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Ticknor: A Novelby Sheila Heti
"Ticknor seems at first little more than a darkly amusing monologue, but it is, in the end, a work brilliantly crafted to deliver its revelations and redemptions. It is stylish and slim, but original, and full of feeling." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
"A small masterpiece" (National Post) — an utterly original first novel from a rising international star.
On a cold, rainy night, an aging bachelor named George Ticknor prepares to visit his childhood friend Prescott, now one of the leading intellectual lights of their generation. Reviewing a life of petty humiliations, and his friend's brilliant career, Ticknor sets out for the dinner party — a party at which he'd just as soon never arrive.
Distantly inspired by the real-life friendship between the great historian William Hickling Prescott and his biographer, Ticknor is a witty, fantastical study in resentment. It recalls such modern masterpieces of obsession as Thomas Bernhard's The Loser and Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine and announces the arrival of a charming and original novelist, one whose stories have already earned her a passionate international following.
"The rancorous, interminable friendship between a Great Man and his envious, self-pitying biographer drives this cleverly coiled narrative by Canadian author Heti (The Middle Stories). As Heti notes, she has based this slender, first-person work on American George Ticknor's mid-19th-century biography of historian William Hickling Prescott, but the lonely, querulous voice of her invented George is all her own. The book opens as George steps out on a rainy Boston night to answer a rare, longed for invitation to dinner at the illustrious Prescotts of Beacon Street; he and William Prescott were childhood friends. The loss of an eye during a boyhood frolic galvanized William, who resolved to always overcome adversity — and cheerfully so. He has subsequently gained fame and admiration from his historiography and sunny nature. George, by contrast, is poor, morose and covetous. What he does possess is a terrible guilt, never expressed to William, about his possible role in the mishap that changed William's life. Heti's narrative is as deliciously intimate and clue-riddled as a Poe story. (Apr.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With this austere one-note monologue, Heti offers a plate of sour grapes. Ultimately, her work is not daring or terribly experimental." Kirkus Reviews
"[N]ot really a novel at all but rather an extended prose poem conveying a mood of overwhelming envy and sour grapes. As such, Ticknor will appeal mainly to writers and critics interested in literary experimentation, rather than general readers looking for a satisfying yarn." Library Journal
"If this singular and delightful novel has any precedents, they're tucked away somewhere between Beckett's early comedies and Nabokov's [Laughter in the Dark] or Despair. Ticknor is a beautifully fashioned little cameo. It's also one of the saddest books I've read in years." John Wray, author of Canaan's Tongue
"By the sheer power of imagination and formal invention, Heti creates in Ticknor a book that seems to occupy two time periods at once, the past and the present. She pulls this off with sly humour and economical...writing. And though the book is slim, its slimness should not be mistaken for slightness. Heti packs more life and literary pleasure into Ticknor than most authors do in novels three or four times its length." David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha
On a cold, rainy night, an aging bachelor named George Ticknor prepares to visit his childhood friend Prescott, a successful man who is now one of the leading intellectual lights of their generation. With a hastily baked pie in his hands, and a lifetime of guilt and insecurity weighing upon his soul, he sets out for the Prescotts' dinner party--a party at which he'd just as soon never arrive. Distantly inspired by the real-life friendship between the great historian William Hickling Prescott and his biographer, Ticknor is a witty, fantastical study of resentment; and a biting history of a one-sided friendship.
About the Author
Sheila Heti is the author of The Middle Stories and a founder of the Trampoline Hall lecture series. Her full-length musical, All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, will tour Canada in 2006. She lives in Montreal.
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