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Joseph McElroy (1) (1930–)

Forfatter af Women and Men

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Joseph McElroy is the author of eight novels, including A Smuggler's Bible and Lookout Cartridge. He is the recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Ingram Merrill Foundations, and the National Endowment for vis mere the Arts. He lives in New York City vis mindre

Værker af Joseph McElroy

Women and Men (1986) 281 eksemplarer
A Smugglers Bible (1966) 164 eksemplarer
Lookout Cartridge (1974) 158 eksemplarer
Plus (1976) 94 eksemplarer
The Letter Left to Me (1988) 75 eksemplarer
Actress in the House (2003) 70 eksemplarer
Cannonball (2013) 65 eksemplarer
Ancient History: A Paraphase (1971) 59 eksemplarer
Hind's Kidnap (1969) 40 eksemplarer
Preparations for Search (2012) 8 eksemplarer
Ship Rock: A Place 3 eksemplarer
Taken From Him (Kindle Single) (2014) 3 eksemplarer
Exponential 1 eksemplar

Associated Works

The Best American Short Stories 1981 (1981) — Bidragyder — 35 eksemplarer
Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the World System (2007) — Bidragyder — 20 eksemplarer
Fathers and Sons: An Anthology (1992) — Bidragyder — 14 eksemplarer
The Review of Contemporary Fiction 1990: McElroy (1990) — Bidragyder — 11 eksemplarer
Conjunctions: 12 (1988) — Bidragyder — 11 eksemplarer
Conjunctions: 41, Two Kingdoms (2003) — Bidragyder — 10 eksemplarer
Prize Stories 1982: The O. Henry Awards (1982) — Bidragyder — 8 eksemplarer
The Writer's Brush : An Exhibition of Artwork by Writers (2013) — Introduktion — 3 eksemplarer
Black Clock 19 (2014) — Bidragyder — 2 eksemplarer
J&L Illustrated No. 3 (2012) — Bidragyder — 2 eksemplarer
Storie 54 (Italian & English) (2004) — Bidragyder — 2 eksemplarer
Black Clock 3 — Bidragyder — 1 eksemplar
Conjunctions: 6 (1984) — Bidragyder — 1 eksemplar
Antaeus No. 52, Spring 1984 (1984) — Bidragyder — 1 eksemplar

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I might come back to this later but right now, UGH. I feel I could have made it through and enjoyed more of it if it wasn't for the 3rd story being a dreadful interminable bore of a story about some kind of urban planner (except he wasn't ACTUALLY an urban planner - what was he? not explained) going to an accupuncturist (each time described in detail and the SAME details each time as if they have a meaning yet nothing really coming to light). This story takes up 1/5 of the book. I didn't even reach the end of it. I tried skimming to see if maybe things made more sense after finishing but couldn't even be bothered with that. His language is the only draw for me, but beautiful language doesn't make up for non-existent plots. I'm not expecting some obvious, easy plot, but I want to see something of the character of the characters. Here characters spout many deep statements but they feel inconsistent. By the end they come across as absurdly well educated stereotypes - not because he's a lazy writer who deliberately goes for them, but because I don't feel like I see enough detail to make them unique so I have to resort to applying a template to make them make any sense at all.

I feel stupid criticising a book that's clearly written by a highly intelligent, educated expert at English. The thing is, the language is beautiful. I just feel like nothing happens with it. He narrates events that are neither real enough to be relatable nor fantastical enough to be escapist. His characters don't go through emotional development, and we don't see enough of their mind to care about them. The dense prose works against what is there by making the insights come even slower.
… (mere)
tombomp | 5 andre anmeldelser | Oct 31, 2023 |
What is it with debut novels written by young male authors about withdrawn, over-intellectual, under-socialized young men? I'm starting to see how Charles Bukowski got a foothold: read enough of these, and a book about a womanizing drunk becomes a welcome breath of fresh air.

