Independent Publisher Book Award for Fiction 2009
Synopses & Reviews
Acclaimed writer Jeffrey Lewis is known for his deft portrayals of relatable figures from all walks of life. In The Meritocracy Quartet
, his four interlinking novelsMeritocracy: A Love Story
, The Conference of the Birds
, Theme Song for an Old Show
, and Adam the King
have been brought together for the first time into a single volume. Set against the backdrop of the changing American landscape over four decades, The Meritocracy Quartet
is a testament to the countrys evolving personality.
The quartet follows Louie, a Yale graduate from a modest background with a gift for forging connections in high and low places. Beginning in the 1960s, as he documents a going-away party for a fellow Yalie on his way to Vietnam, and continuing through his spiritual encounters with a 1970s group of city misfits, his turn to television writing in the 1980s, and a tragic love story between two of his close friends in the 1990s, Louie chronicles not only his own personal struggleshis silent love for his best friends girl, his delicate relationship with an at-times absent fatherbut also the attitudes, events, and people that marked his generation. From the Vietnam War to George W. Bush, from television trends to the divide between the haves and have-nots, The Meritocracy Quartet is a moving witness to everything America had to offer in the latter portion of the twentieth century.
"Lewis's gripping fourth novel (after Theme Song for an Old Show) traces one man's heroic but flawed attempt to make good of past mistakes. In the summer town of Clement Cove, Maine, billionaire Adam Bloch, now in his 50s, returns to build an outsized mansion with his new wife, Maisie Maclaren, a prominent local family's divorced daughter. Bloch still smolders from the shame of having been involved decades ago in the car accident that killed Maisie's sister, Sascha an event not forgotten or quite forgiven by the locals, among whom is the narrator, an interested observer. While Bloch adores Maisie and hopes his new marriage will provide 'the antidote to tragedy,' Maisie's feelings for Bloch seem lukewarm, and her desire for a pool at the mansion pits them against longtime resident Verna Hubbard, who doesn't want to sell her adjoining spit of land and trailer to Bloch. Lewis juxtaposes the opinions of the locals at the general store as a kind of Greek chorus while the struggle between rich and poor plays out. The narrative is tense, and Lewis's well-meaning, blinkered hero is a marvelous creation." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The wedding of billionaire Adam Bloch and Maisie Maclaren is the event of the year in Clement's Cove, Maine–a town in which the mansion-like "cottages" of the summering elite sit side-by-side with the modest homes of working-class locals. Adam, a shy, tentative man with a terrible tragedy in his past, has, at fifty-four, reached the moment in his life when he feels he is finally ready to live–and yet he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. When Maisie asks for a lap pool so she can strengthen her body, debilitated by years of Hodgkin's disease, Adam approaches his neighbor with a generous offer to buy the plot of land on which her trailer sits to make room for the pool. She refuses, and a chain of events is set in motion that pits Adam against his neighbors, the new rich against those scraping by, outsider against old-timer, in an escalating struggle that can only end in catastrophe.
Taut, swift, and startling, Adam the King depicts the inexorability of fate against the backdrop of the money-mad '90s, the emptiness of raging ambition and the fallout of the drift toward conservative politics and values.
Set against the backdrop of four decades of changing American landscape, the characters in The Meritocracy Quartet sweep in and out of this grand narrative, reflecting the passage of time and the rise of different social and cultural ideals. The four novels are a testament to Americas changing personality - each seeking to define it for themselves. For America is the central character, the panorama against which the characters play out their lives.
About the Author
Jeffrey Lewis won two Emmys and many other honors as a writer and producer of Hill Street Blues. His "Meritocracy Quartet" is intended to chart the progress of a generation. The first book of the quartet, Meritocracy: A Love Story, won both the Independent Publishers Book Award for General Fiction and the ForeWord Book of the Year Silver Award for Fiction. He lives in Los Angeles and Castine, Maine.
Reading Group Guide
1. The author has suggested that Adam the King is a tragedy in novel form. What aspects of classical tragedy are present in the form and story of the book?
2. To what extent does Adam the King suggest the zeigeist of the 90's, the Clinton years?
3. Should Adam have married Maisie?
4. Should Maisie have married Adam?
5. What does the chorus of village people add to the book?
6. People's relationship to land seems to be an important theme of the book. What does the land find out about each of the main characters?
7. Adam as end-of-the-century assimilated Jew. Is it key to the book, or only incidental?
8. Adam, despite his money, despite his guilty past, aspires to "normality." Is there anything "normal" about this? Is "normality" feasible for a man like him? Does "normality" mean anything, finally, or is it simply a telling of Adam's dream?
9. How would you describe the feelings that Verna and Roy have for each other?
10. What does her daddy's boat mean to Verna? To Roy? To each about the other? To Adam Bloch?
11. Is the book too hard on any of its characters?
12. Adam the King is the culmination of Jeffrey Lewis's Meritocracy Quartet. If you have read the other books, does it seem a fitting conclusion? If you have not, do you feel you've missed anything?