The Book of Joe [NOOK Book]

Overview

Right after high school, Joe Goffman left sleepy Bush Falls, Connecticut and never looked back. Then he wrote a novel savaging everything in town, a novel that became a national bestseller and a huge hit movie. Fifteen years later, Joe is struggling to avoid the sophomore slump with his next novel when he gets a call: his father's had a stroke, so it's back to Bush Falls for the town's most famous pariah. His brother avoids him, his former classmates beat him up, and the members of the book club just hurl their ...
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The Book of Joe

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Overview

Right after high school, Joe Goffman left sleepy Bush Falls, Connecticut and never looked back. Then he wrote a novel savaging everything in town, a novel that became a national bestseller and a huge hit movie. Fifteen years later, Joe is struggling to avoid the sophomore slump with his next novel when he gets a call: his father's had a stroke, so it's back to Bush Falls for the town's most famous pariah. His brother avoids him, his former classmates beat him up, and the members of the book club just hurl their copies of Bush Falls at his house. But with the help of some old friends, Joe discovers that coming home isn't all bad—and that maybe the best things in life are second chances.

Fans of Nick Hornby and Jennifer Weiner will love this book, by turns howling funny, fiercely intelligent, and achingly poignant. As evidenced by The Book of Joe's success in both the foreign and movie markets, Jonathan Tropper has created a compelling, incredibly resonant story.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After Joe Goffman's Bush Falls becomes a runaway bestseller, he never expects to go back to his small Connecticut hometown and face the outrage generated by the dark secrets his autobiographical novel reveals. But when his father suffers a life-threatening stroke, return the unhappy and unfulfilled Joe does, to meet head-on the antipathy waiting for him. Among the Bush Falls locals hellbent on revenge in this breezy sophomore effort by Tropper (Plan B) are deputy sheriff Mouse and ex-con Sean Tallon, both former members of the high school basketball team, as well as the wife of the basketball coach, who dumps a milk shake on Joe the first day he is back in town. Joe also crosses paths with his resentful older brother, Brad; Lucy, the sexy mother of a high school friend; and Carly, the only woman he ever truly loved. At its best, the novel skillfully illustrates the tenderness and difficulties of first love and friendship, exploring the aftermath of Joe's high school relationships with Carly and pals Sammy and Wayne. Fans of Tom Perrotta's sarcastic humor will appreciate Tropper's evocation of both the allure and hypocrisy of smalltown American life, particularly in drug- and alcohol-fueled episodes involving Joe's 19-year-old nephew, Jared, and a grown-up, AIDS-infected Wayne. Frequent pop culture references, particularly to Bruce Springsteen, help move things along briskly and by novel's end, Joe has learned to appreciate the virtues of Bush Falls and realize he's not perfect himself. Despite its charms, however, this boy-who-won't-grow-up novel relies too heavily on canned lines ("she's taking measurements of my soul through her eyes") and easy melodrama. (Mar. 30) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The residents of Bush Falls, CT, cannot forgive native son Joe Goffman, 34, for writing a best-selling, autobiographical, tell-all novel about their hometown; they recognize themselves in its unflattering and incisive pages. When he receives a call telling him that his father is in a coma, Joe returns home after years in Manhattan to face his demons. Joe grew up smart but not particularly athletic in a family where both his father and his older brother enjoyed stellar careers with the town's revered high school basketball team. This and the sting of his mother's suicide left young Joe isolated until his senior year, when he made two close friends, Sammy and Wayne, and fell in love with Carly. In the marvelously funny and self-deprecating voice of Joe, Tropper (Plan B) fully realizes his characters and tells their stories with poignancy, wit, and charm. This coming-of-age story is a keeper; fans of Tom Perotta and Nick Hornby will enjoy. Highly recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tropper follows his lightweight Plan B (2000) with a light but solid first-person story of a novelist who hits big money with a Peyton Place-esque outing but feels as beset as Job. Seventeen years after leaving his hometown, Joe Goffman has trashed it in his moneymaker Bush Falls, moved to a fancy apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan, has had endless chicks, and now for six months has taken up a celibacy that leaves him lonely, self-pitying, and sex-starved. His agent lives like a Roman Emperor off Joe's book and film sales but thinks Joe's "postmodern" new novel is beneath him. Joe's sister-in-law Cindy calls to say his father has had a stroke and Joe should come back to Bush Falls, where townsfolk once tried to sue him. He returns as Joe Schmuck, disliked by all: Deputy Sheriff Mouse, ex-con Sean Tallon, and basketball star older brother Brad, among others, while finding himself tearfully still in love with high-school sweetheart Carly, who has a Harvard degree in journalism and edits the local paper. And then there are his old buddies, frenetic Sammy and easygoing Wayne (dying of AIDS). His schizo mother leapt into Bush Falls when Joe was 12, so she's not around to hate him. Will Joe-in his silver Mercedes and having learned nothing from You Can't Go Home Again-reform, grow up, and become a lovable human being? The tone for his homecoming is established through a scene in the local diner: Francine Dugan, the wife of high-school Coach Dugan, whom Joe has maliciously and untruthfully described in his novel as a masturbator in love with the bodies of young boys, dumps a milkshake on his head. It will take death and ashes, not to mention the immolation of his Mercedes, for Joe andvirtue to bind and for Joe to find hope in his pursuit of Carly. Some sprinkles of excellence provide pep without lifting the whole. Agent: Simon Lipskar/Writers House
From the Publisher
"A beautifully crafted book of enormous heart, humility, wit, honesty, and vulnerability. You want to call your friends at 3:00 AM and read whole passages out loud. You want to press it into the hands of strangers. You cannot stop thinking about it because it has rearranged your very molecules. You know that kind of book? This is that kind of book. The Book of Joe is utterly magnificent. I wish I'd written it myself."—Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors

