It’s October 1990. Jacob Putnam is young and full of ideas. He’s arrived a year too late to witness Czechoslovakia’s revolution, but he still hopes to find its spirit, somehow. He discovers a country at a crossroads between communism and capitalism, and a city overflowing with a vibrant, searching sense of possibility. As the men and women Jacob meets begin to fall in love with one another, no one turns out to be quite the same as the idea Jacob has of them—including Jacob himself.
this debut novel by Caleb Crain, Necessary Errors...is far more than another tale of a gay man’s self-discovery. With delicate prose and probing insight, Crain touches upon an array of universally felt and emotionally fraught issues ... Necessary Errors is not a quick read, and it has been criticised by some for being quite slow-paced. But that is precisely its beauty. It is a book that shines in its ability to map our complex human emotional landscape. Furthermore, while long, the narrative doesn’t drag. Crain’s careful prose gives the sense that each word serves a purpose, that nothing is superfluous. Crain has gifted us a novel of incredible beauty and clarity ... Given the weight behind his words, it is clear that Crain has...poured himself into this first work. Necessary Errors is an epic achievement that transcends the former limitations of the gay-coming-of-age genre–it is a novel of breathtaking humanity that teaches as well as entertains.
...a bildungsroman, very well put together, polished, dry but tender, ferociously observed ... certain qualities of Necessary Errors stand counter to fashions prevailing in successful contemporary literary fiction. Crain uses the semicolon. The tale-telling is unusually leisurely. The scenes and exchanges of dialogue can run long. Even though the quest for love and sex is at the heart of things, the recounting of physical incidents is decorous, even chaste. The story is nonviolent and antipicaresque ... There are no epiphanies, no life-altering changes of consciousness ... Necessary Errors works ... Plot seems a coarse term to apply to the sequence of events dramatized here ... Jacob’s group is fun to watch. Not for surprise or suspense or the reversals of fortune one associates with vigorous plotting. There’s none of that. But the particularities of the group are brilliantly caught ... This novel probes deeply in an unexpectedly playful manner into some fundamental matters: love, friendship, solidarity, vocation, the pursuit of truth. Crain writes with skill and grace, and with restraint ... We’re not through with narratives about the Getting of Wisdom, Americans Abroad, Coming of Age, Gay Coming of Age, New Lost Generations. Among such works, a new narrative will be measured against Caleb Crain’s fine book, which will endure as a powerful entry in the great fictional exploration of the meanings of liberation.
At 472 pages, it’s not quite a tome, perhaps, but it recalls the dreamy pacing of Henry James or Elizabeth Bowen ... Necessary Errors is a bildungsroman, but it’s about the coming of age of these friends as well as Jacob, who needs them badly ... There is, in fact, a general haze that surrounds the novel (and perhaps your early 20s as well). If nothing really happens, it does so deliberately ... Crain’s ability to keep our interest without an obvious narrative arc, to make us care, intensely, about his characters without any cat-saving or cliffhangers, is what makes the novel feel like a new sort of model for contemporary fiction ... Crain has managed to write a moving and involving story about someone trying to find not just his own story, but his own voice as well. There are no dramatic flashes, no so-called twist endings ... Crain does end—no spoilers—on a cliffhanger of sorts. This, another kind of reader might think, is where the real story begins. We, though, for having read Necessary Errors, understand that the realness of a story should not be judged by 'what happened.' Plot cannot be the most crucial element to storytelling, when the ways of telling a story are infinite.