy, Bartholomew’s red haired therapist, would be played by Alicia Witt. Judy Greer would play the Girlbrarian, and Christian Bale would be perfect as her brother Max, the f bomb dropping felinophile. I don’t have a clue who would play Bartholomew or Father McNamee, but the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere should definitely be played by themselves, even if only for a brief cameo. I am reminded of the time I saw Richard Gere, his then wife, Cindy Crawford, and his good friend, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, but that story will have to wait for a more appropriate moment. This moment, though fleeting, belongs to Matthew Quick. I will end with a quote from Pretty Woman, a Richard Gere and Julia Roberts film that is strangely pertinent:
Edward Lewis: So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?
Vivian: She rescues him right back.