"The Book of Joe is an elegiac, wickedly observant look at a small town and its secrets. In Jonathan Tropper's highly readable novel, the problem isn't that you can't go home again, it's that eventually you have to, whether you like it or not."—Tom Perrotta, author of Election and Joe College

"A sweet, deft and sentimental coming-of-age-at-34 story. .... [Tropper's] humor keeps his tale buoyant."—Daily News (NY)

"The Book of Joe will make you laugh and cry. Tropper has a very readable style, and Joe is a character you can connect with, warts and all."—Associated Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440334767
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/30/2004
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 20,935
  • File size: 535 KB

Meet the Author

Jonathan Tropper
Jonathan Tropper lives in New Rochelle, New York, with his family. He is currently at work on his second novel for Bantam Dell.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

one



Just a few scant months after my mother's suicide, I walked into the garage, looking for my baseball glove, and discovered Cindy Posner on her knees, animatedly performing fellatio on my older brother, Brad. He was leaned up against our father's tool rack, the hammers and wrenches jingling musically on their hooks like Christmas bells as he rocked gently back and forth, staring up at the ceiling with a curiously bored expression. His jeans and boxers were bunched up around his knees, his hand resting absently on her bobbing head as she went about her surprisingly noisy oral ministrations. I stood there transfixed until Brad, sensing my arrival, looked down from the ceiling and our eyes met. There was no alarm in his eyes, no embarrassment at having been caught in so compromising a position, but only the same look of tired resignation he always seemed to have where I was concerned. That's right. I'm getting a blow job in the garage. It's a safe bet you never will. Cindy, whose back was to me,

noticed me a few seconds later and became instantly hysterical, cursing and shrieking at me as I beat a hasty, if somewhat belated retreat. I was thirteen years old at the time.

It's entirely possible that Cindy would have handled herself with a bit more aplomb had she known that seventeen years later the incident would be immortalized in the first chapter of the best-selling autobiographical novel that I would write and, as with most successful books, in the inevitable movie that would follow shortly thereafter. By then she was no longer Cindy Posner, but Cindy Goffman, having married Brad in their senior year of college, and I think it's fair to say that this inclusion in my book did nothing to improve our already tenuous relationship. The book is titled Bush Falls, after the small Connecticut town where I grew up, a term I use loosely, since the jury's still out on whether I've actually ever grown up at all.

By now you've certainly heard of Bush Falls, or no doubt seen the movie, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kirsten Dunst, and did some pretty decent box office. Or maybe you read about the major controversy it caused back in my hometown, where they even went so far as to put together a class action libel suit against me that never went anywhere. Either way, the book was a runaway best-seller about two and a half years ago, and for a little while there, I became a minor celebrity.

