A poignant and satirical tale of one man’s struggle to overcome the ghosts of his past and make sense of the present. In this, his third novel, acclaimed author Mark Merlis artfully intertwines the pathos of loneliness with a subtle critique of the American political machine.
Joel Lingeman has it all: an overpaid sinecure advising Congress, a fifteen-year partnership with a perfectly adequate lover, a cosy circle of drinking buddies. Until one day his world implodes. His lover runs off, working for Congress starts to seem like a felony instead of a privilege, and Joel is hurled back into the dating game he couldn’t manage twenty years earlier.
Amid the rubble he finds himself clinging to an image from his boyhood: a model in a swimsuit ad, who had beckoned to young Joel to step through the page and into another life. Aided by a detective who is more elusive than his quarry, Joel sets out to discover the real person he knows only from a fading photograph.
Joel’s journey – touching, comic, and deftly observed – overlays a whip-smart critique of the cynicism and buffoonery of Capitol Hill and a gently acerbic account of how people break up and how they get together. Clever, wry, and knowing, Mark Merlis’s third novel contains an unforgettable new twist on the idea that the personal is political.
Reviews of Man About Town
- ‘Mark Merlis artfully intertwines the pathos of loneliness with a subtle critique of the American political machine…The prose is crisp, clear, hard-nosed … In facing up unflinchingly to the middle-class, middle-aged malaise, Merlis speaks to us all and articulates not just the plight of a tragic queer but the tragic view of life.’ Desmond Traynor, Irish Independent
- ‘A book worth reading…an amusing, sympathetic rendering of a man coming to terms with himself.’ Sarah Churchwell, TLS
- ‘Merlis reaches a level of thoughtful reflection which sings with poignancy.’ Kirkus Reviews
- PRAISE FOR Pyrrhus:
- ‘Exceptional … the novel is expertly crafted, filled with surprises.’ Peter Vansittart, Daily Telegraph
- ‘A funky, freewheeling book.’ The Times
- ‘This is an original and enjoyably camp novel which exploits all the comic possibilities of its dual perspective.’ Michael Arditti, The Independent
- PRAISE FOR American Studies:
- ‘A first novel of startling maturity.’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘Mark Merlis proves himself an enviably accessible and assured new writer…If American Studies holds a mirror up to our culture of discrimination, it is also a very funny book, which surprises us with its sense of make-do hope.’ Sunday Times
- ‘Bitterly funny and deeply sad.’ TLS
- ‘An exceptional first novel’ Paul Bailey
- ‘A brilliant first novel … Merlis’s language is precise, discriminating and sensitive to irony.’ Literary Review
- ‘A wise, sexy, funny, level novel.’ Brad Gooch