The Exquisite

Overview

“Strange, original, and utterly brilliant—Laird Hunt is one of the most talented young writers on the American scene today.”—Paul Auster

Henry, a New Yorker left destitute by circumstance and obsession, is plucked from vagrancy by a shadowy outfit whose primary business is arranging for staged murders of anxiety-ridden clients unhinged by the “events downtown” and seeking to -experience—and live through—their own carefully executed assassinations. When Henry joins this nefarious crew, which includes a beautiful ...

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The Exquisite

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Overview

“Strange, original, and utterly brilliant—Laird Hunt is one of the most talented young writers on the American scene today.”—Paul Auster

Henry, a New Yorker left destitute by circumstance and obsession, is plucked from vagrancy by a shadowy outfit whose primary business is arranging for staged murders of anxiety-ridden clients unhinged by the “events downtown” and seeking to -experience—and live through—their own carefully executed assassinations. When Henry joins this nefarious crew, which includes a beautiful blonde tattooist named Tulip, contortionist twins, and a woman referred to only as “the knockout,” he becomes inextricably linked to its ringleader, the mysterious herring connoisseur Mr. Kindt, whose identity can be traced through twists and turns all the way back to the corpse depicted in Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson.

Mirrored by a concurrently running story set in a hospital where Henry and Mr. Kindt are patients attended to by a certain Dr. Tulp, the mysteries surrounding Mr. Kindt’s past, Henry’s fate, and murders both staged and real begin to unravel in the most extraordinary ways. Substantive, stylish, and darkly comic, The Exquisite is a skillful dissection of reality, human connection, and the very nature of existence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shiftless and broke, thieving drifter Henry gets involved with a gang of faux assassins in Hunt's intensely cerebral third novel. Written in an intentionally mystifying fashion ("Falsification," says one character, "sits at the center of everything"), the novel, set in a shell-shocked post 9/11 Manhattan, alternates between two narratives: in one, Henry joins a group, led by the mysterious Mr. Kindt, that stages fake murders for money; in the other, Henry resides in a psychiatric hospital, where Mr. Kindt visits him daily and encourages him to earn money by stealing pharmaceuticals. In both story lines, Henry tries unsuccessfully to sort through layers of deception to learn about Kindt's past. It is possible that Henry's life as a fake hired gun is imagined during his hospital stay; it is equally possible that both lives are occurring simultaneously, as Hunt makes obfuscation one of his chief objectives. A wan love interest develops with tattoo artist Tulip (an echo of the hospital's Dr. Tulp), but it is mostly motivated by Henry's desire to discover why Tulip would want to "tussle" with him. This noir labyrinth captures the post-9/11 gestalt of anxiety and hopelessness. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In Hunt's (Indiana, Indiana) latest, Henry is down on his luck when a new opportunity arises: committing mock murders for the mysterious Aris Kindt and his beautiful associate, Tulip. Is this the same Aris Kindt as the hanged criminal being operated on in Rembrandt's famous painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp? Or are Henry and Kindt both patients in a mental hospital, and is Tulip really Dr. Tulp? Which of either of these never-quite-intersecting narratives are we to believe, or should we believe anything at all? Does the final chapter resolve either or both scenarios? Maybe. The only thing of which we can be sure is that Kindt loves creamed herring on crackers and that Henry develops a taste for it. But can you get creamed herring in a mental hospital? Hmmm. Is this a new postmodern classic? Maybe. Should you buy it for your library? Maybe, if you are a medium-to-large academic or public library. In fact, probably so, which is more probability than you will find in Hunt's novel. Bring your suspension of disbelief and negative capability on this wild literary trip.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The namesake of a 17th-century thief helms a fake murder ring in New York's East Village. Henry, a young man whom the big city has chewed up and spit out, meets a tall Dutch-like beauty named Tulip, who leads him to Aris Kindt, who lifted his name from the cadaver subject of Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson. In homage to the late W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, Hunt (Indiana, Indiana, 2003, etc.) makes ekphrastic use of book and painting as templates for a danse macabre, a mannered gavotte featuring Kindt's ersatz murder posse: a near-bionic woman known only as "knockout"; contortionist twins; a failed faux murderer named Anthony or Job; and Cornelius, Kindt's henchman from way back, to a certain night on Lake Otsego. Against a backdrop of post-9/11 upheaval-black netting on windows is a leitmotif-present and past conflate. A hospital that houses homeless Henry after he's hit by a florist's van segues seamlessly into an institution for the criminally insane. Entranced by his new mentor's courtly persona, his crackers and talismanic herring spread, his tales of the Dutch theft of New York and his air of soft-spoken menace, Henry quickly becomes chief "executioner," and there are hints that one victim, Kindt's accountant, may have actually died. Facts are provisional; only questions propel the plot. What are the origins of Kindt's identity and prosperity? How will Kindt's fake murder devolve into a real murder for which Henry is framed? Although the work deliberately subverts linearity and relies on a stylishly down-at-heels East Village for much of its resonance, Sebald-concordance and elegant gimmickry do the heavy lifting. Hunt's lapidary dialogue, sharpobservation and penchant for enlivening character with a few deft strokes might be better showcased in a less meta-fictional straitjacket. An author to watch once he "murders" his mentors.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566891875
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 550,700
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Laird Hunt

Called "one of the most talented young writers on the American scene today" by Paul Auster, Laird Hunt is the author of three previous, genre-bending novels: The Impossibly, The Exquisite, and Indiana, Indiana. A former press officer at the United Nations and current faculty member at the University of Denver, he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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