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25 Remote Warehouse Literature- A to Z

Out of My Skin

by

Out of My Skin Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of him—graceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradise—and his attempt to come out the other side.
John Haskell is the author of American Purgatorio and of the short-story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of him—graceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradise—and his attempt to come out the other side.

“Gutsy, weirdly engrossing . . . This strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should.”—Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

"A journalist leaves New York in the wake of a failed love affair and heads to Los Angeles, hoping to write about movies. He winds up interviewing a Steve Martin impersonator and is inspired to try 'being Steve' himself—not as a paid gig but as a daily incarnation. What at first seems like just another novel about L.A. anomie turns out to be something more transfixing: a kind of pop Zen parable, at once whimsical and austere. Haskell cultivates a winking deadpan to chronicle his narrators twilight of the soul, inserting revelations in unexpected places. When the narrator (who, inevitably, becomes an actor) is cast as a monster in a video game and required to lift a heavy co-star for a prolonged shot, he hopes that 'with acceptance the pain would lose its meaning'; later, he discovers a raisin abandoned on a table at Starbucks, 'glowing with its raisinness.'”—The New Yorker

"In his first book, the story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and his novel that followed, American Purgatorio, John Haskell has messed around with the idea of the imprisoned self. It makes sense that, as a performer and a writer for the theater, Haskell would explore the possibilities and limits of identity. Referring to the stories in Jackson Pollock, in which the writer inhabits Pollock, the pianist Glenn Gould, various Hitchcock characters, Topsy the elephant and Joan of Arc, Haskell has said his books are meant to be read aloud, performed. Out of My Skin fits squarely in the comic-pathetic, imprisoned self literary lineage, with one small problem: It's not exactly a novel. A novel is part monologue, part marathon. The protagonist plummets through space, transformed, exhausted by the unfolding of events. He grows, mutates, reproduces, has revelations, changes his behavior or stays the same, but does not leave his skin. He is trapped, like all the rest of us, in his self. The novel is a frame, not a mask. It is the skin around the organism, the story. The book has Haskell's signature tone—a struggle for precision that can sometimes feel like a writing exercise—combined with a kind of polished insouciance. He's going to parse his way through the surface of things down to the bone, no matter who's watching or how long it takes. The beautiful thing is that he never gets there. There is no resolution, no certainty, just a determined plodding, which is somehow never dull. Revelations animate novels; they give the writer something to pivot on; their utter absence in Haskell's writing feels modern. Here we are, no religion, no single meaning, just a hall of mirrors that is reality. At first, needing a box to put it in, I thought Out of My Skin was more essay than novel. Haskell adds a love story, which gives the book a shape and a frame and a place to end, but it is secondary to his thinking about the role of the self and the nature of identity. This book is a rebellion against the novel, even as it inhabits the form."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Early in Out of My Skin, John Haskell's strange and compelling new novel, the narrator-protagonist finds himself attracted to a woman and attempts to dispel his awkwardness by channeling Cary Grant: 'Her looks and her manner were easy and natural, and I liked her. And it's natural, when you like someone, to want the feeling reciprocated. And to facilitate that reciprocation, I sat up in the beanbag, pressing my shoulder blades deeper into my back, hoping a change in my posture would effect a reaction in her . . .  I'd just seen a Cary Grant movie, and because Cary Grant, in the history of leading men, was someone I didn't mind emulating, I tried to act like him. I didn't talk like Cary Grant or do a Cary Grant imitation, but I tried to relax. And in that relaxation I became a little bit more honest.' This scene, like many throughout the novel, illustrates the paradoxical achievement of sincerity through imitation. That Cary Grant himself was an invention—created by Grant, who was born Archibald Leach, and the Hollywood studio system—further complicates the irony. But soon the narrator forsakes Grant for Steve Martin, with hilarious results . . . The author takes what sounds like a gimmick and fashions a tour de force of comic timing and surprising emotion. The narrator charms us, though at times he frightens us a bit, as the line begins to blur between winning eccentricity and pathology. Still, Haskell's narrator provocatively embodies the complex interplay between the real and the imaginary, recalling the sociologist Edgar Morin's description of cinema as a 'personality factory.' It would be too easy to read the narrator's travails in terms of stereotypical L.A. artifice and celebrity culture. For these celluloid emanations are no less 'authentic' than the myriad of other elements that influence us, consciously or not, in our ceaseless act of becoming—the landscapes of our childhood, the posture of a grandparent, the fleeting impressions of a daydream, today's weather. Out of My Skin, a richly suggestive, deeply funny and elliptically philosophical exploration of identity, is one of the most distinctive American novels of recent years."—Gregory Leon Miller, San Francisco Chronicle

