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American Purgatorio

by

American Purgatorio Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"[A] strange and brainy first novel....Haskell has an ear for the banal, and his narrator relates the language he overhears and the behavior he witnesses with a deadpan, almost emo earnestness. But Haskell can also be...a careful dissector of emotion and spirit....American Purgatorio gets at the big questions, like love and death, while still being mysterious and amusing and deeply original." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A mesmerizing first novel about a man, a woman, and a disappearance.

"I'm from Chicago originally. I went to New York, married a girl named Anne, and was in the middle of living happily ever after when something happened."

So begins John Haskell's mesmerizing first novel, American Purgatorio, the story of a happily married man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his life has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that is by turns tragic and comic, compassionate and gripping. From the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California, American Purgatorio follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral. It confirms John Haskell's reputation as one of our most intriguing new writers, "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Susan Reynolds, Los Angeles Times).

Review:

"A man scrutinizes what it means to live and love during a cross-country search for his missing wife in a prickly, penetrating novel by the author of I Am Not Jackson Pollock. After stopping for gas on his way to his mother-in-law's house, the narrator, Jack, emerges from a convenience store to find that his car and his wife, Anne, are nowhere to be found. After making his way back home, Jack discovers a U.S. map marked with an apparent route; imagining that this will lead him to his wife, he buys another car and sets off. Haskell twists the essential mystery — what happened to Anne? — into a meticulous, probing investigation of one man's desires, fears and coping mechanisms, a tactic that somewhat slows the narrative but results in existential chewiness. As Jack makes his way to Kentucky, Colorado, California, he encounters odd but sympathetic strangers, many of whom are likewise journeying, most of whom aid him and some of whom seem like reflections of himself. The cool, intentionally deadened prose can make for difficult reading; that Haskell turns the notion of the unreliable narrator on its head not once but twice will redeem everything for some readers and make others feel tricked. Chapters named for the seven deadly sins (in Latin) signal Jack's path through pride and sloth, through a world that feels both banally familiar and utterly alien — an American purgatory — in this strange and compelling novel. Agent, Derek Johns at A.P. Watt (London). (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[T]he complex and sometimes comical plot keep the reader glued to every page until the astonishing ending. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Stunningly sophisticated stories in which everything is new." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"American Purgatorio is a serious, admirable novel, well worth reading." Washington Post

Review:

"Overwrought, obvious, self-conscious: likely to be a big disappointment for fans of Haskell's often-brilliant stories." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Turn the last page, and you'll realize that this strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should: it has left an impression." New York Times

Synopsis:

American Purgatorio is the story of a happily married man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his wife has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that ranges from the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California. The novel follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral, and confirms John Haskell's reputation as "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Los Angeles Times).

Synopsis:

American Purgatorio is the story of a happily married man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his wife has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that ranges from the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California. The novel follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral, and confirms John Haskell's reputation as "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Los Angeles Times).
John Haskell is the author of a short-story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollack. His work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, Conjunctions, The Believer, and Ploughshares. He is a contributor to the radio show The Next Best Thing. He lives in Brooklyn.
"I'm from Chicago originally. I went to New York, married a girl named Anne, and was in the middle of living happily ever after when something happened."

So begins John Haskell's mesmerizing first novel, American Purgatorio, the story of a man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his life has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, Haskell tells a taleat once a detective story and a mediation on the seven deadly sinsthat is by turns tragic and comic, compassionate and gripping. From the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California, American Purgatorio follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral. It confirms John Haskell's reputation as one of our most intriguing new writers, "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities (Susan Salter Reynold, Los Angeles Times).

"American Purgatorio, John Haskell's gutsy, weirdly engrossing first novel, is a domestic interpretation of Dante. It's a road story divided into seven sections, each named for a deadly sin, with a hero, Jack, who pursues his lost love from Brooklyn to San Diego . . . Haskell, the author of a quirky collection of stories, I Am Not Jackson Pollack, can offer startling visual detail . . . Turn the last page, and you'll realize that this strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should: it has left an impression."Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

"Hypnotic . . . It's nearly impossible to sumarize in a review without detracting from the impact of the gradually unraveling structure . . . Is this a thriller? Amnesia fiction? A metaphysical road novel? A puzzle? The answer is all of the above, of course."The Village Voice

 
"Make no mistake: this is not an ordinary novel . . . [it is] a literary affirmation of fiction's potential to go beyond mere scene . . . and tap into the deepest roots of human motive."San Francisco Chronicle
 
"One of those books that sets the reader's mind in new directions."Houston Chronicle
 
"If it's not for his poignant and unmatched blend of pop culture and literary intelligence, then the reason Haskell is the United States' most significant new voice is because of sentences like this one: 'As I watched her walk I told myself, This is what I have to do, meaning, This is what I feel, meaning, This is who I think I have to be.'"Lee Henderson, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"All suspicions are now confirmed. Haskell is a terrific writer."The Buffalo News