Any schmuck can be unhappy when things aren't going well, but it takes a truly unique variety of schmuck, a real innovator in the schmuck field, to be unhappy when things are going as great as they are for me. At thirty-four, I'm rich, successful, have sex on a fairly regular basis, and live in a three-bedroom luxury apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. This should be ample reason to feel that I have the world by its proverbial short hairs, yet I've recently developed the sneaking suspicion that underneath it all I am one sad, lonely son of a bitch, and have been for some time.

While there is no paucity of women in my life these days, it nevertheless seems that every relationship I've had in the two and a half years since the publication of Bush Falls has lasted almost exactly eight weeks, following the same essential flight pattern. In the first week I pull out all the stops--fancy restaurants, concerts, Broadway shows, and trendy nightclubs--modestly avoiding any high-minded banter concerning the literary world in favor of current events, movies, and celebrity gossip, which are of course the real currency in the New York dating scene, even if no one will admit it. Not that being a celebrated author isn't worth something, but stories about Miramax parties or how you hung out on the set with Leo and Kirsten will get you laid much faster and by a better caliber of woman. Weeks two and three are generally the best, the time you'd like to bottle and store, primarily due to the endorphin rush of fresh sex. At some point in the fourth week, I fall in love, briefly considering the possibility that this could be The One, and then everything pretty much goes to shit in slow motion. I waffle, I vacillate, I get insecure, I come on too strong. I conduct little psychological experiments on myself or the woman involved. You get the picture. This goes on for a couple of painfully awkward weeks, and then we both spend week seven in the fervent hope that the relationship will magically dissolve on its own, through an act of god or spontaneous combustion--anything to avoid having to actually navigate the tediously perilous terrain of a full-blown breakup. The last week is spent "taking some time," which ends with a final, perfunctory phone call finalizing the arrangement and resolving any outstanding logistics. I'll drop the bag and Donna Karan sweater you left in my apartment with the doorman, you can keep the books I lent you, thanks for the memories, no hard feelings, let's stay friends, et cetera, ad nauseam.

I know it bespeaks poor character to blame others for your problems, but I'm fairly certain this is all Carly's fault. Carly Diamond was my high school girlfriend, the first--and, to date, only--woman I've ever loved. We were together for our entire senior year, and loved each other with the fierce, timeless conviction of teenagers. That was the same year that all the terrible events described in my novel occurred, and my relationship with her was the lone bright spot in my dismally expanding universe.

If you want to get technical about it, we never actually broke up. We graduated high school and went to different colleges, Carly up to Harvard and me down to NYU. We tried to do the long-distance thing, but my adamant refusal to return to the Falls for our mutual vacations made it difficult, and over time we simply grew apart, but we never formally dissolved our relationship. After college, Carly came to New York to study journalism, at which point we embarked on one of those long, messy postgraduate friendships where you have just enough sex to thoroughly confuse the hell out of each other and ultimately, through a sequence of poor timing and third-party complications, fuck the life out of what was once the purest thing you'd ever known.

We still loved each other then, that much was obvious, but while Carly seemed ready to reclaim our relationship, I kept finding reasons to remain uncommitted. No matter how much I loved her--and I did--I was constantly comparing the timbre of our relationship with the raw beauty, the sense of discovery, that had attended our every moment when we were seventeen. By the time I finally understood the colossal nature of my mistake, it was too late and Carly was gone. Losing her once was sad but understandable. Carelessly discarding the second chance afforded me by the fates required such a potent mixture of arrogance and stupidity that it had to have been cultivated, because I'm fairly certain I wasn't always such a complete asshole.

I've never forgiven myself for the head games I played with her during her years in New York, wooing her whenever I felt her slipping away and then pulling back the minute I felt secure again. I allowed her unwavering belief in us to sustain me even at times when I didn't share it, leading her along with promises, both spoken and implied but never fulfilled. By the time I finally began to understand how badly I'd been using her, I had used her up completely. She left New York heartbroken and disgusted, returning to the Falls to accept a position as managing editor of The Minuteman, the town's local paper. Every time I think I've gotten over her, I find myself waking in the middle of the night, pining for her with such desperation that you would think it was only yesterday and not ten years ago that she left.

