About the Author
Rudy Delson, a “recovering lawyer,” quit his job on the eve of his 30th birthday to write this, his first novel. He was raised in San Jose, graduated from Stanford, and currently lives in Brooklyn. Film rights were acquired by Scott Rudin; translation rights have sold in 5 countries so far.
1. On page 1, Delson writes, “This comedy has five unequal parts.” Do you consider this novel a comedy? Comedy is a term more often associated with the theatrical arts. In what ways is Maynard & Jennica more like a play than a novel?
2. Part one, though “quite brief and purely introductory”, is a presage for some upcoming revelations. At what later points in the book do these events signal their significance?
3. “Prevailing wisdom has it that there is something exceptional about New York, some ineffable spirit to Manhattan Island, an esprit de pays…The esprit de pays is the notion that Manhattan cannot be improved upon” (p. 54). Do Maynard and Jennica feel this esprit de pays? What does the term mean to you, in terms of thinking about Manhattan? Explore how the city of New York becomes its own character in the book.
4. James Cleveland describes Maynard as looking like “the geezer who sits all on his own at church and who thinks he behaves better than everyone else and who stares at you and your sister to let you know it” (p. 19), while Nadine Hanamoto says he is “a handsome guy. Very tall, big brown eyes…extremely polite, and just sort of…cheerful” (p. 291). What do some of the other characters think of Maynard? How do you account for these opposing views? What is your impression of Maynard?
5. Everyone in this novel, even minor characters, birds, and the long deceased, has an opinion and gets their say. What affect does this have on your reading? How does it help, or hinder, your understanding of the two main characters?
6. Maynard lives his life according to his idea of dignity. What does it mean to be dignified? In what ways does Maynard succeed or fail? At one point Gran Rose says to him, “I think dignity
7. Jennica, meanwhile, wants to live an illustrious life. (“She refused to apply to Berkeley. It wasn’t illustrious enough” (p. 75).) What do you think Jennica really wants? How does Jennica’s search for the illustrious and Maynard’s strivings to be dignified complement each other?
8. The first time Maynard and Jennica meet is on the subway. Maynard is immediately smitten, but the event leaves little impression on Jennica. Why, then, does Jennica find Maynard so attractive the second time they meet at a showing of Maynard’s film? Jennica’s friend says of Jennica, “Once she actually finds herself involved with [a guy], her instinct, sooner or later, is to run away, because the reality is different from what she had imagined” (p. 101). Who is Jennica running away from when she meets Maynard? Why doesn’t she run away from Maynard—or does she?
9. Maynard is arrested for poisoning trees in the park across the street from his apartment building. Why isn’t he more concerned about the possibility of going to jail? Why does he do it in the first place and how does he get out of it?
10. Puppy Jones is the artist who uses samples of Maynard’s piano music in his hit song “Prime Time” (p. 146). What is his song about? Why does it become so unpopular after 9/11?
11. “Patriotism is always in such—bad taste” (p. 167). And so begins Maynard’s “unacceptable” response to the events of September 11. How did Maynard’s words make you feel? Could you find any truth in what he said? Why do you think Maynard reacted this way?
12. After 9/11, Maynard takes umbrage with the nation’s response “We are all New Yorkers now” by saying, “I don’t want your solidarity, I want my towers back—to block off my view of America” (p. 172). Maynard is a New Yorker and Jennica is a New York transplant. Does this have anything to do with their different responses? How else does this difference affect their view of New York, both before and after 9/11?
13. A number of different arguments take place at the Gogarty cabin on the 17th of September, 2001. What are they each about? What is the argument between Maynard and Jennica about on the surface, and what do you think they’re really fighting about?
14. Maynard’s mother calls her son “Manny,” Jennica calls him “Arnie,” Ana calls him “Gogi.” Why do they all have different names for him? Maynard responds, “Why can no one call me by my given name?” (p. 184). Why does no one calls him Maynard?
15. “Jennica earnestly believes that things happen to her for a reason. She likes nothing so much as—an explanation. She loves to feel—gah!—a plot!” (p. 281). What other romantic beliefs does Jennica hold? How does Maynard, as Jennica says, solve the “Jennica Green marriage problem” (p. 160)?
16. The details of Ana Kaganova’s life come out slowly over the course of the novel. Who is she and where does she really come from? What lies does she tell? Do you consider her a villain?
17. Why does Jennica cheat on Maynard with George Hanamoto? Were you surprised? How do Maynard and Jennica win each other back after these events?
18. At the beginning of the novel, Gabe Green (Jennica’s younger brother) says about Jennica, “She’s only happy because she’s unhappy…Jennica can’t live in California, because she thinks that successful people only live in New York” (p. 48). What changes that allows Jennica to move back to California at the end of the book? What is her idea of success?