Joseph Mackin

Pretend All Your Life Front Cover

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Lon Kirschner
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Here are a few questions to get the Pretend All Your Life discussion started. We'll be adding to these as we learn more about what readers are discovering in the novel. Please submit any question you'd like to see posted by using the contact form. Thanks!

(SPOILER ALERT: some of these questions may suggest aspects of plot development.)

1. Is Richard Gallin, who personally commits no intentional violence against anyone during the book, a violent man?

2. Which characters in the novel live up to their responsibilities? For instance, does Bernardo, as he claims, actually fulfill his responsibilities to his family by leaving them? Or with Nick Adams, is he fulfilling his responsibility to Peter by trying to avenge his firing, or are Adams's actions motivated more by deep-seated anger and disenchantment?

3. The idea of self-reinvention is deeply ingrained in the American culture. What are the positive and negative aspects of this idea as if affects the characters in the novel? Can the same idea (self-reinvention) be an affliction for some and a liberating factor for others?

4. At the party in Woodbrook, is Gallin's venom toward the other guests justifiable? Where does his desire to liberate the staff come from? How seriously are we to take his desire to be a hero?

5. In the first chapter, what is the significance of Gallin's observation about the American flag decal?

6. Of Gallin, Bernardo, and Miguel—is any one more American? Do these three characters share the same idea of what it means to be American?

7. Garibaldi is an art appraiser. Her son is a painter, as was her husband. Gallin is an art collector. Bernardo's wife is an artist. Gallin's old pal Sudol is an artist. What is the role of art in the novel? Does it help the characters to understand their world, or does it debase reality?

8. What motivates Ana Garibaldi in the novel? Is her affection for Gallin genuine?

9. The title, Pretend All Your Life, comes from—among other things—a piece of advice Gallin has given Bernardo since childhood. How does it affect him? And to what degree do the other characters use the same notion to create themselves?