 
"Haskell, whose short story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock promised the raw wit of thirtysomething passive-aggressive lit, now proves that he can keep it going for the novel, adding mystery and kindness to his palette."Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Haunting . . . It would have been easy for John Haskell to turn this novel into a mere literary trick, drawing in the reader with technical virtuosity. But the grace of it all is that he infuses this strange world with the sense of consequence, that as the novel progresses, we become more invested in the narrator's life, more weighted with the sense of his loss. Haskell puts his finger on the anxiety of the present moment, the struggle to remain there, holding onto those little glimpses of wisdom that seems to vanish as quickly as they arrive."Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"This first novel by the author of the story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock has a riveting beginning: the narrator walks out of a service center on a New Jersey parkway to discover that his wife, Anne, has disappeared in their car. Unable to wait for an explanation, he purchases a used car from a neighbor and begins a journey from New York to San Diego that is dictated by coincidence and his determined belief that Anne is still alive. Each chapter is loosely based on one of the seven deadly sins and levels from Dante's Purgatorio and is populated by various characters, especially women who have some mystical relationship to Anne that the narrator tries to interpret. The tone becomes foreboding as he struggles to define reality and what inhabits only his imagination. 'Like sunscreen,' he reasons, 'you have to put up a shield or membrane that keeps that side or that thought or that vision from disrupting what's on this side.' Characters like the homeless beggar Polino and the complex and sometimes comical plot keep the reader glued to every page until the astonishing ending. Highly recommended."Library Journal

"A man scrutinizes what it means to live and love during a cross-country search for his missing wife in a prickly, penetrating novel by the author of I Am Not Jackson Pollock. After stopping for gas on his way to his mother-in-law's house, the narrator, Jack, emerges from a convenience store to find that his car and his wife, Anne, are nowhere to be found. After making his way back home, Jack discovers a U.S. map marked with an apparent route; imagining that this will lead him to his wife, he buys another car and sets off. Haskell twists the essential mysterywhat happened to Anne?into a meticulous, probing investigation of one man's desires, fears and coping mechanisms, a tactic that somewhat slows the narrative but results in existential chewiness. As Jack makes his way to Kentucky, Colorado, California, he encounters odd but sympathetic strangers, many of whom are likewise journeying, most of whom aid him and some of whom seem like reflections of himself. The cool, intentionally deadened prose can make for difficult reading; that Haskell turns the notion of the unreliable narrator on its head not once but twice will redeem everything for some readers and make others feel tricked. Chapters named for the seven deadly sins (in Latin) signal Jack's path through pride and sloth, through a world that feels both banally familiar and utterly alienan American purgatoryin this strange and compelling novel."Publishers Weekly

About the Author

John Haskell is the author of a short-story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollock (FSG, 2003). His work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, Conjunctions and Ploughshares. He is a contributor to the radio show The Next Big Thing. He lives in Brooklyn.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312424992
Author:
Haskell, John
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Action
Subject:
Adventure
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Thrillers/Suspense
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20060131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
264
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.562 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

American Purgatorio New Trade Paper
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Product details 264 pages Picador USA - English 9780312424992 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A man scrutinizes what it means to live and love during a cross-country search for his missing wife in a prickly, penetrating novel by the author of I Am Not Jackson Pollock. After stopping for gas on his way to his mother-in-law's house, the narrator, Jack, emerges from a convenience store to find that his car and his wife, Anne, are nowhere to be found. After making his way back home, Jack discovers a U.S. map marked with an apparent route; imagining that this will lead him to his wife, he buys another car and sets off. Haskell twists the essential mystery — what happened to Anne? — into a meticulous, probing investigation of one man's desires, fears and coping mechanisms, a tactic that somewhat slows the narrative but results in existential chewiness. As Jack makes his way to Kentucky, Colorado, California, he encounters odd but sympathetic strangers, many of whom are likewise journeying, most of whom aid him and some of whom seem like reflections of himself. The cool, intentionally deadened prose can make for difficult reading; that Haskell turns the notion of the unreliable narrator on its head not once but twice will redeem everything for some readers and make others feel tricked. Chapters named for the seven deadly sins (in Latin) signal Jack's path through pride and sloth, through a world that feels both banally familiar and utterly alien — an American purgatory — in this strange and compelling novel. Agent, Derek Johns at A.P. Watt (London). (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] strange and brainy first novel....Haskell has an ear for the banal, and his narrator relates the language he overhears and the behavior he witnesses with a deadpan, almost emo earnestness. But Haskell can also be...a careful dissector of emotion and spirit....American Purgatorio gets at the big questions, like love and death, while still being mysterious and amusing and deeply original." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "[T]he complex and sometimes comical plot keep the reader glued to every page until the astonishing ending. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Stunningly sophisticated stories in which everything is new."
"Review" by , "American Purgatorio is a serious, admirable novel, well worth reading."
"Review" by , "Overwrought, obvious, self-conscious: likely to be a big disappointment for fans of Haskell's often-brilliant stories."
"Review" by , "Turn the last page, and you'll realize that this strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should: it has left an impression."
"Synopsis" by ,
American Purgatorio is the story of a happily married man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his wife has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that ranges from the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California. The novel follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral, and confirms John Haskell's reputation as "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Los Angeles Times).