Since then not a day goes by that I am not haunted by a vague but powerful sense of regret, every woman I date serving as a reminder of what I allowed myself to lose. So in a way, it's because of Carly that I'm alone in bed in the middle of the night when the phone rings, its electronic wail piercing the insulated silence of my apartment like a siren. Generally speaking, when people call you at two in the morning, it won't be good news. My first thought, as I swim up through the dense wormwood haze of alcohol-induced sleep, is that it has to be Natalie, my borderline psychotic ex-girlfriend, calling to scream at me. I don't know what damage I could have possibly done to her apparently fragile psyche in eight weeks, but her latest therapist has convinced her that she still has significant unresolved issues with me and that it behooves her, from a mental wellness perspective, to call me, day or night, whenever it occurs to her to remind me what an insensitive jerk I was. The calls started about four months ago and now come fairly regularly, both at home and on my cell phone, thirty-second installments of furious invective with abundant smatterings of vulgarity, requiring absolutely no participation from me. If it happens that I'm unavailable, Nat is perfectly content to leave her colorful harangues on my voice mail. She's always been drawn to radical therapy, much as lately I seem to be drawn to women who require it.

The phone keeps ringing. I don't know if it's been two rings or ten; I just know it isn't stopping. I roll onto my side and rub my face vigorously, trying to coax the sleep from my head. The skin of my cheeks feels like putty, loose and fleshy, as if the night's prior excesses have dramatically aged me. I went out with Owen earlier, and, as usual, we got supremely shit-faced. Owen Hobbs, agent extraordinaire, is my emissary not only to the literary establishment but to all conceivable manner of chaos and debauchery. I never drink except when I'm with him, and then I drink like him, voraciously and with great ceremony. He's made me rich, and he gets fifteen percent, which has turned out to be a better foundation for a friendship than you might think, usually worth the thrashing hangover that always follows what he terms our "celebrations." A night with Owen inevitably takes the shape of a downward spiral upon which in retrospect I can identify only a handful of the spins and turns as I nurse my wounded body back into the realm where consciousness and sobriety rudely intersect. And while I'm still loosely ensconced in that precariously optimistic place where drunkenness has departed and the hangover is still mulling over its options, I nevertheless feel nauseous and off-kilter.

The phone. Without moving my head from where it lies embedded in my pillow, I reach out in the general direction of my night table, knocking over some magazines, an open bottle of Aleve, and a half-filled mug of water, which splashes mutely on the plush ecru carpeting. The cordless is actually on the floor to begin with, and when I finally locate it and hoist it up to my immobile head, cold droplets of spilled water seep into my ear canal like slugs.

"Hello?" It's a woman's voice. "Joe?"

"Who's this," I say, lifting my head slightly so as to move the mouthpiece somewhere in the general vicinity of my mouth. It's not Nat, which means some speaking on my part might be required.

"It's Cindy."

"Cindy," I repeat carefully.

"Your sister-in-law."

"Oh." That Cindy.

"Your father's had a stroke." My brother's wife blurts this out like a premature punch line. In most families, such monumental news would merit a thoughtfully orchestrated presentation carefully constructed to minimize shock while facilitating gradual acceptance. Such grave news would probably warrant a personal delivery from the blood relative, in this case my older brother, Brad. But I am family to Brad and my father only in a strictly legal sense. On those rare occasions when they do acknowledge my existence, it's out of some vague sense of civic responsibility, like paying taxes or jury duty.

"Where's Brad?" I say, keeping my voice just above a whisper as people who live alone do needlessly at night.

"He's over at the hospital," Cindy says dully. She's never liked me, but that isn't entirely her fault. I've never actually given her any reason to.

"What happened?"

"Your father's in a coma," she says matter-of-factly, as if I've asked her the time. "It's quite serious. They don't know if he's going to make it."

"Don't sugarcoat it, now," I mutter, sitting up in my bed, which causes pockets of violence to erupt among the trillions of neurons rallying like soccer fans in my left temple.

There follows a pause. "What?" Cindy says. I remind myself that my particular style of irony is usually lost on her. I take a quick emotional inventory, searching for any reaction to the news that my father might be dying: grief, shock, anger, denial. Something.

"Nothing," I say.

Another uncomfortable pause. "Well, Brad said you shouldn't come tonight but that you should meet him at the hospital tomorrow."

"Tomorrow," I repeat dumbly, looking at the clock again. It already is tomorrow.

"You can stay with us, or you can stay at your father's place. Actually, his house is closer to the hospital."

"Okay." Somewhere in my diminishing stupor, it registers that my presence is being requested or, rather, presumed. Either way, it's highly unusual.

