You Were Wrong:
by Matthew Sharpe
$14.00 List Price
"At twenty-six, Karl Floor had had a hard life: father dead, mother dead, stepdad sick and mean, siblings none, friends none, foes so offhanded in their molestations that they did not make a crisp enough focal point for his energies."
This is the first sentence of You Were Wrong, Matthew Sharpe's fourth novel, which features on its cover a photograph of what appears to be a station wagon hurtling off a cliff but is actually a toy car going off the corner edge of a table. Karl Floor is a man who, like Bartleby, would prefer not to. Unlike Bartleby, however, Karl is probably going to anyway, if he absolutely has to, though he'll put it off as long as he can—and then drag his feet. As the book opens, he is begrudgingly—and poorly—fulfilling a deathbed promise to his mother to look after his stepfather; for this, he will inherit the house when stepdad's time comes.
As you might have noticed above, Sharpe, whose previous books include The Sleeping Father (2002) and Jamestown (2007), writes prose that is mellifluous and lucid; his wise writing, with its offbeat rhythms and casual swerves, merits rank with that of George Saunders, Jim Shepard, and perhaps a (much) less bilious Sam Lipsyte, whose latest creation, The Ask's Milo Burke, is surely the new gold standard for severe underachievers in American letters. Line by line, You Were Wrong is deft, lively, and surprising: a practically faultless book.
And yet as the lines, pages, scenes, and chapters gather, so does the reader's sense of disquiet, then outright frustration. Stuff is piling up, but it's not adding up, which I