As a Friendby Forrest Gander
"Heroism is a secondary virtue," Albert Camus noted, "but friendship is primary." In his gem-like first novel, Forrest Gander writes of friendship, envy, and eros as a harmonic of charged overtones. Set in a rural southern landscape as vivid as its
An unforgettable, sensual novel by "one of the most gifted and accomplished poets of his generation" (Mark Rudman).
"Heroism is a secondary virtue," Albert Camus noted, "but friendship is primary." In his gem-like first novel, Forrest Gander writes of friendship, envy, and eros as a harmonic of charged overtones. Set in a rural southern landscape as vivid as its indelible characters, As a Friend tells the story of Les, a gifted man and land surveyor, whose impact on those around him (his friend Clay, his girlfriend Sarah) provokes intense self-examination and an atmosphere of dangerous eroticism. With poetic insight, Gander explores the nature of attraction, betrayal, and loyalty. What he achieves is brilliant in style and powerfully unsettling.
An adoring friendship turns deadly in poet and translator Gander's visceral if too brief first novel. Les is the magnetic, godlike protagonist of this reflective four-part narrative: introduced at the time of his difficult birth to a teenage mother, he is put up for adoption. Years later, he is observed by Clay, a colleague on his land-surveying team in a small town in Arkansas, who finds his friend's mannerisms and dissembling so compelling that he apes Les and eventually betrays him. Les, a part-time poet and practical joker, is beloved for his eccentricities, especially by his second wife, Cora, and mistress, Sarah, whose poetic remembrances of Les after his suicide make up the novel's third section and reveal hopelessly guilt-ridden Sarah to be angry, grieving for her tender, quirky lover. Gander's passionate construction of Les reveals a character deeply conflicted, comprising enormous virtue and many flaws, though in the end the work remains piecemeal and incomplete, though nicely done. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gander has established a well-deserved reputation as one of America's finest poets and translators, comparable to the superb W.S. Merwin. While his poetry certainly has an intellectual aspect, it is deeply rooted in nature and in the human body, as is his first work of fiction. Les is a complex character: a surveyor and artist of some sort, a frustrating friend who challenges the limits of friendship, and a seemingly amoral womanizer whose "charismatic loathsomeness" and deceptions lead inexorably to tragedy. Beware, gentle reader, the opening account of a particularly painful birth and the despair of the young mother who wonders where her lover might be is graphic enough to be considered a form of contraception, and the lamentations of Les's girlfriend Laura are utterly heartbreaking. The only quibble is that this very short work isn't really a novel but a set of four related stories from different perspectives. Call it what you will, but be sure to order it for all public and academic libraries.
- New Directions Publishing Corporation
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.20(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Meet the Author
Forrest Gander grew up in Virginia and has degrees in geology and English literature. His recent books include the novel As a Friend andthe translation Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho (PEN
Translation Prize Finalist), both from New Directions. A United States
Artists Rockefeller Fellow, Gander is recipient of fellowships from the NEA,
the Guggenheim, Howard, and Whiting foundations. He is the Adele Kellenberg
Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown
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