Rich is our eponymous narrator and a typical narcissist - charming, manipulative, impulsive and self-serving, but also wittily introspective. The novel combines two staples of modern fiction – a midlife crisis with the usual adulterous relationship, and a literary alter ego to extract useable material from real-life experiences, friends and family. The title also refers to the philosophical question of what we should most value in life.
I needed to find someone at this conference, someone who wouldn't harm a married man, or hated being married, or couldn't bear to be alone for three or four days. I didn't have any big strategy here, I liked to flirt. I needed to stay alert every second for a potential alliance in this war against morbidity and death. Were there rules or prohibitions? Some of my colleagues preyed upon the young, their own students, the low-hanging fruit, which struck me as a real character flaw.