"Well, which is it? Do you want to stay with us or at your dad's?"

A more compassionate person might wait for the shock to wear off before pressing ahead with the petty logistics of the whole thing, but Cindy has little in the way of compassion where I'm concerned.

"Whatever," I say. "Whatever's better for you guys."

"Well, it's usually a madhouse here, with the kids and all," she says. "I think you'll be happier in your old house."

"Okay."

"Your father's in Mercy Hospital. Do you need directions?" Her question is quite possibly a deliberate dig at the fact that I haven't been back to the Falls in almost seventeen years.

"Have they moved it?"

"No."

"Then I should be fine."

I can hear her shallow breathing as another uncomfortable silence grows like a tumor over the phone line. Cindy, three years older than me, was the archetypal popular girl in Bush Falls High School. With lustrous dark hair and an exquisite body sculpted to perfection in her cheerleading drills, she was unquestionably the most universally employed muse of the wet dream among the teenaged boys in Bush Falls at that time. I myself made often and effective use of her in my fantasies, fueled in no small part by what I saw in the garage that day. But now she's thirty-seven and a mother of three, and even over the phone, you can hear the varicose veins in her voice.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Introduction

By turns wickedly funny and achingly poignant, The Book of Joe proves that you can go home again . . . even if you have to battle the bullies of your youth.

Joe Goffman escaped oppressive Bush Falls, Connecticut, as soon as he could. But he could never get his hometown out of his mind, inspiring him to write a novel savaging everything and everyone there. When the novel became a huge bestseller, and an even more popular movie, he knew he’d never be able to set foot in Bush Falls again. Now, fifteen years later, he has no choice. Joe’s father is gravely ill, so the town’s most famous pariah must return. Joe is finally ready to face his past, and with the help of some old friends, he may actually learn something . . . if he manages to survive the homecoming.

In the tradition of Nick Hornby and Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Tropper has created a book that will cause you to laugh and pause to reflect. The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Jonathan Tropper’s The Book of Joe. We hope they will enrich your experience of this captivating novel.

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Foreword

1. Homecoming lies at the heart of the novel. How has this theme played out in your own experience? How prominently does your past shape your current life?

2. The opening sentence of The Book of Joe combines references to sex and death. In what way do these powerful experiences recur together throughout the novel? How does Joe develop an understanding of mortality and sexuality during his adolescence?

3. The 1980s form a colorful backdrop to the novel, especially in terms of pop culture and lyrics. Can time period be considered a character in The Book of Joe? In what other books? If so, how would you define and describe it?

4. The novel’s title echoes the biblical Book of Job. Though Joe himself would probably reject that comparison, does he have much in common with Job?

5. What does The Book of Joe indicate about how communities label and treat outsiders? Why were the Cougars the most highly regarded male figures in Bush Falls for so many generations?

6. Joe readily admits that he embellished actual events in writing Bush Falls—after all, that’s a fiction writer’s prerogative. But his experience parallels the real-life quandaries of many novelists who are criticized when drawing on their own memories to inspire fiction. Was it unethical for Joe to use Bush Falls in the way he did? Why does he have such a hard time replicating the success of Bush Falls with his second novel?

7. What techniques does Jonathan Tropper employ to balance his comedic and somber tones?

8. Discuss the spectrum of parenting offered in The Book of Joe. How does Joe’s family compare to that of hisfriends? What emotional scars do he and his brother bear from their mother’s suicide? Is Owen a father figure to Joe, and if so, how would you characterize his “fathering?”

9. Referring to his brother’s bar mitzvah, Joe muses that by missing out on his own coming-of-age celebration, he never became a man in the eyes of Judaism. Is Joe in fact any less mature or “less of a man” than his brother?

10. What does Joe’s nephew Jared indicate about the way times have changed in Bush Falls, and in American adolescence in general? Why do you think the author gave Jared such a prominent role in the novel?

11. What ultimately caused Sammy’s death? Is Coach Dugan’s attempt to make amends during Wayne’s funeral warranted—and sufficient?

12. When Joe discovers the hardcover copies of his book, along with a movie poster, prominently displayed in his father’s room, what message was conveyed between father and son?

13. Discuss the novel’s portrayal of second chances. Are Joe and his brother liberated from the pains of their past? What causes Brad’s marriage and career to fall on hard times? How will the Goffman family use its second chances?