"Synopsis" by ,
American Purgatorio is the story of a happily married man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his wife has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that ranges from the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California. The novel follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral, and confirms John Haskell's reputation as "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Los Angeles Times).
John Haskell is the author of a short-story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollack. His work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, Conjunctions, The Believer, and Ploughshares. He is a contributor to the radio show The Next Best Thing. He lives in Brooklyn.
"I'm from Chicago originally. I went to New York, married a girl named Anne, and was in the middle of living happily ever after when something happened."

So begins John Haskell's mesmerizing first novel, American Purgatorio, the story of a man who discovers, as he walks out of a convenience store, that his life has suddenly vanished. In cool, precise prose, Haskell tells a taleat once a detective story and a mediation on the seven deadly sinsthat is by turns tragic and comic, compassionate and gripping. From the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California, American Purgatorio follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral. It confirms John Haskell's reputation as one of our most intriguing new writers, "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities (Susan Salter Reynold, Los Angeles Times).

"American Purgatorio, John Haskell's gutsy, weirdly engrossing first novel, is a domestic interpretation of Dante. It's a road story divided into seven sections, each named for a deadly sin, with a hero, Jack, who pursues his lost love from Brooklyn to San Diego . . . Haskell, the author of a quirky collection of stories, I Am Not Jackson Pollack, can offer startling visual detail . . . Turn the last page, and you'll realize that this strange, moving book has done just what a first novel should: it has left an impression."Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

"Hypnotic . . . It's nearly impossible to sumarize in a review without detracting from the impact of the gradually unraveling structure . . . Is this a thriller? Amnesia fiction? A metaphysical road novel? A puzzle? The answer is all of the above, of course."The Village Voice

 
"Make no mistake: this is not an ordinary novel . . . [it is] a literary affirmation of fiction's potential to go beyond mere scene . . . and tap into the deepest roots of human motive."San Francisco Chronicle
 
"One of those books that sets the reader's mind in new directions."Houston Chronicle
 
"If it's not for his poignant and unmatched blend of pop culture and literary intelligence, then the reason Haskell is the United States' most significant new voice is because of sentences like this one: 'As I watched her walk I told myself, This is what I have to do, meaning, This is what I feel, meaning, This is who I think I have to be.'"Lee Henderson, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"All suspicions are now confirmed. Haskell is a terrific writer."The Buffalo News

 
"Haskell, whose short story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock promised the raw wit of thirtysomething passive-aggressive lit, now proves that he can keep it going for the novel, adding mystery and kindness to his palette."Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Haunting . . . It would have been easy for John Haskell to turn this novel into a mere literary trick, drawing in the reader with technical virtuosity. But the grace of it all is that he infuses this strange world with the sense of consequence, that as the novel progresses, we become more invested in the narrator's life, more weighted with the sense of his loss. Haskell puts his finger on the anxiety of the present moment, the struggle to remain there, holding onto those little glimpses of wisdom that seems to vanish as quickly as they arrive."Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"This first novel by the author of the story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock has a riveting beginning: the narrator walks out of a service center on a New Jersey parkway to discover that his wife, Anne, has disappeared in their car. Unable to wait for an explanation, he purchases a used car from a neighbor and begins a journey from New York to San Diego that is dictated by coincidence and his determined belief that Anne is still alive. Each chapter is loosely based on one of the seven deadly sins and levels from Dante's Purgatorio and is populated by various characters, especially women who have some mystical relationship to Anne that the narrator tries to interpret. The tone becomes foreboding as he struggles to define reality and what inhabits only his imagination. 'Like sunscreen,' he reasons, 'you have to put up a shield or membrane that keeps that side or that thought or that vision from disrupting what's on this side.' Characters like the homeless beggar Polino and the complex and sometimes comical plot keep the reader glued to every page until the astonishing ending. Highly recommended."Library Journal

"A man scrutinizes what it means to live and love during a cross-country search for his missing wife in a prickly, penetrating novel by the author of I Am Not Jackson Pollock. After stopping for gas on his way to his mother-in-law's house, the narrator, Jack, emerges from a convenience store to find that his car and his wife, Anne, are nowhere to be found. After making his way back home, Jack discovers a U.S. map marked with an apparent route; imagining that this will lead him to his wife, he buys another car and sets off. Haskell twists the essential mysterywhat happened to Anne?into a meticulous, probing investigation of one man's desires, fears and coping mechanisms, a tactic that somewhat slows the narrative but results in existential chewiness. As Jack makes his way to Kentucky, Colorado, California, he encounters odd but sympathetic strangers, many of whom are likewise journeying, most of whom aid him and some of whom seem like reflections of himself. The cool, intentionally deadened prose can make for difficult reading; that Haskell turns the notion of the unreliable narrator on its head not once but twice will redeem everything for some readers and make others feel tricked. Chapters named for the seven deadly sins (in Latin) signal Jack's path through pride and sloth, through a world that feels both banally familiar and utterly alienan American purgatoryin this strange and compelling novel."Publishers Weekly

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