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Pby Andrew Conn
Synopses & Reviews
P tells the story of Benjamin Seymour, a failed New York City pornographer obsessed with his lost love, and Finn, a ten-year-old runaway girl genius. Separately and then together, they wander the city, searching for home and family. Most of their story takes place over the course of a single day, and the novel telescopes out from Benji and Finn's quest to embrace a wide variety of characters and themes. The pair's perambulations around the city are matched by inward journeys into consciousness and the very nature of language and storytelling itself. One chapter is written in the form of newspaper headlines and articles, one is composed of thirteen vignettes which follow major and minor characters around the city, one is a series of questions and answers, one is a stream of consciousness monologue sans punctuation, and one chapter, the center of the book and its climax, is written in the form of a full-length screenplay.
P is at once profane and sacred, scabrous and lyrical, pop and academic, raunchy and romantic. The novel is of our cultural moment while also tied to a literary tradition that begins with Laurence Sterne's Tristam Shandy and continues through James Joyce, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, and down to Conn's contemporary, Jonathan Safran Foer. It is also a heartbreaking work, formally ambitious and imaginatively adventurous, from a superb young writer operating in a major key.
"Patterned on Ulysses, crammed with an entire liberal arts education, this debut's vast ambition goes up against Conn's obvious and genuine talent: against all odds, talent wins....Despite sometimes precious, self-congratulatory prose, smart but easy puns...and a brittle stylistic cleverness...Conn sends us on an engaging, entertaining, funny, and moving trip. A writer to watch." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[T]he literary equivalent of a cover song....[Its] accomplishments are considerable, but Conn's novel is hamstrung by its slavish devotion to Ulysses. Overschematic and hyperallusive, P will be mystifying to those unfamiliar with the source material and vexing to those who know it....One hopes that Conn will next apply his gifts to a more freewheeling project." Publishers Weekly
"Conn's novel is a young man's declaration of wild ambition, an attempt to distill every cinematic and (in Conn's case) literary reference he can in the course of telling his story....It's a 'Lookee what I can do, Ma!' performance, and often its brilliance is inseparable from what makes it maddening. But there's no doubt you're in the presence of someone with undisciplined talent, and the book's very immodesty is its saving grace. Please, God, give me young writers who put themselves on the line rather than those who take refuge in the exquisitely sculpted dead sentences they learn in graduate programs and writers' colonies....There are times reading P when you suspect that the book's stylistic showmanship...is aimed at disguising the basic triteness of the story....What sustains P is the wildness of Conn's imagination, his willingness to go too far....Many first works can't help showing their influences — and even Conn's joking acknowledgment of those influences can't hide his debt to them. But there is enough in P that is real, that is felt, and that is observed to make you think you are experiencing the genesis of a very talented novelist. P passes a very crucial test: Putting it down, as irritated as I was enthralled, I had no doubt that I'll read Conn's next novel in a heartbeat." Charles Taylor, Salon.com
"With P, Andrew Lewis Conn explodes on the literary scene. This is a first novel that is hilarious yet haunting, clever yet profound. P is a work of imagination and skill that also manages to be one of the best New York stories ever told. Benjamin Seymour, his unlikely hero, is as fresh a creation as I've read in years." Thomas Kelly, author of The Rackets and Payback
"Stunningly visual and fearlessly verbal, Andrew Lewis Conn has written a pornographic Manhattan Transfer for the 21st century. Beneath the stained surface, beside the side-splitting humor, there lurks a sadness the depth of which is almost hard to believe." Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"Like a dirtier, cooler Tom Wolfe, Andrew Lewis Conn has created a crooked and completely compelling world where hustlers, heartthrobs, poetic pornographers and lost little girls wander around and collide in modern Manhattan. A wildly inventive and moving modern tale of sin and redemption." Rebecca Godfrey, author of The Torn Skirt
This is the story of an unlikely duo — Benjamin Seymour, a failed pornographer, and Finn, a ten-year-old girl genius who has run away from home. Over the course of one day — sometimes separately and sometimes together — they wander the city looking for some semblance of belonging. There, the novel grows to include a diverse cast of characters and themes that support the inward journey of each. The narration veers into an array of literary forms to best reflect the heartbreaking quest of its main characters. Each new chapter comes as a surprise, as Conn employs such storytelling methods as the newsreel, Q and A, stream of consciousness, and screenplay to propel this raunchy and romantic debut tale.
P tells the story of Benjamin Seymour, a failed pornographer obsessed over his lost love, and Finn, a ten-year-old runaway girl genius. Separately and then together they wander the city, searching for home and family. Taking place mostly over the course of a single day, the novel telescopes out from Benji and Finns quest to embrace a wide variety of characters and themes; the external journey matched by inward journeys into consciousness and the very nature of language and storytelling itself. One chapter of the book is written in the form of newspaper headlines and articles; one chapter is composed of thirteen vignettes following major and minor characters as they move about the city; one chapter is written in question and answer form; one chapter is a punctuation-less stream of consciousness monologue; and one chapter, the center of the book and its climax, is written in the form of a full-length screenplay.
The story of Benjamin Seymour, a failed pornographer obsessed over his lost love, and Finn, a ten-year-old runaway girl genius.
About the Author
A Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University, Andrew Lewis Conn is a writer and critic. Since 1997, Conn has been a contributing writer at Film Comment, the official publication of The Film Society of Lincoln Center. His essay, "The Bad Review Happiness Deserves, Or: The Tyranny of Critic-Proof Movies," a Film Comment article Conn wrote about Todd Solondz's film Happiness, was singled out by critic Charles Taylor in "Salon Salutes," and Time Out New York critic Mike D'Angelo, who called the essay, "the best piece of film writing of the year." Since 2000 Conn has also contributed film criticism to Time Out New York.
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