Three’s a Crowd

Ron Charles in The Washington Post:

Book By the time you realize just what a dangerous writer Nick Laird is, it's too late to break away. This new novel from Zadie Smith's husband comes on all wit and chumminess, a buddy story about two London roommates in love with the same woman. But in the familiar surroundings of romantic comedy, Laird is busy plotting something far more unsettling. Glover's Mistake turns imperceptibly toward the poisonous effects of bitterness, and it'll leave you feeling wary all day, as though you'd lain down with Nick Hornby and woken up beside Muriel Spark.

The story opens at a posh art show, a multimedia exhibition of style and pretension that makes a ripe target for Laird's exquisite satire. With a few graceful lines, he sketches out a privileged world where “money grants its owners a kind of armour.” The gallery's central piece is a giant sheet of black paper called “Night Sky (Ambiguous Heaven),” which sells for $950,000. But the real object of Laird's attention is a self-conscious young man from the opposite end of this social scale: David Pinner, a disaffected English teacher who feels intimidated even while seething with scorn. He's come to the gallery in hopes of reintroducing himself to Ruth Marks, a famous feminist artist “acclimatized to prosperity at an early age.” She was a professor of his a dozen years ago, and the moment he sees her again, “he could imagine how she might unmoor a man's existence.” With a bit of expertly tailored flattery, David manages to persuade Ruth to consider a collaborative art project, and during their subsequent meetings he fancies he might have a shot at a more romantic relationship.

More here.