I Don’t Know I Said
By Matthew Savoca
The most fascinating aspects of this novel are also its most frustrating, as the book reargrounds its nuanced love story to foreground a pile of cash: the main characters, Arthur and Carolina, spend a year depleting $80,000 that she received from an accident. Much to Savoca’s credit, the novel becomes a nimble commentary on a creative generation faced with the declining value of a liberal-arts education. Arthur and Carolina are starkly unable to look toward the future, and as Savoca fleshes out their ultimate twentysomething fantasy, this handicap becomes even more crippling than a car crash. The pair vacillates between traveling and staying put, loving and fighting, being assertive and giving up—and never once seem to move forward. Arthur’s favorite phrase becomes, “I don’t know,” infuriating Carolina; each feels like the burden of decisionmaking falls to the other. (It’s curious that Arthur and Carolina seem to have both been dealt decent cards: both have loving parents; they are attractive and young; and they’ve come into money. They have pretty decent sex. You have to wonder what’s tripping them up.)
Their actions and dialogue, while sort of cute in a Tao Lin kind of way, are more often rankling; it’s hard not to think of a million better ways to spend $80,000 than just living off it like it’ll last forever. But the true beauty of this novel is readily apparent in Arthur’s musings about life, needs, wants, and love. He’s the quintessential armchair philosopher, however misguided, and you keep reading to hear more of his simple thoughts. The couple split up for a time, and Arthur tries to grasp its meaning: “I thought about how I didn’t really understand it myself, but how it was a different kind of non-understanding, one that was accepting.” As the novel ends just as quietly as it began, in reconciliation, acceptance seems like the last thing that Arthur should ever practice again.