Still, McElroy does a good job with this one. David Brooke, his protagonist, has set himself the task of creating a self-portrait, or perhaps a memoir, by "projecting himself" into other people, and using their point of view to convey impressions of himself (most of which are, tragically, reflections of his own self-concept).

The characters are ultimately uninteresting, as is the protagonist, making one wonder why it is worth reading either their stories or his. To be sure, they are well-conceived : the famous and possibly-fraudulent interdisciplinary professor, the pseudopaedophile ex-pat, the grasping denizens of the boarding-house, the various fish-out-of-water Englishmen. It is hard to say whether these characters are just uninteresting *people*, or whether it is Brooke's interest in them that is so shallow and limited (and the novel does imply the latter).

Towards the end, I was starting to wonder if McElroy was having trouble trying to pull everything together (suddenly everyone is using red hardbound journals, the same joke about the wise men is being told by every character, and the quotation marks and parentheses don't quite match up). Brooke's project seems to spiral out of control when it turns out that many of his acquaintances already know each other; the novel itself suffers a similar fate, though that may be art instead of accident.

Unexpectedly, I read the last half of this at the same time as I watched the first season of True Detective. The poorly-received observations and witticisms of David Brooke are jarringly similar to Rust Cohle's nihilistic monologues. In my head, I started to read them in Rust Cohle's voice, to rather comic effect.
… (mere)
mkfs | 3 andre anmeldelser | Aug 13, 2022 |
review of
Joseph McElroy's Women and Men
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2011

I. Actually. FINISHED. Reading. This. Whole. Fucking. Thing. From. Cover. To. Cover. All 1,192pp of it. I don't remember when I started this - maybe in March of 2011 - it took me something like 6 mnths to read it. Where to even start?!

I'd only previously read McElroy's The Letter Left To Me wch I liked just enuf to consider reading something else by him. Then I found 2 bks by him on a dollar table outside a bkstore. Now, in my experience, when something reaches the dollar table or the cut-out bin or whatever it's often things I have no interest in whatsoever (like an outdated textbk) or something that's 'too much' for most people (like the early Mothers of Invention records in the local supermarket sale bins). I knew McElroy wasn't so much of a hack that he'd be in the 1st category so I got both bks. Then, of course, I just had to go all the way & read the longest one. & I've been semi-regretting it ever since. Why? B/c even though I think it's 'great' I'm still not sure that reading it wasn't a 'waste of time'!

When I think of the experimental novels that I've read that I've loved the most, I think of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, William S. Burroughs' The Soft Machine, Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral, Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual, & Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy - to name a few.

When I think of other long novels that I've read that I love but wdn't necessarily call experimental I think of Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (773pp) & Against the Day (1,085pp) [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/11158594], & Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon (918pp) [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/118053.Cryptonomicon] & Quicksilver (916 pp).

When I think of other long novels that I've read that I think were mostly crap, I think of Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew (686pp) & Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans (925pp) [see the complete version of my review of that starting here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/42323?chapter=1].

I'll start off by making a comparison to this latter. A promotional blurb for Stein's long work claims:

"In The Making of Americans, Gertrude Stein sets out to tell "a history of a family's progress," radically reworking the traditional family saga novel to encompass her vision of personality and psychological relationships."

& on p xix of Steven Meyer's Introduction to the Dalkey Archive edition that I have he claims that TMoA transforms from:

"as Stein observed in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, "from being a history of a family to being a history of everybody the family knew," as it would later metamorphose into "the history of every kind and of every individual human being""

NOW, in relation to TMoA, that's got to be one of the biggest crocks of shit I've ever read - since TMoA is just Stein's collossally megalomaniacal verborrhea. BUT, if it were written about McElroy's Women and Men it wd give at least some idea of how ambitious this novel is - even though it wd still be inaccurate.

So what CAN I accurately compare it to? None of the above, really - maybe the Vargas Llosa comes closest. Women and Men isn't stream-of-consciousness - but it meanders, sortof. Women and Men is in its own category once one tries to narrow it down from just 'novel'. It's a somewhat straight novel w/ characters who get developed.. but it's also SF, it's also a mystery, it's also myth, it's also political, it's also a novel of the 1970s.. & of times before.. & of the future..

