Thomasovitch, an ambitious first work by Travis Muir, is a book about a Princeton student, written by a Princeton student. Before I began this book, I was wary because of the stereotypes about pretentious Ivy League students. Alas, my fears were justified. Throughout the entire book Thomas Reed, the protagonist, and his family and friends, use frustratingly big words and unlikely speech. Muir claims to have written a book that will appeal to college students, yet I was continually irritated by the unrealistic language. The plot was no better; Thomasovitch is full of clichs about a tragically brilliant young man who coasts through academia and longs for something more challenging. Sure enough, Thomas feels pressured by his distant father, and hates the fast-paced business world of unhappy men in suits that he is destined to enter.
Right off the bat in the first chapter, Muir’s writing style is aggravating and distracting. This is how he described a scene in which Thomas is trying to pay attention in class but his friend, Johnson, keeps talking to him: “Class went on like this for some time, Johnson completely oblivious to the subtle warnings of his vessel ear, and Thomas growing evermore conscious of a desire to yield to the glances of the concentrating students around him, and silence his companion. Fortunately for him, however, the others around him were not inured to the more banal side of human interactions, and thus impeded the opening heart of their colleague with a sharp hiss. Johnson ceased speaking.” I don’t know if that’s how they really talk at Princeton, but this humble Miamian would’ve just said something like: Johnson was being annoying and everyone told him to shut up.
Every single component of this book, even down to the sound of a pen (now the “scuttle of a pen”), shouts that Muir is trying too hard. He also takes every opportunity to praise his school, as one character describes Princeton as the “most prestigious, most accomplished place” to be. It’s hard to enjoy a book where the author comes off as entirely too arrogant and hung up on his Ivy League status.
There was approximately one chapter in this book that I could relate to. Thomas goes home for winter break his freshman year and spends an evening at a Christmas party with his entire extended family. Every single relative bombards him with non stop questions such as “What are you studying?”, “What are you going to do with your life?” etc. At this point, I identify with Thomas, as I know how frustrating it is to feel constantly pressured to figure out the rest of your life.
Thankfully, this was a fast reading novel, and before I knew it, Thomas had gone from freshman year to having graduated and entered the workforce. At one point, I felt bad for Thomas: it seemed that the only time he garnered some affection and approval from his father was by impressing one of his business partners with his manners. However, my pity quickly evaporated as the book neared its end by way of Thomas’ childish breakdown, whereupon all I felt was relief that I wouldn’t have to hear his overdone, self-absorbed complaining anymore.
Cristina Buccina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.