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Him Her Him Again the End of Himby Patricia Marx
Synopses & Reviews
Patricia Marx is one of the finest comic writers of her time, as readers of the New Yorker and fans of Saturday Night Live already know. Her fiction debut is an endlessly entertaining comic novel about one woman's romantic fixation on her first boyfriend.
Marx's unabashedly neurotic heroine falls for philosopher Eugene Obello during her graduate school days in Cambridge, England. Why would anyone fall for a man who receives a grant to pursue Ego Studies? Why would that person remain obsessed, even after this guy marries and becomes a father? By "obsessed," we mean, well...sex and lusting and longing and hoping and waiting for this cad who is spread too thin. Her friends loathe him. Why can't she drop him? Is it because she was the only virgin on campus before she bumped into Eugene (a man who was hardly a virgin)? Is it because he kept a copy of the Magna Carta in his pocket? "You know what I think it really was?" she reflects. "He was a narcissist. I love narcissists...you don't have to buoy them up." When things get unbearable, our girl gives up trying to write her thesis — and tries to give up on Eugene. She says good-bye to her dormitory room, decorated in a color she calls veal, and becomes a TV writer in New York on the hit sketch-comedy show Taped But Proud. Coincidentally, Eugene moves to New York as well — to teach a seminar called "Toward a Philosophy of the Number Two" ("And if that goes well," he says, "they might let me have a go at the number three"). More years of lusting and longing, hoping and waiting. Until a spectacular event changes everything.
"Marx's unnamed protagonist, a Baltimore native turned Cambridge University graduate student, is struggling with her thesis on West Indian immigration when she meets Eugene Obello, fresh from Princeton and at Cambridge on a philosophy teaching fellowship. Though he's self-absorbed, distracted and cheesy ('I will always feel a great deal of agape toward you, O my everlasting,' he tells the narrator) she falls for him. But he soon leaves her for the frequently ill Margaret, and the narrator is once again alone with her incomplete thesis. She quits school, returns to the states and lands a writing gig at a Saturday Night Live — type show, but Eugene lingers in her mind. He, of course, resurfaces in New York, and the two embark on an affair. (He has since married Margaret.) Marx, a former SNL writer and current New Yorker contributor, undermines her main source of tension — the narrator's obsession with Eugene — by failing to present Eugene as anything more than a brainy fop, and though his demise is fitting, it'll have E.M. Forster fans crying foul." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There are college boyfriends. There are caddishly bad college boyfriends. And there are caddishly bad college boyfriends you somehow can't quit. And now, thanks to Patricia Marx's 'Him Her Him Again the End of Him,' there's Eugene. Encountered while her 21-year-old narrator is studying abroad at Cambridge University, Eugene is a budding philosopher, fresh out of Princeton and AmeriCorps... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) with a copy of the Magna Carta in his pocket. He's the kind of guy who says, 'Did I tell you that I've written a devastating critique of Elie Wiesel that will turn Holocaust studies on its head?' Who believes that French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan drew crucial points from him — 'an audacious theory,' our narrator notes, 'since Eugene hadn't entered Lacan's field of work until Lacan was dead.' But what pseudo-intellectual young woman can resist a lanky grad student who says, 'Your kisses are so recondite, my peach, that they are almost notional'? A man who calls her 'my juju,' 'my singular dodo bird' and 'my tender duckling'? Who presses himself against her atop Castle Hill and is moved to a disquisition on Sir Isaac Newton? She's enraptured. So what if Eugene only wants to see her in the hours following his dinner and preceding his bedtime? As the Go-Go's said: 'Someone always loves a little more.' Cue obsession, heartbreak. Marx — former Saturday Night Live writer, current New Yorker contributor, author of humor books — makes the most of her characters' time at Cambridge. (Who can resist a few good Stephen Hawking jokes?) And she's on top of her game when she sends her narrator back to New York to work for SNL competitor 'Taped But Proud,' a show run by a former dental hygienist who is in turn run by her astrologer. (Day four's assignment: Write a sketch about a journalist tortured for criticizing the government in Belarus. 'There was also a siege on an orphanage. ... A few children were killed, I think. It could be about that ... but it still has to be really, really funny.') Alas, the narrator's erstwhile boyfriend eventually appears stateside — with his new wife in tow. You'd think a wife would complicate matters, but a one-sided relationship based on sex turns out to be a hardy thing. The novel's start is so fiercely funny that you don't really care that nobody could pine for a guy this obnoxious. One of the narrator's friends says, 'I can't believe you still know him. ... He's a cad and a bore and a sneak and a fake and a narcissist and a braggart.' 'I'm sure you're right,' she replies. 'But that's just one side of him.' By the end, the gag goes a bit stale, like an SNL skit dragging on several beats too long. But there are so many sharp, random laughs in this book — including some silly 'Appendices' at the end — that even extended exposure to Eugene is worthwhile. Claudia Deane is a writer in Washington, D.C." Reviewed by Claudia Deane, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This humorous novel, filled with wacky and slightly off-kilter characters, is recommended for hip, urban readers who enjoy comedies of manners." Library Journal
"A sprawling but very funny tale; if insecurity is the source of great humor, Marx has hit the mother lode." Kirkus Reviews
"Marx's novel made me laugh so hard that I kept trying to read lines aloud to my boyfriend....
"I laughed at its audacity, and cried that I didn't write it." Steve Martin, author of Shopgirl
"Despite improbable plot twists, minor plot inconsistencies, and a definitively uncatchy title, there are some laugh-out-loud moments." Booklist
From a celebrated humor writer for the New Yorker comes a brilliantly observed debut novel about the neurosis of romance and one single woman's hilariously unhealthy obsession with her first boyfriend.
About the Author
Marx is Saturday Night Live writer, screenwriter, TV writer, and author of many books. She teaches humor writing at the New School in New York City.
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