"Writing fiction about writers can be tricky, but Haskell pulls it off in his offbeat Hollywood novel about a writer who leaves New York for LA after a breakup. When his newspaper-editor pal assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators, he ends up pretending to be Steve Martin. Haskell tells Required Reading he set out to do a nonfiction piece on a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. And although he's never met Martin, he says, 'My admiration for him stems less from the movies he makes—some of which are quite good; many are not—and more on a sense I have of his happiness. He writes books, plays the banjo, collects art, and he seems to be living fully, using the Hollywood machine to give himself a life of engagement and fulfillment and pleasure.'"—Billy Heller, New York Post

"Haskells first book, a collection of stories published six years ago called I Am Not Jackson Pollock, was a weird little work that almost seemed to take fiction in a new direction, by being based in fact. Each piece was a psychological exploration of a real-life character (a person or an animal), a flat, haunting, matter-of-fact description of the problems of being that character. For instance, when Mr. Haskell described the fate of Laika, the first dog in space, it seemed like the saddest thing in the world . . . Mr. Haskells writing is weirdly mesmerizing, which lends to his work an enticing air of profundity. Theres plenty of strange, thinky fiction out there, but most of it is so crazily ambitious and convoluted. John Haskells is deceptively lazy. And thats why, though it will only take a few hours to read, Out of My Skin will linger with you long after."—Hillary Frey , The New York Observer

“My novel of the year.”—Geoff Dyer, The Independent (London)

"What a weird, gutsy little novel this one is. John Haskell's Out of My Skin is about identity, and it's about self-doubt, and it's about love, and the conversations that love entails, and all the ways we fail at having those conversations. But it's also about Bertolt Brecht, Los Angeles and tacos de lengua. And it's about Steve Martin—or rather, it's about a guy trying to impersonate another guy, who himself is trying to impersonate Steve Martin. Like I said, weird. But fun, too. The plot isn't so important—basically, a New Yorker moves to L.A. and tries to find himself in spite of himself, meets a Steve Martin impersonator, decides it's not such a bad idea and starts acting like Steve Martin, too. He tries to woo a girl by 'being Steve.' He and the girl have tacos together sometimes. Things stall. He spends the rest of his time thinking about movies and acting, about Brecht and Cary Grant and what it means to take on the persona of someone else, what it means to connect with someone else and 'move through the metaphorical skin of the conversation, into the muscle and nerve and actual joint.' What stays with the reader are the layers of meaning in the novel, the questions upon questions that unfold and the meta-universe Haskell evokes, and evokes with flair. His is an easy, lackadaisical style that leads the reader down the crooked back alleys of consciousness until, before you know it, you're reflecting on the unity of everyone and everything, and 'the entire world is there, more or less in focus, and because everything is part of the same world, even if you can't quite see the entire world, you can sense what you can't see in everything you can.' Although it's technically classified as a novel, Out of My Skin is more of a long, metaphysical essay, with a few quirky characters thrown in . . . It's entertaining, and it will make you think. And as the man of the hour, Steve Martin, once said, 'I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot.'"—Tiffany Lee-Youngren, The San Diego Union-Tribune

"It's the sort of tale that is fun to read out loud . . . This is comic noir, rife with belly laughs, not bullets and bodies."—Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

