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You Deserve Nothingby Alexander Maksik
Synopses & Reviews
Set in Paris, at an international high school catering to the sons and daughters of wealthy families, You Deserve Nothing is a gripping story of power, idealism, and morality.
William Silver is a talented and charismatic young teacher whose unconventional methods raise eyebrows among his colleagues and superiors. His students, however, are devoted to him. His teaching of Camus, Faulkner, Sartre, Keats and other kindred souls breathe life into their sense of social justice and their capacities for philosophical and ethical thought. But unbeknownst to his adoring pupils, Silver proves incapable of living up to the ideals he encourages in others. Emotionally scarred by failures in his personal life and driven to distraction by the City of Light's overpowering carnality and beauty, Silver succumbs to a temptation that will change the course of his life. His fall will render him a criminal in the eyes of some, and all too human in the eyes of others.
In Maksik's stylish prose, Paris is sensual, dazzling and dangerously seductive. It serves as a fitting backdrop for a dramatic tale about the tension between desire and action, and about the complex relationship that exists between our public and private selves.
"Maksik's solid debut, the first book from Europa's new Tonga imprint, is set at an international high school in Paris. Will Silver is adored by his students for pushing them to think for themselves and to take responsibility for their decisions. Silver is wonderful at prompting others to live a courageous life, but, his students soon learn, he doesn't always live up to those ideals himself. He becomes secretly involved with Marie, a loudmouthed student at the school, whose best friend/worst enemy Ariel is in Silver's class along with Gilad, for whom Paris is just the next in a long line of cities he's called home. Paris itself threads throughout Maksik's novel, a character in its own right, sometimes supporting the action, sometimes contrasting it, and clearly a place that Maksik knows well. The author gives alternating first-person voice to Will, Marie, and Gilad, and chooses not to investigate Silver's motivation behind the affair, which can be frustrating. But the consequences resonate loud and clear. This is a thoughtful and sad story, ending with questions about the futures of everyone involved. Silver has been knocked off his pedestal, and what will become of the students is anyone's guess." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"One of the most engaged reads I've had in years." Alice Sebold
"Alexander Maksik deftly evokes the beauty and pathos of Paris, and the story of Will, Gilad and Marie — each compelled towards moral and sexual awakening — is at once dark and luminous. This is a book to be read all at once with a glass of wine in a cafe, or a cup of tea while tucked safely in bed." A.M. Homes
"You Deserve Nothing is a powerful, absorbing novel about a charismatic expatriate teacher and the students whose lives he transforms, for better and worse. Alexander Maksik is an unusually gifted writer." Tom Perrotta
"You Deserve Nothing rings true from first page to last. Here is a writer who understands why the artful telling of a difficult story is a brave and important thing to do. Read this book." John Burnham Schwartz
"A provocative, constantly surprising, and original novel. This is a thrilling debut." Susanna Moore
"Maksik's superb novel takes on the most fundamental question — 'how are we supposed to live?' — with a freshness and urgency that are nothing short of masterful. This is a gorgeous book, as honest and rich a depiction of life's contradictions as I've encountered in many years." Ben Fountain
"Alexander Maksik's first novel, You Deserve Nothing, is a thoroughly engaging, passionate, and challenging read that finely walks the line between morality and amorality. In a society, and at a time, when individual identity is so closely tied to collective narcissism, Maksik's novel asks what are the true sources of selfworth? And how shall we live?" Tom Jenks, editor, Narrative magazine
About the Author
Alexander Maksik is the recipient of a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching/Writing fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He's presently the Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa. You Deserve Nothing is his first novel. He lives in Paris and Iowa City.
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