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You Were Wrongby Matthew Sharpe
Synopses & Reviews
Meet Karl Floor: friendless, orphaned, melancholy, living with his loudmouth stepfather and sleepwalking through his job as a high-school math teacher. Karl returns home one day to discover his house being robbed by a beautiful stranger named Sylvia. So begins a darkly funny tale: Sylvia, aware that Karl is falling for her, draws him into her mysterious world and extracts a promise from him to protect her, though she won't say exactly from whom, or what. As he becomes more enmeshed in her life, he begins more clearly to see the shape and limits of his own.
Against the multilayered social canvas of Long Island and Brooklyn, Karl slowly and uncertainly comes to terms with the complexities of race and class, his parentage, and his own responsibilities as a man, emerging as a memorable and heartwarming antihero. Addressing heady themes with warmth and charisma, You Were Wrong is a satiric, intelligent, and deeply enjoyable novel with a singular voice.
"Karl Floor is having a lousy day. Coming home from work, the 26-year-old math teacher gets jumped by two of his students, and then he finds a young woman lurking in the upstairs hallway of his home. She's a burglar, but rather than call the cops or wrestle her to the ground, Karl takes a nap. And that's just the first chapter. Karl lives on Long Island, in a suburb called Seacrest. His mother died five years earlier, and he and his brash stepfather, Larchmont Jones, share the home. The pair don't get along, hardly see each other, and are differently affected by the lasting grief over Karl's mother's death. Besides Karl's job, he has few connections with anyone. Larchmont Jones is a businessman, making big deals in Asia and espousing the virtues of high capitalism, but in the end he's as lost as Karl. Which is where our young burglar comes in. Her name is Sylvia Vetch. During the burglary, Karl falls in love with her hard, and it's no wonder: she's formidable in many ways. Larchmont, too, turns out to have a connection with Sylvia. She becomes the catalyst for the novel, both plot and theme, and reveals how Karl and Larchmont are men who simply can't operate unless a woman is around to help them. When Sylvia arrives, Karl senses that she is his life raft and he clings to her. But Sharpe's insightful novel isn't content to simply depict how Karl and Larchmont are 'saved' by Sylvia. He's just as concerned with the toll such saving takes. In other words, what price do women pay for loving men? Sharpe has written a painfully funny book. In Karl, Larchmont, and a pair of other male characters, Sharpe depicts various types of men and gleefully dissects their failings: Karl, sweet but passively cruel; and Larchmont, the ambitious egotist. The great question of this book is simple: why are men so awful? Again and again Sharpe refuses to defend the neediness and self-indulgence and self-regard that so many men treat like a birthright. It's not pretty, but it sure seems accurate. In this respect, You Were Wrong is even riskier than Sharpe's previous novel, Jamestown. There, the sides were clear and the jokes easier to parse. Here, Sharpe refuses to let the reader catch him winking. It's a bold move, one that pays off in many places. The novel is about the failures of men, and it's dedicated to the year 2008, a time when the rot at the root of another male-dominated institution, our economy, was finally revealed. Sharpe's novel works like those warning signs we now wished we'd noted, telling us that something essential is broken. Reviewed By Victor Lavalle. Victor LaValle's most recent novel is Big Machine." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"This book is strange, original and devastatingly clever." Mary Gaitskill
Fans of Sharpe's previous work as well as contemporary fiction authors such as Dave Eggers or David Foster Wallace should seek out this darkly comic novel." Library Journal
"A pleasing odd and intelligent novel...What's most winning about You Were Wrong is its acumen and the brio with which [Sharpe's] sentence-making bears it out. The book is rich with devastatingly comic observations about people, places, and things. You Were Wrong might not save your life, but never mind; Matthew Sharpe is saving prose from the banal, one word at a time." New York Times Book Review
"Sharpe writes prose that is mellifluous and lucid; his wise writing, with its offbeat rhythms and casual swerves, merits rank with that of George Saunders, Jim Shepard, and perhaps a (much) less bilious Sam Lipsyte. You Were Wrong is deft, lively, and surprising: a practically faultless book." Bookforum
"Part warped fairy tale, part nerd noir, part hallucinogenic misfit fiction, part sly social critique, Sharpes wicked story of class and race, love and hate, is venomously funny and whiplash smart." Booklist
"A pleasing odd and intelligent novel...What's most winning about You Were Wrong is its acumen and the brio with which [Sharpes] sentence-making bears it out. The book is rich with devastatingly comic observations about people, places, and things. You Were Wrong might not save your life, but never mind; Matthew Sharpe is saving prose from the banal, one word at a time." New York Times Book Review
"This book is strange, original, and devastatingly clever." Mary Gaitskill
"A sharply funny, almost old-fashioned social farce with the structure of a P.G. Wodehouse comedy of errors and the bitter wit of a John Kennedy Toole — this is a sweet, oddly romantic satire for the recovering cynics among us." Lydia Millet, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Love in Infant Monkeys
About the Author
Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown, The Sleeping Father and Nothing Is Terrible as well as the short-story collection Stories from the Tube. He teaches creative writing at Wesleyan University. His stories and essays have appeared in Harper's Magazine, Zoetrope, BOMB, McSweeney's, American Letters and Commentary, Southwest Review, and Teachers and Writers. He lives in New York City.
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