"The books principal delight is the voice that Haskell lends to Jack from his halting first line: 'What happened to me was—not me, but what happened—Im from New York originally . . .' (we later learn that he is from California). Haskells prose has the halting cadence of conversational speech, perhaps because he worked as an actor and playwright in Chicago in the 1980s . . . Unlike other practitioners of what might be called overheard prose, most notably David Foster Wallace, Haskells tone is consistently reserved: distant but not cold, as if Jack were observing himself from another planet and reporting back. This approach is often methodical to the point of redundancy and can be deliberately, maddeningly vague . . . But at its best Haskells prose has an unnatural fluency that allows him to use ordinary language to express extraordinary thoughts. As the book opens Jack has been lowered in a stainless steel cage into shark-infested waters for an article about marine biologists: 'I was aware of something, just beyond my vision. And when I say aware, I mean I was sensing, from the shark, a kind of communication. And since the most rudimentary form of communication is the expression of desire, I was sensing the sharks desire. And since one of the things it was desiring was my annihilation, I cant say there wasnt a certain amount of fear. What I was trying to do was reach out through the fear, and communicate with this thing . . . I wanted to tell the shark that I understood what it wanted, and that I accepted what it wanted.' Jacks painstaking explanations often veer off into non-sequitur, or dead-end into contradiction; in these lapses one gets the sense that he has let loose some deeper truth about himself—about all selves—by mistake. One almost doesnt notice these extraordinary manoeuvres on Haskells part because Jacks voice has such a strange immediacy. This may begin to explain why Haskell can afford to stray so far into the esoteric without losing his poise. As he weaves these gauzy ruminations into the fabric of events, it becomes clear that Haskell is not aiming for New Age satire. He is composing an existential pilgrims progress, a manual for liberation from the shackles of self imposed by the world."—Jascha Hoffman, The National

"John Haskells I Am Jackson Pollock and American Purgatorio were both weirdly incredible books, and his new one, Out of My Skin, is maybe my favorite of the three yet. Im tempted to say its the best of the three, but for writing-power alone I think its probably a toss-up between this one and Jackson Pollock. Either way: dudes dynamite . . . Out of My Skin might have his most accessible sentences yet . . . For what its worth, too: I got the book on a Saturday, opened it casually, thinking Id read a few pages, and three hours later had finished it: its a book you not only can but all but have to simply devour, quickly and directly and well. Read it. Get in on John Haskell now."—Weston Cutter, Corduroy Books  

"The best new novel Ive read in several years."—Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision

"In Out of My Skin, an unnamed narrator moves from New York to LA. He starts writing an article about a guy he meets named Scott, who impersonates Steve Martin for a living. The narrator begins by simply reporting on Scott's life, but he soon finds himself taking on the role of Steve Martin instead of Scott, who leaves town. If the conceit of this excellent third novel by Jonathan Haskell sounds convoluted, just know this: the payoff is worth it. With his new life intact, the narrator falls in love with Jane, a dancer and wannabe photographer, who knows him completely as Steve Martin. After awhile though, the narrator finds that he's been Steve too long and it's no longer the same thing. The relationship begins to dissipate, and he finds he even starts to resent Steve Martin, who he's never met and doesn't truly know any better then himself. How does he move on with his life? Haskell writes simply about the lives we live, displaced in a strange alternate universe. Its to his credit that by the end of the novel, youll wish youd never left."—Lauren Becker, Venus Zine

"This short novel concerns a writer from New York who has transplanted himself to Los Angeles (the author's bio informs that he splits time between the two cities) and who apparently has the last name of 'Haskell.' The writer takes an assignment to write a feature article about a Steve Martin impersonator, and he becomes so intrigued by the process of inhabiting another's identity that he starts impersonating Martin . . . The writer meets his girlfriend after she pretends to be a photographer to capture his interest. But it may only be his Martin dimension that attracts her. His thoughts keep returning to examples of actors who transformed their identities, including the married Charles Laughton, who disguised his homosexuality, and Marlon Brando, who pretended to be a youthful motorcycle rebel when he was 35."—Kirkus Reviews

"In his excellent third book, Haskell gets into the head of a lonely writer whose shot at a second chance hinges, strangely and brilliantly, on an impersonation of an impersonation of Steve Martin. The narrator, who could or could not be named Jack, leaves New York after a breakup and lands in Los Angeles to write about movies at the invitation of his editor friend, Alan. Soon, Alan introduces him to Jane, 'an ex-dancer apparently, who wanted to learn about photography,' and assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators. When the narrator meets Scott, a Steve Martin impersonator, he begins channeling a version of the actor himself, and his impersonations mushroom into 'continuous Steve.' Meanwhile, his relationship with Jane escalates (complicated by his Steveness), he tries his hand at acting and muses about famous movies and the ways in which Hollywooders reinvent themselves. Haskell's vision is frightening and exhilarating, and his prose can imbue a spiritual glow to, for instance, a discarded raisin on a Starbucks table. It's an odd world, and certainly one worth entering."—Publishers Weekly