14. What does Joe’s Mercedes signify throughout the novel? How do his feelings about the car reflect the personal changes he undergoes?

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Interviews & Essays

You capture the mixed blessings of adolescence --- as well as the environment of a small town --- perfectly in THE BOOK OF JOE. You grew up in Riverdale, New York, which is very urban. How did you come to understand small town life so well?

Riverdale is actually a strange mix of urban and suburban. And while, on it's own, it doesn't seem like a small town in the classic sense, there are sub-communities, built around schools or synagogues or churches that function exactly like small towns; You see familiar faces wherever you go, and in many cases you know more about them than you should, thanks to the gossip mill, and in many cases they probably know more about you than you would like. Everything you do is colored with this awareness of the audience of your community, and that is the essence of small town life. Small towns are a vital staple of popular fiction, from Stephen King to Richard Russo, and I think the reason the concept is so universal is that we all live in small towns of our own making.


Which character(s) in THE BOOK OF JOE do you identify the most with? How much --- if any --- of the book is autobiographical?

THE BOOK OF JOE's story and all its characters are completely fictitious. Obviously, there are certain things Joe is going through that originate from my own storehouse of anxieties and neuroses. He's discovering as he gets older that the things he thought would fulfill him are leaving him empty, and the things he was adamant about not needing are suddenly the only things he really wants. That being said, I also relate heavily to the character of Jared, Joe's nephew, who is angry over things he can't quite articulate, andwants to be regarded differently than he is, but has no idea how or why, and instead retreats into an ironic sulk. I think a lot of him comes from my own teenage years. So Jared and Joe both have aspects of me from different times in my life, and only at this moment has it occurred to me that both of their names start with 'J', just like mine. Go figure.


Much of THE BOOK OF JOE alternates between the present-day storyline --- Joe returning to his hometown because of his father's condition --- and the "past" storyline that shares what happened when Joe was a teenager. Did you write the "flashback" scenes first or were you writing in the sequence that we are reading?

It probably would have made sense to write the back story in one sitting and then break it up, but that's not how it happened for me. This story unfolded very organically, with only a flimsy outline, so while I had a basic idea of what had happened back in 1986, I only fully realized it as I wrote each flashback. However, once the book was completed, I did go back and reconfigure the flashbacks, moving some parts around where I though they would balance out better with the events happening in the present, or to better maintain the level of suspense as the story moved forward.


THE BOOK OF JOE has a strong voice. You mastered a conversational style, which makes the reader feel as if he/she is hearing the book, rather than reading it. Have other people told you this?

Yes. It's been very gratifying, actually, because I've always been very character driven, and the fact that people respond to Joe's voice mean that he's coming across as a very real person.


We know that Tom Cavanagh, the star of the television show, Ed, is the narrator on the audiobook of THE BOOK OF JOE. His voice is perfect. What did you think when you heard he was going to do this reading?

Tom was actually my suggestion. 'ED' came out while I was writing The Book of Joe, and at first I was upset because it sounded so similar to my own premise that I was worried people would think of it as a knock-off. But the show had great writing, and Tom has this great delivery, ironic without any nastiness, quirky, sensitive and funny as hell when the moment demands it. I was thrilled when he agreed to do it, and he did a fantastic job. One of the most surreal moments of the whole Book of Joe experience was walking into the recording studio while he was doing it and hearing my words being spoken in his voice. It sounded exactly like I pictured it would.


Peer pressure, family relationships and self-confidence are all major themes/issues in THE BOOK OF JOE. What do you want readers to take with them upon finishing the novel?

I'd like them to simply think that it's never too late to make positive changes in your life, or in yourself. It sounds kind of hokey when I say it like that, but there it is. Joe goes from being a sullen, selfish loner, a self described asshole, to suddenly seeing the value in caring for others. We all carry around a certain degree of anger or resentment toward members of our family, and letting go of it is never easy, but infinitely rewarding. I actually heard from a sound engineer on the West Coast who worked on the audio book, and when he was done he called his father for the first time in over four years. So I think forgiveness is a big theme in this book too; seeking it and giving it.


In THE BOOK OF JOE, Joe finds himself having trouble with his second manuscript. Did you find this to be the case in your own life after your first novel, PLAN B, was published?

