Synopses & Reviews
"A story at once joyous, funny and bittersweet, told with delicate artistry and an aching regard for human frailty. For some readers, Brian Morton may still be an undiscovered treasure. He won't be for long." --Newsday
Isaac and Nora haven't seen each other in five years, yet when Nora phones Isaac late one night, he knows who it is before she speaks. The two rediscover their love, and Nora, a writer, is soon on fire with the best work she has ever done. Absorbed by her writing, she doesn't realize at first that her story is a fictionalized portrait of Isaac, exposing his frailties and compromises, sure to be viewed by him as a betrayal. The conflict tests the limits of their relationship and raises deeply complex questions about how we remain faithful to our calling if it estranges us from the people we love.
"An absolute pleasure... " -- Seattle Times
Brian Morton is the author of The Dylanist and Starting Out in the Evening. He has received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koret Jewish Book Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim Foundation Award, and has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Morton lives in New York City.
"Morton's warm yet analytical prose gives the familiar scenes a fresh, revelatory feel....The modesty of this novel gracefully offsets the delicacy and insight with which Morton writes about the junction of love and art." Publishers Weekly
"Nora and Isaac are wonderfully well drawn, an angular, asymmetrical pair whose love has nothing to do with happy endings." New York Times
"There are no easy answers, according to this novel, which digs deep to sift out what people are made of. Perhaps it cannot ultimately answer the question of what finally matters in life and love, but at least it does try." Library Journal
"Morton is particularly skilled at describing the sharp rattle of artistic failure, and at bringing to life the streets and rooms of New York, where the fates of his lonely and desperate characters unfold." New Yorker
Isaac and Nora haven't seen each other in five years, yet when Nora phones Isaac late one night, he knows who it is before she's spoken a word. Isaac, a photographer, is relinquishing his artistic career, while Nora, a writer, is seeking to rededicate herself to hers.
Fueled by their rediscovered love, Nora is soon on fire with the best work she's ever done, until she realizes that the story she's writing has turned into a fictionalized portrait of Isaac, exposing his frailties and compromises and sure to be viewed by him as a betrayal. How do we remain faithful to our calling if it estranges us from the people we love? How do we remain in love after we have seen the very worst of our loved ones? Brian Morton explores these issues with the same "astonishingly sensitive appreciation for his characters" (Library Journal) that marks his previous work.
Fueled by her rediscovered love for Isaac, a photographer, Nora realizes that the story she's working on has turned into a fictionalized portrait of him, exposing his frailties and compromises and sure to be viewed as a betrayal.
This is the story of Nora and Isaac, once lovers, estranged for five years, and now back in one another's lives. Isaac, a photographer, is dealing with the reality, at 40, that he will probably never be a star artist and is settling down in his comfortable job for a suburban New Jersey newspaper, mentoring students whose future looks brighter than his own. Nora, 9 years younger, has always been his great love, and after a five year hiatus, she's back, still struggling as a writer, still taking care of her aging aunt Billie, still unsure whether or not she can commit to Isaac. The problem is, Nora can't help but write about the people in her life, and although she is kind and sensitive and thoughtful and funny, in her writing she is brutal, and seems unable not to seek out the weakness in her subjects, thereby mortally damaging her relationships. Can this love affair survive the slings and arrows of art?
About the Author
BRIAN MORTON is the author of four previous novels, including Starting Out in the Evening, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and was made into an acclaimed feature film, and A Window Across the River, which was a Book Club selection of the Today show. He teaches at New York University, the Bennington Writing Seminars, and Sarah Lawrence College, where he also directs the writing program. He lives in New York.
Table of Contents
"A funny, precise and beautifully written novel. I loved this book." --Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
Reading Group Guide
Q> Who's telling the story in A Window Across the River? Comment on the novel's narrator(s), its defining perspective(s), or main point(s) of view. How, if at all, do they echo or enhance the narrative as a whole? Q> In chapter 6, Isaac wonders: "When had men become women and women become men?" Do you agree with his take on the confusion of modern-day masculine and feminine identities? What other views does author Brian Morton offer throughout the book on the sexes and their distinctions--that is, on how men and women distinctly see and shape the world today? Q> Discuss the theme of responsibility in this novel. What forms and qualities does responsibility assume? And how, over the course of the book, is this key concept defined and/or understood by Nora, Isaac, Billie, and Renee? And what about the related theme of trust? Q> One of the primary things Nora and Isaac have in common is that they're both artists. How do these two characters think about art, work, and the nature of creativity? Are their notions and experiences of the artist's life fundamentally similar or different? Explain. Q> Examine the novel as a satire of intellectual pretentiousness, aesthetic phoniness, professional solipsism, and the like--looking especially at Benjamin and Nadine and at the insulated worlds that they respectively inhabit. Q> Discuss the book's title. If it is a metaphor, what might it mean, stand for, or suggest? Also, address the recurrent presence of dreams and memories throughout A Window Across the River. To what extent are these characters governed by their inner voices, private reveries, or interior selves? And, along the same lines, what sort of tone does this novel exhibit--realistic, instructive, magical, symbolic, or otherwise? Q> Explore how A Window Across the River deals with the idea of futility--in art, work, life, relationships, etc. In particular, how does Isaac ultimately come to understand the pointlessness surrounding us? Q> "Them lady poets must not marry, pal." Why is this quotation from the poetry of John Berryman so important to the novel? Who and what does it refer to here, both specifically and generally? Q> Reflecting on the journey made by Nora across the full arc of Morton's narrative, what conflicts exist between being an artist and caring for others? For example, why does she keep working on the "Gabriel" story when she knows it will eventually and certainly hurt Isaac? And how, if at all, does the novel depict such conflicts as surmountable? Q> At the end of chapter 43, Nora is confronted by a "hip-looking" young pediatric nurse who asks her, "Who's your child?" Nora responds perplexingly: "You are." What does she mean by this remark? Q> Describe the novel's ending. The scene that finishes chapter 44--and the book itself--basically ends in media res. How do you think the rest of this scene plays out? Why? And what about the rest of the story of Nora and Isaac? Q> Consider setting in A Window Across the River. What role does New York City play in these proceedings? Moreover, discuss the novel as a New York love story, comparing and contrasting it with other novels, stories, and movies you've encountered within this ever-popular category.
Copyright © 2004 Harcourt, Inc.