I shd point out that Dalkey Archive published this as well as TMoA so I have to give them credit for taking the financial blow of publishing huge works w/ very little likely readership. Wch brings me to the 'reviews' that Women and Men has gotten: at the beginning of the bk there're 16 blurbed reviews that praise the work: WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS: How many of these people actually read the entire thing? Maybe Walter Abish did, maybe Harry Mathews did, maybe all of them did, maybe none of them did. Knowing, as I do, that most professional reviewers & academics have very little time for reading the things that they refer to, I've come to expect hack reviewing, both positive & negative. I think these reviewers were positively inclined toward McElroy & didn't necessarily think it 'necessary' to read the entire work.

4 of the reviewers compared it to Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Now I LOVE Gravity's Rainbow & I think Women and Men is pretty damn special too - but what do these works really have in common? Not much as far as I can tell. Gravity's Rainbow is a 'page-turner', it has a thrilling plot & the writing style is straight-forward enuf for the moderately literate to be able to follow (of course, that might still eliminate 90% of the readers these days). IMO, Women and Men is not a 'page turner': it's too meandering. There's no compelling plot thread that's likely to arouse fervent interest among people in search of war, eg, to get worked up about. It's too abstruse. & it developed veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I LIKED IT FOR THAT but I have perverse tastes.

Even for someone w/ my literate dedication, this bk is a challenge to read. When I got to the 1st Grace Kimball section I was almost defeated by my utter irritation w/ the character - & by how long the chapter was. It wasn't until I got to PAGE 285 & McElroy started playing w/ the language a bit more in the 1st of the Larry sections that I finally got some relief. & McElroy does play w/ the language. He uses a technique that I use too: the sudden dropping in of phonetic spelling & other deviations from the norm w/o any contextual justification. I like that, it keeps the reader alert, y'no? & here's a sample sentence from p416:

"That's what Larry asked seventeen eighteen years later, and we hardly remembered he was still (read here) there, he's consented to be given a new Atala ten-speed by his father though he liked his old beat-up ten-speed Raleigh from the Island and now has an offer of a hundred dollars for it from Grace Kimball - he breathes so little in order to bring all he has to bear upon his internalized systems, none at all finished we understand, many started like variant radii aimed in at a locus of centers where may be found backward a hermit-inventor's new weather precipitated possibly from alterations in the charge-field of coastline configurations, not at this late date by that north-polar wind shift (you'll have sensed by now) that turned the clouds and altered rainfall shapes in the time of the gifted, hapless Anasazi six hundred years before the East Far Eastern Princess met the Hermit-Inventor in New York and saw herself in his glinting eye whose new weather at our afore-mentioned locus of centers got carried on by the hermit-inventor nephew of that old khaki beachcomber who came to the Jersey shore to speak to Margaret before he should die of what whole-grain toxins trekked through his system for years of breathing fire and smoke of bodies flying by his tenement windows, of using alcohol and tobacco, of pouring through himself all sugars of the City and all salts of the elaborate harbor where weet-wit weet-wit the purple sandpipers hosting their southern kinflock [tENT interpolation: note the pun off of "kinfolk"] of turnstones even more lost than they await the beaches of an earlier day, yet that earlier Hermit-Inventor managed to store one horned metabol adrift in his viscera drawing the rest of his substance toward it like a lip or a flower or flume."

Now THAT was a good sentence - not in an easy-to-read sense but in the sense of there are few, if any, stock phrases in it.

Women and Men takes place in NYC, as its advertising states, but it also takes place in the SW US, & in Chile, & in at least one imaginary place, etc.. It fascinated me how he managed to slip in political topics & history w/ such ease in sometimes unexpected places: the Guggenheims & Anaconda Copper on pp 521 & 617, & then Anaconda again on p 663. There's a whole section re a substitute teacher promoting anarchy. There's mention of the assassination of Orlando Letelier. There's mention of Lucky Luciano on p 1007. Much of the novel revolves around Pinochet's overthrow of Allende's government in Chile. There's an unidentified "interrogator".