Actually, I did take much longer with the second book. Once I'd become a published novelist, the opportunity for failure seemed that much greater. Now it was mine to lose, and what if the first time had been a fluke. Thankfully, THE BOOK OF JOE has gotten a fantastic reception in the industry, but that only serves to make me crazy with the book I'm writing now. I'll always find a reason to worry and struggle. It's the curse of every novelist, I think. If I were happy, I'd be miserable.


The relationship between Joe and his agent is an interesting one. How much does this mirror the relationship between you and your own agent?

My agent is only like Owen in that he's extremely sharp and blunt. He'll tell me in a flash what he likes and hates about whatever it is I've just written, which makes him a great gauntlet to run before I show anything to the publisher. So I do count on him to tell me the truth, even when it's painful. However, we're both family men, so there's not a whole lot of wild drinking and partying going on, and all the more colorful aspects of Owen, the arrogance and debauchery, are purely fictional.


THE BOOK OF JOE has recently been optioned for film adaptation by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Are there any updates you can share with us about this?

Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) has signed on to direct, and Doug Wright (Quills, I am My Own Wife) is in the middle of writing the screenplay. I'm thrilled that Warner Brothers has attracted such immensely talented artists to the project, I think it bodes well. Beyond that, I pretty much try to stay out of their way, although I do think Tom Cavanagh would make a great Wayne and I suggested that to one of the producers.


You received a master's degree from the creative writing program at NYU. When did you begin writing?

The first story I remember writing was in 4th grade, a sci-fi thing that was a blatant rip-off of Jason of Star Command. In college I began writing short stories and won some contest, but never really admitted to myself or to anyone else that it was what I wanted to do. instead I just wrote these snide little articles for the undergraduate newspaper. I wrote my first novel while I was in the NYU program, and it was pretty incoherent, but there were sections that were really good, and I saw that I could maybe make a go of it. A year or so later I was on a flight from LA to NY and saw Robert Downey, Jr., and the idea for PLAN B hit me. I wrote it in about eight months, and landed an agent a few months after that.


What writers have influenced you?

Richard Russo, Jay Mcinerney, Brett Easton Ellis, Tom Perrotta, Tim Sandlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oats, Stephen King. In more recent years, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Alice Sebold and Augusten Burroughs.



What are you working on now and when can readers expect to see it?

I'm finishing a novel about a long absent father who attempts to reinsert himself into the dysfunctional lives of his now grown children. It's funny and sad and, I hope, ultimately uplifting. It is scheduled forSpring of 2005 from Delacorte.
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Reading Group Guide

By turns wickedly funny and achingly poignant, The Book of Joe proves that you can go home again . . . even if you have to battle the bullies of your youth.

Joe Goffman escaped oppressive Bush Falls, Connecticut, as soon as he could. But he could never get his hometown out of his mind, inspiring him to write a novel savaging everything and everyone there. When the novel became a huge bestseller, and an even more popular movie, he knew he’d never be able to set foot in Bush Falls again. Now, fifteen years later, he has no choice. Joe’s father is gravely ill, so the town’s most famous pariah must return. Joe is finally ready to face his past, and with the help of some old friends, he may actually learn something . . . if he manages to survive the homecoming.

In the tradition of Nick Hornby and Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Tropper has created a book that will cause you to laugh and pause to reflect. The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Jonathan Tropper’s The Book of Joe. We hope they will enrich your experience of this captivating novel.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 86 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 87 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    AMAZING

    I loved this book!!!!!! This is the second book of his
    I have read and he has yet to disappoint. He makes me laugh and surprisingly made me cry with this one. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2010

    Hilarious and touching

    he writes about real life but in a way that makes you literally laugh out loud one minute and tear up another. Tropper is my favorite author anc i recommend him to everyone i know. once people read one of his books they cant wait to read all of his others!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    A Brilliant Book

    The Book of Joe is an amazing book; it's smart, funny, and deeply compassionate - the kind of book you want all of your friends to read, but you're reluctant to lend them your copy because you've grown attached to it. Joe is about a writer who returns to the hometown he left seventeen years earlier, then trashed in a hit novel. The writer comes home to discover that the people in the town are real - not the characters he imagined and can control. And these people - family, friends, enemies, and a woman he still loves - make the writer confront not only themselves, but the person he was seventeen years before. There is a great deal to this book, but suffice to say that it will move everyone who reads it. For anyone who is startled to realize that seventeen years before they actually already were a formed person, The Book of Joe will especially touch a nerve. For anyone who, like the protagonist, came of age in the Eighties, The Book of Joe may well become an anthem.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2013