Review:

"In his excellent third book, Haskell gets into the head of a lonely writer whose shot at a second chance hinges, strangely and brilliantly, on an impersonation of an impersonation of Steve Martin. The narrator, who could or could not be named Jack, leaves New York after a breakup and lands in Los Angeles to write about movies at the invitation of his editor friend, Alan. Soon, Alan introduces him to Jane, 'an ex-dancer apparently, who wanted to learn about photography,' and assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators. When the narrator meets Scott, a Steve Martin impersonator, he begins channeling a version of the actor himself, and his impersonations mushroom into 'continuous Steve.' Meanwhile, his relationship with Jane escalates (complicated by his Steveness), he tries his hand at acting and muses about famous movies and the ways in which Hollywooders reinvent themselves. Haskell's vision is frightening and exhilarating, and his prose can imbue a spiritual glow to, for instance, a discarded raisin on a Starbucks table. It's an odd world, and certainly one worth entering." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

A would-be movie reviewer looking for romance takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes in Los Angeles. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one man's journey into paradise--and his attempt to come out the other side.

Synopsis:

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of himgraceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradiseand his attempt to come out the other side.
John Haskell is the author of American Purgatorio and of the short-story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of himgraceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradiseand his attempt to come out the other side.

“Gutsy, weirdly engrossing . . . This strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should.”Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

"In his first book, the story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and his novel that followed, American Purgatorio, John Haskell has messed around with the idea of the imprisoned self. It makes sense that, as a performer and a writer for the theater, Haskell would explore the possibilities and limits of identity. Referring to the stories in Jackson Pollock, in which the writer inhabits Pollock, the pianist Glenn Gould, various Hitchcock characters, Topsy the elephant and Joan of Arc, Haskell has said his books are meant to be read aloud, performed. Out of My Skin fits squarely in the comic-pathetic, imprisoned self literary lineage, with one small problem: It's not exactly a novel. A novel is part monologue, part marathon. The protagonist plummets through space, transformed, exhausted by the unfolding of events. He grows, mutates, reproduces, has revelations, changes his behavior or stays the same, but does not leave his skin. He is trapped, like all the rest of us, in his self. The novel is a frame, not a mask. It is the skin around the organism, the story. The book has Haskell's signature tonea struggle for precision that can sometimes feel like a writing exercisecombined with a kind of polished insouciance. He's going to parse his way through the surface of things down to the bone, no matter who's watching or how long it takes. The beautiful thing is that he never gets there. There is no resolution, no certainty, just a determined plodding, which is somehow never dull. Revelations animate novels; they give the writer something to pivot on; their utter absence in Haskell's writing feels modern. Here we are, no religion, no single meaning, just a hall of mirrors that is reality. At first, needing a box to put it in, I thought Out of My Skin was more essay than novel. Haskell adds a love story, which gives the book a shape and a frame and a place to end, but it is secondary to his thinking about the role of the self and the nature of identity. This book is a rebellion against the novel, even as it inhabits the form."Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Early in Out of My Skin, John Haskell's strange and compelling new novel, the narrator-protagonist finds himself attracted to a woman and attempts to dispel his awkwardness by channeling Cary Grant: 'Her looks and her manner were easy and natural, and I liked her. And it's natural, when you like someone, to want the feeling reciprocated. And to facilitate that reciprocation, I sat up in the beanbag, pressing my shoulder blades deeper into my back, hoping a change in my posture would effect a reaction in her . . .  I'd just seen a Cary Grant movie, and because Cary Grant, in the history of leading men, was someone I didn't mind emulating, I tried to act like him. I didn't talk like Cary Grant or do a Cary Grant imitation, but I tried to relax. And in that relaxation I became a little bit more honest.' This scene, like many throughout the novel, illustrates the paradoxical achievement of sincerity through imitation. That Cary Grant himself was an inventioncreated by Grant, who was born Archibald Leach, and the Hollywood studio systemfurther complicates the irony. But soon the narrator forsakes Grant for Steve Martin, with hilarious results . . . The author takes what sounds like a gimmick and fashions a tour de force of comic timing and surprising emotion. The narrator charms us, though at times he frightens us a bit, as the line begins to blur between winning eccentricity and pathology. Still, Haskell's narrator provocatively embodies the complex interplay between the real and the imaginary, recalling the sociologist Edgar Morin's description of cinema as a 'personality factory.' It would be too easy to read the narrator's travails in terms of stereotypical L.A. artifice and celebrity culture. For these celluloid emanations are no less 'authentic' than the myriad of other elements that influence us, consciously or not, in our ceaseless act of becomingthe landscapes of our childhood, the posture of a grandparent, the fleeting impressions of a daydream, today's weather. Out of My Skin, a richly suggestive, deeply funny and elliptically philosophical exploration of identity, is one of the most distinctive American novels of recent years."Gregory Leon Miller, San Francisco Chronicle

