“in a whaler, wonders soon wane”
Herman Melville in Moby Dick
Upstate is essentially a novel of deep nostalgia and implicit longing for a different, past, life. In that sense, it held a deep connection for me. The novel is written by James Wood, a New Yorker book critic.
The story is about Alan, an aging Britisher who visits his grown up daughters in Saratoga Springs in Upstate New York. It is an exploration of their relationship and a rather feeble attempt by a father to try and understand why his two children are so different - from him and from each other.
While Alan seems to genuinely want to understand and perhaps help his daughters, he isn’t really prepared or even has the tools necessary to grasp their first-world predicaments. His own angst, driven partly by a failed marriage, partly by failed parenting and partly by a failed perception of his own business success, Alan is a classical old man exhibiting classical old man “issues”.
If you are in your middle age then it is not hard to relate to Alan. You can see at least some of your possible futures converge into that existential angst.
I really enjoyed the Hulu series and by that I mean it appropriately freaked me out. Far more than the book did. Guess seeing and hearing is implicitly more visceral than reading...in most cases anyway. But mostly because it is suddenly so much more believable. The show probably would have failed the reasonability test a year ago. But now that we have unfortunately horribly regressed on women's issues, it doesn't seem unfathomable anymore. If anything, the show's real fear may be in convincing us that it is not only very possible but almost imminent.
Margaret Atwood would actually approve of the show - given that one of her drivers for the novel was that everything she wrote about was already happening somewhere in America.