Books & Other Writing | Insignificant Others (2010)
What do you do when you discover your spouse has an insignificant other?
How about when you realize your own insignificant other is becoming more significant than your spouse?
Richard Rossi works in HR at a touchy-feely software company and prides himself on his understanding of the foibles and fictions we all use to get through the day. Too bad he’s not as good at spotting such behavior in himself.
What else could explain his passionate affair with Benjamin, a very unavailable married man? Richard suggests birthday presents for Benjamin’s wife and vacation plans for his kids, meets him for “lunch” at a sublet apartment and would never think about calling him after business hours.
“In the three years I’d known Benjamin, I’d come to think of him as my husband. He was, after all, a husband, and I saw it as my responsibility to protect his marriage from a barrage of outside threats and bad influences. It was the only way I could justify sleeping with him.”
Since Richard is not entirely available himself—there’s Conrad, his adorable if maddening partner to contend with—it all seems perfect. But when cosmopolitan Conrad starts spending a suspicious amount of time in Ohio, and economic uncertainty challenges Richard’s chances for promotion, he realizes his priorities might be a little skewed.
Insignificant Others is a hilarious and ultimately haunting social satire about life in the U.S. at the bitter end of the boom years, when clinging to significant people and pursuits has never been more important—if only one could figure out what they are.
Praise for Insignificant Others
“Reading Insignificant Others is like being a guest at the best kind of dinner party—every morsel is delicious, every guest is fascinating. Even as I devoured this book I was deeply sorry to reach the end.
—Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture and The House on Fortune Street
“An incisive, rueful, humane, very smart, and very funny book.”
—Joan Wickersham, author of The Suicide Index
“A master of the comic novel, Stephen McCauley makes someone else’s difficult, complicated relationship so witty, sexy and delightfully engrossing that you’ll forget about your own difficult, complicated relationship.”
—Bob Smith, author of Selfish and Perverse and Openly Bob
“It’s The Office meets Jane Austen, with a twist. I adored this novel.”
—Mameve Medwed, author of Mail and How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life
Words from the author...
I began writing Insignificant Others shortly after I finished Alternatives to Sex. At the time, I was giving almost daily counsel to a married friend who’d just begun to explore his attraction to men. Through him, I met a surprising number of suburban husbands in similar situations. What unnerved me most was the fact that I found most of them terribly sympathetic—basically nice guys who were torn between their love of their families and this other urgent sexual attraction. They’d built their lives on an assumption they were now discovering to be false, and the center wasn’t holding.
I think a lot of us build our lives on a cherished fiction about ourselves and go through life making elaborate contortions to avoid facing the truth.
Alternatives to Sex is set during the real estate boom and Insignificant Others is set at the start of the economic decline. In that sense they’re bookends. A lot of the new novel is set in the narrator’s workplace, a software company located in an over-designed building I probably had too much fun describing.