Men and Apparitions is a magnum opus of ekphrastic genealogy as seen through a spurned anthropologist's loupe, an optics-saturated examination of the heteronormative male psyche circa fourth-wave feminism, and a mordant monologue on objectivity. No American novelist is better suited to this task than Lynne Tillman. Her singular, engrossing narrator — a card-carrying member of the liberally educated, media-consuming cohort — zips from tic to tangent, leavening the text with self-deprecating rejoinders and cultural miscellany in a doomed bid to better understand the masculine mode in which he resides. An end-to-end act of literary possession from an absolute icon. Recommended By Justin W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
“The universe heaves with laughter, and I’m all about my lopsided, self-defining tale. How I came to be me, not you, how I’m shaping me for you, the way my posse and other native informants do for me, how I’m shape-shifting. I’m telling you that I’m telling you; my self is my field...”
The time is now, and Ezekiel Hooper Stark is thirty-eight. He’s a cultural anthropologist, an ethnographer of family photographs, a wry speculator about images. From childhood, his own family’s idiosyncrasies, perversities, and pathologies propel Zeke, until love lost sends him spiraling out of control in Europe. Back in the U.S.A., he finds unexpected solace in the image of a notable nineteenth-century relative, Clover Hooper Adams. Zeke embarks on a project, MEN IN QUOTES, focusing his anthropological lens on his own kind: the “New Man,” born under the sign of feminism. All the old models of masculinity are broken. How are you different from your father? Zeke asks his male subjects. What do you expect from women? What does Zeke expect from himself? And what will the reader expect of Zeke — is he a Don Quixote, Holden Caulfield, Underground Man, or Stranger?
Kaleidoscopic and encyclopedic, comic, tragic, and philosophical, Men and Apparitions showcases Lynne Tillman not only as a brilliantly original novelist but also as one of our most prominent contemporary thinkers on art, culture, and society.
"In a novel that overflows with obsessive, encyclopedic energy, her characters luxuriate in self-conscious play, double meaning, and provocative inquiry. The result is a work that enlarges our understanding of what the novel can be — and the sense of self we take for granted... Tillman writes pictures the way Jeanette Winterson writes the body: with great and counterintuitive attention to detail, theorizing and revising as she goes... If Men and Apparitions is an image, it's a Polaroid — maybe a haunted one — that someone hands you as it's still developing. Tillman insists that there are formal and social conventions yet to be upended and rethought. Even if she doesn't achieve it herself, the magic is that you can see them materializing in your hand... These layers are part of her brilliance in conveying the self-in-progress." The New Republic
"[A] grand and sprawling novel.... Women authors write men all of the time, and vice versa. What's striking in this instance is the intimacy of voice, and Zeke's focus on defining masculinity, his intent of reappropriating Henry James's feminist ideal of the 19th-century's self-made New Woman (Portrait of a Lady's Isabel Archer, for example) to define the 21st century's New Man.... Men and Apparitions is a loose and beautiful baggy monster of a novel that opens in on itself like a fun house hall of mirrors. What a tremendous experience it is to walk through, never quite sure who's who or what you're looking at." The Millions
"With callouts to a mind-revving roster of photographers, writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, and media magnets, erudite, discerning, and everdaring Tillman has forged a mischievous conflation of criticism and fiction. Incantatory, maddening, brilliant, zestful, compassionate, and timely, Tillman's portrait of a floundering academic trying to make sense of a digitized world of churning, contradictory messages reveals the perpetual interplay between past and present, the personal and the cultural, image and life." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Tillman, it seems to me, is not a writer who invents characters and moves them through the machinery of plot. Rather, she seems to inhabit other minds — or she lets them move through her, like a medium.... The book is a study of visual culture, like Susan Sontag's On Photography or John Berger's Ways of Seeing. Or the book acts as a seismograph, registering shifting patterns of gender identity and its relationship to power." The Rumpus
"[A] ruminative and amusing novel...At times aphoristic...the book succeeds as a gentle satire of generational self-absorption and emotional disengagement." The New Yorker, Briefly Noted
"Zeke is an American consumer, though what he consumes is not material goods but media, endlessly cataloging and referencing the contents of his own mind, often in lieu of visceral experience.... Tillman's novel is a patient, insistent exploration of what it means to live inside such a mind.... There are elements of it that brought to mind writers as diverse as Ali Smith and Saul Bellow, Joy Williams and A. R. Ammons, but the cumulative effective is sui generis." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Lynne Tillman writes novels, short stories, and nonfiction. Her novel No Lease on Life was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, and her essay collection What Would Lynne Tillman Do? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Tillman's writing appears often in artists' books and museum catalogs, including, most recently, those of Raymond Pettibon, Joan Jonas, Cindy Sherman, and Carroll Dunham. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Creative Capital/ Warhol Foundation grant for arts writing, and is a Professor/Writer-in-Residence at the University of Albany. She also teaches in New York City's School of Visual Arts, in its Art Criticism and Writing MFA Program. She lives in Manhattan with bass player David Hofstra.