"Writing fiction about writers can be tricky, but Haskell pulls it off in his offbeat Hollywood novel about a writer who leaves New York for LA after a breakup. When his newspaper-editor pal assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators, he ends up pretending to be Steve Martin. Haskell tells Required Reading he set out to do a nonfiction piece on a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. And although he's never met Martin, he says, 'My admiration for him stems less from the movies he makessome of which are quite good; many are notand more on a sense I have of his happiness. He writes books, plays the banjo, collects art, and he seems to be living fully, using the Hollywood machine to give himself a life of engagement and fulfillment and pleasure.'"Billy Heller, New York Post

"Haskells first book, a collection of stories published six years ago called I Am Not Jackson Pollock, was a weird little work that almost seemed to take fiction in a new direction, by being based in fact. Each piece was a psychological exploration of a real-life character (a person or an animal), a flat, haunting, matter-of-fact description of the problems of being that character. For instance, when Mr. Haskell described the fate of Laika, the first dog in space, it seemed like the saddest thing in the world . . . Mr. Haskells writing is weirdly mesmerizing, which lends to his work an enticing air of profundity. Theres plenty of strange, thinky fiction out there, but most of it is so crazily ambitious and convoluted. John Haskells is deceptively lazy. And thats why, though it will only

Synopsis:

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of him—graceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradise—and his attempt to come out the other side.

About the Author

JOHN HASKELL is the author of American Purgatorio and of the short-story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374299095
Author:
Haskell, John
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
Celebrities
Subject:
Identity (psychology)
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Los angeles (calif.)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
41 Black-and-White Photographs
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
7.47 x 6.35 x 0.58 in

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History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

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Product details 224 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374299095 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In his excellent third book, Haskell gets into the head of a lonely writer whose shot at a second chance hinges, strangely and brilliantly, on an impersonation of an impersonation of Steve Martin. The narrator, who could or could not be named Jack, leaves New York after a breakup and lands in Los Angeles to write about movies at the invitation of his editor friend, Alan. Soon, Alan introduces him to Jane, 'an ex-dancer apparently, who wanted to learn about photography,' and assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators. When the narrator meets Scott, a Steve Martin impersonator, he begins channeling a version of the actor himself, and his impersonations mushroom into 'continuous Steve.' Meanwhile, his relationship with Jane escalates (complicated by his Steveness), he tries his hand at acting and muses about famous movies and the ways in which Hollywooders reinvent themselves. Haskell's vision is frightening and exhilarating, and his prose can imbue a spiritual glow to, for instance, a discarded raisin on a Starbucks table. It's an odd world, and certainly one worth entering." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , A would-be movie reviewer looking for romance takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes in Los Angeles. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one man's journey into paradise--and his attempt to come out the other side.
"Synopsis" by ,
Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of himgraceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradiseand his attempt to come out the other side.
John Haskell is the author of American Purgatorio and of the short-story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of himgraceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradiseand his attempt to come out the other side.

“Gutsy, weirdly engrossing . . . This strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should.”Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

