Particles and Luck

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At the tender age of twenty-seven, Mark Perdue has beenappointed to a prestigious professorship at the Berkeley campus ofthe University of California.He is fortunate in being married to awoman who is not only beautiful but also intelligent. AudreyPerdue has to do a lot of her husband’s practical thinking for him,since his mind is hopelessly preoccupied with the most advanced andcontroversial speculations about the nature of matter.

When Audrey, a patent lawyer, leaves town to attend aconference, Mark is drawn into the orbit of a nearly bankruptpizza-restaurant proprietor named Roger Hoberman, who claims thata big corporation plans to seize parts of their adjacent suburbanproperties under a claim of adverse possession. This odd couplestays up all night getting drunk and preparing to defend their backyards against a nebulous assault by agents of the hostilecorporation.

Mark gets involved in Roger’s complicated domestic problems andeventually comes to the conclusion that human relations are chaoticand inexplicable because the fundamental building blocks ofmatter— the hypothetical bits and pieces that are smallerthan protons and electrons—are themselves chaotic andinexplicable. Human life—and everything else that passesfor “reality”—is a matter of invisible and unknowableentities falling into random patterns: in other words, “particlesand luck.”

Like most second novels, PARTICLES AND LUCK is a step down fromthe author’s first novel. Jones’s ORDINARY MONEY (1990), anotherbook about the zany behavior of suburbanites in Marin County,California, received praise in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW andother leading periodicals. PARTICLES AND LUCK is, however, animpressive performance for such a youthful author. It is full ofwit and humor, and it often surprises with incisive observationsabout human life— though most readers will have difficultyfollowing the hero’s overly long interior monologues about theultimate nature of reality.

Sources for Further Study

American Libraries. XXIV, July, 1993, p.680.

Booklist. LXXXIX, March 1, 1993, p.1156.

Chicago Tribune. June 14, 1993, V, p.3.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, February 1, 1993, p.84.

Library Journal. CXVIII, November 15, 1993, p.128.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 11, 1993, p.3.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, April 18, 1993, p.12.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, February 8, 1993, p.77.

San Francisco Chronicle. March 28, 1993, p. REV4.

The Washington Post. April 14, 1993, p. B2.