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Seven Types of Ambiguity
"To read Australian author Elliot Perlman's epic second novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity, is to undergo a two-week therapy session....As we dig ravenously through Perlman's sentences, our charge is to sort fact from fiction, perception from actuality. It's a task as damning as it is enjoyable." Tyler Cabot, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Seven Types of Ambiguity is a psychological thriller and a literary adventure of breathtaking scope. Celebrated as a novelist in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Philip Roth, Elliot Perlman writes of impulse and paralysis, empty marriages, lovers, gambling, and the stock market; of adult children and their parents; of poetry and prostitution, psychiatry and the law. Comic, poetic, and full of satiric insight, Seven Types of Ambiguity is, above all, a deeply romantic novel that speaks with unforgettable force about the redemptive power of love.
The story is told in seven parts, by six different narrators, whose lives are entangled in unexpected ways. Following years of unrequired love, an out-of-work schoolteacher decides to take matters into his own hands, triggering a chain of events that neither he nor his psychiatrist could have anticipated. Brimming with emotional, intellectual, and moral dilemmas, this novel — reminiscent of the richest fiction of the nineteenth century in its labyrinthine complexity — unfolds at a rapid-fire pace to reveal the full extent to which these people have been affected by one another and by the insecure and uncertain times in which they live. Our times, now.
"By copping the title of William Empson's classic of literary criticism, Australian writer Perlman (Three Dollars) sets a high bar for himself, but he justifies his theft with a relentlessly driven story, told from seven perspectives, about the effects of the brief abduction of six-year-old Sam Geraghty by Simon Heywood, his mother Anna's ex-boyfriend. Charismatic, unemployed Simon is still obsessed with Anna nine years after their breakup — to the dismay of his present lover, Angelique, a prostitute. Anna's stockbroker husband, Joe, is one of Angelique's regulars, which feeds Simon's flame. When Angelique turns Simon in to the cops, he claims he had permission to pick Sam up; his fate hinges on whether Anna will back up his lie. Most of the perspectives are linked to Simon's shrink, Alex Klima, who writes to Anna and counsels Simon, Angelique and Joe's co-worker, Dennis. The most successful voices belong to Joe, who's spent his career on the edge of panic, and Dennis, whose bitter rants provide a corrective to Klima's unctuous psychological omniscience. Perlman, a lawyer, aims for a literary legal novel — think Grisham by way of Franzen — and the ambition is admirable though the product somewhat uneven. Simon's obsessions, his self-righteousness and his psychological blackmail, give him a perhaps unintended creepiness, and the novel, as big and juicy as it is, may not offer sufficient closure. Agent, Sarah Chalfant." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he novel works, and, for many readers, it will work in spades. The Australian-born Perlman reaches for the brass ring, and he successfully shapes this heady material into an all-too-rare literary page-turner." Library Journal
"Long enough to tell everything that needs to be told, but never ponderous and never overdone. George Eliot down under." Kirkus Reviews
"Seven Types of Ambiguity amply rewards as well as frustrates the indulgent reader's patience." The Village Voice
"This is a brilliant book, written in the unadorned style of a Raymond Carver, but with the wild metaphysical vision of a Thomas Pynchon. It is that most unusual thing — a novel that is both intellectually fun and spiritually harrowing." Baltimore Sun
"[T]his is an exciting gamble of a novel, one willing to lose its shirt in its bid to hold you. Be prepared to give it time. Be prepared to skim when you come to a particularly annoying digression. But most of all be prepared to stay with it for the long haul. It's worth it." Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Book Review
A psychological thriller and deeply romantic novel that speaks with unforgettable force about the redemptive power of love, this story is told in seven parts, by six different narrators whose lives are entangled in unexpected ways.
How breathtakingly close we are to lives that at first seem so far away.
From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing one another every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some stories survive to become history.
Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams, an African American probationary janitor in a Manhattan hospital and father of a little girl he can’t locate, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an elderly patient, a Holocaust survivor who was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
A few blocks uptown, historian Adam Zignelik, an untenured Columbia professor, finds both his career and his long-term romantic relationship falling apart. Emerging from the depths of his own personal history, Adam sees, in a promising research topic suggested by an American World War II veteran, the beginnings of something that might just save him professionally, and perhaps even personally.
As these men try to survive in early-twenty-first-century New York, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Two very different paths—Lamont’s and Adam’s—lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, spans the twentieth century to the present, and spans the globe from New York to Chicago to Auschwitz.
Epic in scope, this is a remarkable feat of storytelling.
More information to be announced soon on this forthcoming title from Penguin USA.
About the Author
Elliot Perlman was born in Australia. He is the author of the short-story collection The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, which won the Betty Trask Award (UK) and the Fellowship of Australian Writers Book of the Year Award. Riverhead Books will publish this collection in 2005.
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