"In his first book, the story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and his novel that followed, American Purgatorio, John Haskell has messed around with the idea of the imprisoned self. It makes sense that, as a performer and a writer for the theater, Haskell would explore the possibilities and limits of identity. Referring to the stories in Jackson Pollock, in which the writer inhabits Pollock, the pianist Glenn Gould, various Hitchcock characters, Topsy the elephant and Joan of Arc, Haskell has said his books are meant to be read aloud, performed. Out of My Skin fits squarely in the comic-pathetic, imprisoned self literary lineage, with one small problem: It's not exactly a novel. A novel is part monologue, part marathon. The protagonist plummets through space, transformed, exhausted by the unfolding of events. He grows, mutates, reproduces, has revelations, changes his behavior or stays the same, but does not leave his skin. He is trapped, like all the rest of us, in his self. The novel is a frame, not a mask. It is the skin around the organism, the story. The book has Haskell's signature tonea struggle for precision that can sometimes feel like a writing exercisecombined with a kind of polished insouciance. He's going to parse his way through the surface of things down to the bone, no matter who's watching or how long it takes. The beautiful thing is that he never gets there. There is no resolution, no certainty, just a determined plodding, which is somehow never dull. Revelations animate novels; they give the writer something to pivot on; their utter absence in Haskell's writing feels modern. Here we are, no religion, no single meaning, just a hall of mirrors that is reality. At first, needing a box to put it in, I thought Out of My Skin was more essay than novel. Haskell adds a love story, which gives the book a shape and a frame and a place to end, but it is secondary to his thinking about the role of the self and the nature of identity. This book is a rebellion against the novel, even as it inhabits the form."Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Early in Out of My Skin, John Haskell's strange and compelling new novel, the narrator-protagonist finds himself attracted to a woman and attempts to dispel his awkwardness by channeling Cary Grant: 'Her looks and her manner were easy and natural, and I liked her. And it's natural, when you like someone, to want the feeling reciprocated. And to facilitate that reciprocation, I sat up in the beanbag, pressing my shoulder blades deeper into my back, hoping a change in my posture would effect a reaction in her . . .  I'd just seen a Cary Grant movie, and because Cary Grant, in the history of leading men, was someone I didn't mind emulating, I tried to act like him. I didn't talk like Cary Grant or do a Cary Grant imitation, but I tried to relax. And in that relaxation I became a little bit more honest.' This scene, like many throughout the novel, illustrates the paradoxical achievement of sincerity through imitation. That Cary Grant himself was an inventioncreated by Grant, who was born Archibald Leach, and the Hollywood studio systemfurther complicates the irony. But soon the narrator forsakes Grant for Steve Martin, with hilarious results . . . The author takes what sounds like a gimmick and fashions a tour de force of comic timing and surprising emotion. The narrator charms us, though at times he frightens us a bit, as the line begins to blur between winning eccentricity and pathology. Still, Haskell's narrator provocatively embodies the complex interplay between the real and the imaginary, recalling the sociologist Edgar Morin's description of cinema as a 'personality factory.' It would be too easy to read the narrator's travails in terms of stereotypical L.A. artifice and celebrity culture. For these celluloid emanations are no less 'authentic' than the myriad of other elements that influence us, consciously or not, in our ceaseless act of becomingthe landscapes of our childhood, the posture of a grandparent, the fleeting impressions of a daydream, today's weather. Out of My Skin, a richly suggestive, deeply funny and elliptically philosophical exploration of identity, is one of the most distinctive American novels of recent years."Gregory Leon Miller, San Francisco Chronicle

"Writing fiction about writers can be tricky, but Haskell pulls it off in his offbeat Hollywood novel about a writer who leaves New York for LA after a breakup. When his newspaper-editor pal assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators, he ends up pretending to be Steve Martin. Haskell tells Required Reading he set out to do a nonfiction piece on a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. And although he's never met Martin, he says, 'My admiration for him stems less from the movies he makessome of which are quite good; many are notand more on a sense I have of his happiness. He writes books, plays the banjo, collects art, and he seems to be living fully, using the Hollywood machine to give himself a life of engagement and fulfillment and pleasure.'"Billy Heller, New York Post

"Haskells first book, a collection of stories published six years ago called I Am Not Jackson Pollock, was a weird little work that almost seemed to take fiction in a new direction, by being based in fact. Each piece was a psychological exploration of a real-life character (a person or an animal), a flat, haunting, matter-of-fact description of the problems of being that character. For instance, when Mr. Haskell described the fate of Laika, the first dog in space, it seemed like the saddest thing in the world . . . Mr. Haskells writing is weirdly mesmerizing, which lends to his work an enticing air of profundity. Theres plenty of strange, thinky fiction out there, but most of it is so crazily ambitious and convoluted. John Haskells is deceptively lazy. And thats why, though it will only

"Synopsis" by ,
Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of him—graceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And thats when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one mans journey into paradise—and his attempt to come out the other side.
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