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Amateur Barbariansby Robert Cohen
Synopses & Reviews
Teddy Hastings is more of a doer than a thinker, a man who measures his life by what he has built: a successful career as a middle school principal, a solid marriage, two lovely if distant daughters. But once he hits fifty, in the shadow of his younger brother's death and a health scare of his own, Teddy feels the gravitational pull of his mortality and realizes he is no longer quite so in the middle, no longer building a life but maintaining one. He yearns for delivery and transcendence, for a hint of the sublime, and is determined to find it. What he gets instead is the intrusion of the irrational in his affairs.
Oren Pierce, a perpetual grad student who has made a mark, or left a smudge anyway all over the place, has had more than enough transcendence in his life. Neither the extraordinary existence for which he assumed he was destined nor the woman with whom he assumed he would share it has materialized. In their absence he flounders in the possible, wondering what it will take to anchor himself to the supremely ordinary existence he both longs for and abhors.
The intersecting and diverging paths of these two men take them from the grids of New York City to the domesticated gardens of New England to the wildest, most unstructured landscapes of all — the bedroom, the classroom, the darkroom, and the far reaches of East Africa, where Teddy at last finds something akin to what he seeks.
Amateur Barbarians showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, laying bare the evasions and unrealities of the familiar, the odd recognition with which we view the remote, plumbing the depths of the unlived life with uncanny wit and perception, revealing yet again why Robert Cohen was touted by The New York Times Book Review as the heir to Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.
From award-winning author Cohen comes a bold, hilarious work about mid-life panic and the intersecting lives of two men on either side of their 40s.
Acclaimed, award-winning novelist Robert Cohen delivers a bold, provocative exploration of the panic of midlife, follow- ing two men plateaued on either side of their forties and the unexpected consequences of changing course.
Teddy Hastings is a New England middle school principal desperate for transcendence. Unmoored by his brother’s death and a health scare of his own, he tries to broaden his ordinary life and winds up unemployed and on the wrong side of the law. Meanwhile, Oren Pierce, a per- petual grad student from New York, abandons, somewhat to his own surprise, his search for the extraordinary and begins settling into the humble existence that Teddy seeks to escape. What comforts Oren alarms Teddy, and their paths overlap as Teddy’s quest for the unknown and unfamiliar experience takes him on a rash trip to Africa, leaving Oren to assume the trappings of his life, including Teddy’s wife Gail.
Amateur Barbarians showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, tracing domestic ambivalence, the comic perils of introspection and desire, and the terror of an unlived life with Cohen’s signature wit and uncanny perception, proving yet again why he was touted by The New York Times Book Review as the “heir to Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.”
About the Author
Robert Cohen is the author of three previous novels, The Organ Builder, The Here and Now, and Inspired Sleep, and a collection of short stories. Winner of a Lila Atcheston Wallace -Reader's Digest Writers Award, the Ribalow Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and a Whiting Award, he has published short fiction in a variety of publications — including Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review and Ploughshares. He has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Harvard University, and Middlebury College. He lives in Vermont.
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