& McElroy certainly doesn't make it easy for the reader: pp 677-689 have an unidentified "I", & starting around 1054 there's an unidentified "he" who learns he's going to die soon. It isn't until we read more about Larry on p 1068 that we realize that the "he" is Ted, one of the main character's best friends. Reading McElroy to glean full plot elements means reading carefully.

There's a character named George Foley who's in prison for murder. His textual style is unusual, he refers to Tesla vs Edison & the electric chair story. Later, on p 935, he respells his name "Feaulie" wch I speculate to be "faux lie": a "false lie", a double negative.

It seems to be an interesting tactic on McElroy's part to have the only character who seems to know what's going on in the novel be the fortune teller, Señora Wing. From pp 938-942 she says some revealing things. Otherwise, all is, mostly, obscure.

Some might say, as writer/reviewer Walter Abish does, that "McElroy illuminates with rare tenderness male and female union and apartness" but I tend to think that the title is misleading & is overemphasized by Abish. I only found maybe 2 mentions of "Women and Men" per se: pp 893 & 1049. There are surely many other novels that concentrate on women & men much more.

Instead, Women and Men goes thru a whole complex of experience that certainly involved Women & Men & even explores them somewhat in depth thru Grace Kimball but, ultimately, explores so much more that Women & Men, per se, become more of a backdrop. If the bk were called "Suicides" it wd almost be just as apropos (ALMOST).

I'd never accuse McElroy as being a poor writer, just a ssssssssssssssllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww one. Threads are presented & the writing meanders thru them but it wasn't until p 956 when Jim Mayn & his dad, Mel, interact that I felt that the novel started 'turning'. I then began to wonder if Mel was Jim's "interrogator" in Jim's fantasy life. But, then, the "interrogator" seems to know Amy (p 1116) & that probably doesn't gel. &, shit, it wasn't until p 1081 that some info about Spence, a previously somewhat threatening 'fringe' character [pun intended], was revealed.

There's paranoia: on p 1084 both the bike messenger & the spy read into SRO in an ignorant way. Such misreadings may contribute to the spy's hypothetical death later. & then there's the shooting of the "Trace Window": wassup?! There's plenty of mystery: some questions get answered, some are, perhaps, w/o answer. This isn't crime fiction, despite murders & suicides & whatnot, it's atmospheric, misty, cloudy.

McElroy seems to delve into his writerly conclusions starting on p 1113: "We had learned we were a language; or was it we'd been asked to be?" where we also find these puns: "it came as an accusatory interrogation painfully circular could be so don't take her serially."Eventually, it seems that Science Fiction almost dominates (p 1114):

"You cared about her. But go on, what kind of settlements were they? They sound quite real, routine like they're based on mature technology.

I wouldn't know. Yes, I guess so.

Maybe not planned out with all those sophisticated alternatives we can think about now, but when you were fourteen or fifteen the agriculture and the torus-shell stuff wasn't even in Galaxy I bet.

I wouldn't know.

I know.

I simply saw a giant silver doughnut with spokes."

By 1157 there's a section on the "bomb" that's certainly worthy of good SF & that really spins things on its head(s). McElroy waits, as most writers wd, to bring the 'punchlines' in near the end. & on 1162 there's even mention of the "multiverse"!

&, then, after all that delightful verbosity, one can read at the end of the bk:


Joseph McElroy was born in 1930. He has received numerous awards for his fiction. He lives in New York City. This is his sixth novel."

Now, THAT"S minimal!
… (mere)
1 stem
tENTATIVELY | 2 andre anmeldelser | Apr 3, 2022 |
Video review: https://youtu.be/Xds7hrVLkdA

My introduction to the world of Joseph McElroy. A brilliant apéritif, a gratifying amuse-bouche before diving into his novels.
chrisvia | 5 andre anmeldelser | Apr 29, 2021 |



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