The Year of Endless Sorrows A Novel

Adam Rapp

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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New York City, the early 1990s: the recession is in full swing and young people are squatting in abandoned buildings in the East Village while the homeless riot in Tompkins Square Park. The Internet is not part of daily life; the term “dot-com” has yet to be coined; and people’s financial bubbles are burst for an entirely different set of reasons. What can all this mean for a young Midwestern man flush with promise, toiling at a thankless, poverty-wage job in corporate America, and hard at work on his first novel about acute knee pain and the end of the world?

With The Year of Endless Sorrows, acclaimed playwright and finalist for the 2003 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing Adam Rapp brings readers a hilarious picaresque reminiscent of Nick Hornby, Douglas Copeland, and Rick Moody at their best—a chronicle of the joys of love, the horrors of sex, the burden of roommates, and the rude discovery that despite your best efforts, life may not unfold as you had once planned.


Praise for The Year of Endless Sorrows

"Adam Rapp’s The Year Of Endless Sorrows is an ultra vivid excruciatingly precise bildungsroman—a time capsule of a young man’s evolution—a young man not entirely unlike Rapp himself. It is a story of roommates, and family and desire and the quest for meaning and definition while all the time bumping up against the ennui that is perhaps just the sensation of being alive and the daily absurd irony that is city life."—A.M. Homes
"Adam is passionate and energetic, he works hard and he's really mad about stuff, in his life and in his world. This is what fuels him. His poetic voice and his vision are all at the service of this driving determination to say what he has seen and felt. He never stops working, never stops listening, never stops. I'm not sure he sleeps. He may actually be two or three people, taking turns being him . . . I do not know how he does it. He is the single most prolific writer I know. You'd have to go back to Mozart to find somebody like Adam. And Mozart, actually, would be a good person to compare him to. Both playful, both angry, both geniuses, both capable of great beauty and great fury, neither a man to be messed with."—Marsha Norman
"I love Adam's writing. His ironic bohemianism totally captures the scruff and tang of the great unwashed struggling literati. If Joyce Carol Oates and Charles Bukowski had a kid, he would be Adam Rapp."—Eric Bogosian
“Rapp . . . is a gifted storyteller. He makes demands on his audience, and he rewards its close attention with depth and elegance.”—John Lahr, The New Yorker
"The first novel for adults from an award-winning playwright and young-adult author. This is a coming-of-age story set in Manhattan in the early '90s. The protagonist is a Midwestern boy. It hardly matters from which city he hails. Lawrence, Green Bay, Dubuque, Joliet, Altoona: They're all the same, in that they're all not New York. The hero's eagerness to shed his provincial persona is such that he demands a rechristening to celebrate his fresh start in the big city—his new name is 'Homon,' short for 'Homunculus,' and it's the only name the reader learns—but he remains conspicuous due to his lame wardrobe, his polite earnestness and his sheer corn-fed size. Homon does manage to land an honest-to-goodness New York job, though, when he takes an entry-level position at a big publishing house. He also gets an appropriately crappy apartment in the East Village, complete with the requisite bad roommate. Homon is, then, a particular kind of Everyman. What distinguishes his story from others like it is his creator's gift for language and sense of humor. When, for example, Homon goes to a secondhand store to visit the typewriter he sold to pay the Con Ed bill, he says: 'The woman behind the counter watched me the same way a grammar-school principal might watch children throwing snowballs in an out-of-school parking lot.' Later, Homon describes his date with an assertive young woman thusly: 'We walked like we were lab partners and she had all the results.' Indeed, whether he's writing about office-party food, the fate of mid-list authors in a recession or the smell of Manhattan in the summertime, Rapp runs the risk of exhausting the reader with imaginatively embellished details, but it's not necessarily a bad kind of exhaustion: The accumulation of offbeat observations occasionally produces a certain existential hilarity. A familiar story originally rendered."—Kirkus Reviews
"Some authors are inclined to use similes and metaphors as liberally as if they were salt and pepper and the blank page a plate of bland, boiled chicken. Thankfully, Rapp's literary comparisons are so imaginative that they don't overwhelm the palate. His story is set in New York during the early 1990s, and the unnamed narrator is a young man recently graduated from both college and an uneventful life in the Midwest. Despite the recession and his mother's disapproval, he lands a slave-wage job at a publishing house in Manhattan and immediately starts work on a novel about 'acute knee pain and the end of the world.' So begins our hero's life as a starving artist, and his misadventures include moving into a bombed-out apartment (replete with roaches), along with three other unhygienic males; sleeping with his crazy boss' daughter; and nearly killing the publishing house's executive editor with a champagne cork. If all this sounds somewhat pedestrian, that's because it is, but Rapp's inspired prose and comic set pieces add so much flavor to this entree that readers will be left hungry for more."—Jerry Eberle, Booklist
"This is Rapp's first adult novel, but he has written numerous plays, six novels for young adults, and two screenplays, including Winter Passing. His play Red Light Winter won Chicago's Jefferson Award for best new work and was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. Here, Rapp's young Midwestern protagonist blindly embraces New York, lands a publishing job, writes a novel, and eventually meets a Polish girl and falls in love. His roommates are wildly eccentric, and he finds himself in countless odd situations, all of which serve to develop the story. And the title couldn't be clearer. This new novel is a testament to Rapp's ability to write in any genre with the same lucid talent. His sentences are long, detailed, and strangely poetic. The prose is clever, funny, and homesick-sad, often in alternating sentences. It is as if Garrison Keillor's Wobegon Boy, John Tollefson, finds himself in the real New York City, with all its misfortune and melancholy but without the silly sentiment—because when this book is emotional, it is heartbreakingly true. Strongly recommended for all public libraries."—Stephen Morrow, Columbus, Ohio, Library Journal

"It's the early '90s, and an unnamed Midwestern aspiring writer, recently graduated, moves into an East Village apartment with three roommates: his actor younger brother, Feick (promptly swept out of his life by artistic success); his best friend, Glenwood (a skinny, self-loathing Columbia Business School student); and Burton Loach, a vagrant type just as happy to watch the fan blades as TV. The narrator's superiors at Van Von Donnell Publishing (where he has a pittance-paying, bottom-rung job) are waspy, shallow, depraved, and smugly articulate. In short chapters, YA novelist and playwright Rapp lets the office satire rip, particularly of the boss with a predilection for farting (who takes a shine to him as prospective son-in-law material) and the children's book illustrator who delivers personalized erotic portraits on napkins to co-workers. In between novel writing, calls home to his frenzied mother and attractions to Ivy League office girls (as well as the physically flawless but destructive boss's daughter), he falls for aspiring actress Basha, a Polish emigre he has seen twice on the subway platform before running into her a third fateful time. This sweet, stagy bildungsroman . . . has lots of winning set pieces."—Publishers Weekly

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Read an Excerpt

Part One
We're from the Midwest mostly. We're from Lawrence and Davenport and Dubuque. We're from Kankakee and Oswego. We're from Griffith and Joliet and Mechanicsville. Platteville and Green Bay. And Altoona and DeKalb and Clinton.
            We're from Joplin.
            The words of the cities themselves conjure certain smells and songs. Eddie Rabbitt's "I Love a Rainy Night" and lightly buttered yams. Thirty-Eight Special's "Hold
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  • Adam Rapp

  • Adam Rapp is the author of numerous plays, most notably Nocturne (Faber, 2002), and Red Light Winter (Faber, 2006), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as six novels for young adults. He lives in New York.
  • Adam Rapp art by George O'Connor