    "This is Where I Leave You" was such a funny, crazy bo

    "This is Where I Leave You" was such a funny, crazy book that I couldn't wait to read another Tropper. This book is not quite as laugh-out-loud funny, but the story is just as wild. Dysfunctional people who are very real and very well represented by this author fill the book. The premise of the story lets you know up front what might be coming, you can't begin to imagine it all. It's very funny, feels very true, has it's sad moments. Tropper's great art is his dialogue which makes me wish I could think of all those clever things to say all the time in any circumstances. And I'm moving right on to my next Tropper book.  

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  • Posted July 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I was apprehensive to start this book because I loved "This

    I was apprehensive to start this book because I loved "This Is Where I Leave You" so much that I didn't want to be disappointed by Jonathan Trooper this time around. Disappointed I was not!! This book makes you laugh a lot and sometimes cry and I did  not want to put it down.  Although it touches on some important issues, they are well-delivered and well-handled.  The characters are all very well-developed and fun to get to know, especially Joe who usually has his foot in his mouth but does not fail to see his own flaws. As many others have stated, I would highly recommend this book!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    What a great read. This was recommended by a friend and I thoro

    What a great read. This was recommended by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I cannot wait to read the rest of Jonathan Tropper's books.

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  • Posted October 23, 2012

    love this author!

    Great read, great author!

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  • Posted October 8, 2011

    Liked

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted August 11, 2011

    Wonderful and fun

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted April 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Sad story with happy tears.

    The Book of Joe handles some scary issues, but does it with style, class and humor. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2011

    Excellent

    Fantastically written. A must read!!!

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  • Posted January 29, 2011

    life changing

    This book was literally fantastic. It made me laugh and cry all the while helping me view life and people in a different light. This is a MUST read.

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  • Posted October 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I absolutely love this book...

    I'm a huge fan of the short-lived TV series "October Road". I heard that there was a book called "The Book of Joe" that loosely inspired the show. Something about this book makes it perfect. I'm not sure if it is the nostalgia (sp?) of high school glory days, or re-living a first time romance but it works. I felt that while it dealt with a lot of hard issues, it was still humorous. I highly recommend this novel and will probubly continue to read books by this author.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I actually laughed out loud

    I was very recently introduced to Jonathan Tropper and have loved both of his book I've read so far. The Book of Joe follows an author who is returning to his small hometown years after writing a scathing novel based on the people who live there. His book was a smashing success, but his former neighbors are less than pleased with him for airing their dirty laundry. This book was a perfect combination of many emotions. It was a funny twist on the "you can't go home again" theme.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 6, 2009

    Know This Author? If Not, Discover Him

    Heard this author pushing his latest book at a New York book store and found him quite amusing in person. Bought what I think is his first book which apparently made the reading world aware of him. I liked this book very much. The lead character is quite willing to examine himself, make changes, listen to criticism. Passed the book on to friends. Alas, I then bought a second book by the author which unfortunately I liked less. But I definitely have not given up on him. There are more of his books in my future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    Excellent read.

    Engrossing and unique.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    One of my top favorite books

    This is one of my top favorite books of my adult life. The protagonist is a flawed and damaged man, but desires renewal and redemption. His story is written with such heart and sensitivity that the reader can't help but be sympathetic. There will be moments of nearly every emotion, and every moment spent buried in this world will be worth it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    Love this book!!!

    I really enjoyed this book. It was one of those books, that you don't put down, and you just keep reading until you find out how it ends. You feel like one of those little kids who stay up late with a flash light looking at comic books trying to finish. The reality in book was so believable and relatable, on some level, that it was so fun to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2008

    Amazing

    This was the best book that I've read in a while. You could picture everything, as if there was a movie going on in your head! I never wanted to put it down. I was so sad when the book was over, too. I just wanted to keep reading. This is a great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2006

    Phenomenal

    One of if not the best novels I've ever ever read. The Book of Joe is so real and heartfelt. The characters are so true to life. And, within the whole plot, lies the inner teenager that we all want/wanted to be. This book somehow makes you feel better.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 87 Customer Reviews

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