A tedious second outing from Gillis (Walter Falls, 2003), who drags us along to North Africa with two young American slackers, each of them running away from something.
Mark Twain or some such sage once said that when a man realizes his life has been worthless he either kills himself or travels: Bailey Finne and his pal Niles Kelly opt for the latter without really giving much consideration to the first. Both are deeply thwarted young men: Bailey is a talented pianist who goes through the motions of working on a doctorate in art history, while Niles is trying to get over the death of his one great love, Jeana (who died in an explosion that also killed his hated and domineering father). A sensitive and dreamy sort who dabbles in philosophy, Niles never possessed any of the ambition that made his father a rich man, and he gives away most of his large inheritance to devote himself to a private study of Albert Camus. Bailey is equally unmotivated and seems intent on dragging out his dissertation as long as possible without actually putting any work into it. Challenged by his professor to produce something or drop out, Bailey impulsively concocts a story that he’s been invited to visit a famously reclusive artist at his home in Algiers as part of his research. Niles thinks that’s a fine plan, and he convinces Bailey to go—and to take him along so that he can find the house where Camus was born. So the two set out for North Africa in search of an elderly American painter who may or may not be there, with about as much idea of what they’re doing on the road as they had before they left. In the course of their journey they manage to find the artist, figure out some stuff about Camus, and put a few things to rest.
Meandering and sophomoric.