Flesh and Blood

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Overview

From the bestselling author of The Hours and Specimen Days comes a generous, masterfully crafted novel with all the power of a Greek tragedy.

The epic tale of an American family, Flesh and Blood follows three generations of the Stassos clan as it is transformed by ambition, love, and history. Constantine Stassos, a Greek immigrant, marries Mary Cuccio, an Italian-American girl, and they have three children, each fated to a complex life. Susan...
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Flesh and Blood: A Novel

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Overview

From the bestselling author of The Hours and Specimen Days comes a generous, masterfully crafted novel with all the power of a Greek tragedy.

The epic tale of an American family, Flesh and Blood follows three generations of the Stassos clan as it is transformed by ambition, love, and history. Constantine Stassos, a Greek immigrant, marries Mary Cuccio, an Italian-American girl, and they have three children, each fated to a complex life. Susan is oppressed by her beauty and her father's affections; Billy is brilliant, and gay; Zoe is a wild, heedless visionary. As the years pass, their lives unfold in ways that compel them--and their parents--to meet ever greater challenges.

From the acclaimed author of The Home at the End of the World comes a rich and memorable sounding of contemporary life--a powerful narrative that follows a family through four generations touched by ambition, love, violence, and the transforming effects of time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The cheers that greeted his literary debut, A Home at the End of the World, will resound again for Cunningham's second novel. Here his prose is again rich, graceful and luminous, and he exhibits a remarkable maturity of vision and understanding of the human condition. The marriage of Greek immigrant Constantine to Mary, the offspring of an Italian clan, is a mismatch of incompatible personalities, a union that is later maintained in a delicate balance between incomprehension and rage. The birth of their three children exacerbates the tension and leaves its indelible mark unto the third generation. When he becomes a partner in a shoddy construction company, Con lifts the Stassos family from near-poverty in Elizabeth, N.J., to a nouveau-riche enclave on Long Island, but his lifelong concern with money, and with exhibiting ``manliness,'' erupts into violent behavior that alienates his only son, Billy, even before the boy realizes that he is a homosexual. Con damages the other children, too; Susan escapes his sexual overtures through an early marriage, and wild, feral Zoe joins the drug culture in New York. Yet Cunningham condemns no one; he understands that Con ``exists in a chaos of yearning . . . [of] love and... hunger and... bottomless grief,'' and he portrays the other characters with equal sympathy. In delineating the story of this disconnected family, each member floating in his or her own sphere of bewilderment, anger, mistrust and fear but inextricably bound to others by flesh and blood, Cunningham illuminates the chasm between parents and children in contemporary America, beginning in the 1970s, when drug use and sexual freedom broke traditional constraints. Both fate and accident determine all of the characters' lives. Con betrays beautiful, distant Mary with his partner's fat, plain secretary-and ends up married to her. Mary becomes friends with Cassandra, a drag queen who is the godmother of Zoe's illegitimate half-black son. Billy renames himself Will, and finally finds a loving companion. All the characters are fallible and come late to self-knowledge. Cunningham's portraits are so honest and sensitive that we can see into their souls. His prose is both restrained and mesmerizing: individual scenes-such as one of teenagers in a car wreck-become incandescent images. In the end, what remains of Con and Mary's failed dreams of their lives and those of their children and grandchildren becomes a transcendent testament to the power of human endurance. 75,000 first printing; movie rights optioned by Tony Ganz/Wolf Productions; author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The story of Constantine Stassos freshly examines the American immigrant experience and conflict between generations. He, wife Mary, and three children Susan, Will, and Zoe seemingly embody solid middle-class values. However, Constantine's cruelty, voracious appetites, and questionable business practices poison his marriage and brutalize his children. Through painful quests for independence, personal balance, and community, the Stassos children learn acceptance of themselves and their siblings. Fairly brief episodes, often occuring years apart, recount key moments in the establishment, disintegration, and reconfiguration of the family. Thoroughly realized action, vivid character delineation, and the splendid control of language guarantee both the unity and powerful impact of this successful novel by the author of The Home at the End of the World (LJ 10/15/90). Very highly recommended.-Jane S. Bakerman, Indiana State Univ., Terre Haute
Library Journal

Cunningham offers a big, sprawling drama that follows three generations of the Stassos family, from 1958 to 2035. The 1995 novel garnered some impressive reviews for its handling of the immigrant experience and the later generations' rejection of their ancestors' ways.


—Michael Rogers
From the Publisher
"A wonderful . . . sprawling, old-fashioned novel."—The New York Times Book Review

"A work of dramatic humanity at a high and poetic level."—Los Angeles Times

"Reading Michael Cunningham is like putting on see-through glasses. He's got this way of exposing his characters' deepest inclinations and motivations, letting us peer through glass directly into their souls."—The Boston Globe

"The book buzzcuts like Edward Scissorhands through the conventionally dull pastures of the American family saga."—Vanity Fair

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684874319
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is the bestselling author of The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into an Academy Award–winning film. He lives in New York.

Biography

By the time he finished Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway at the age of fifteen to impress a crush who tauntingly suggested he "try and be less stupid" and do so, Michael Cunningham knew that he was destined to become a writer. While his debut novel wouldn't come until decades later, he would win the Pulitzer for Fiction with his third -- fittingly, an homage to the very book that launched both his love of literature and his life's work.

After growing up Cincinnati, Ohio, Cunningham fled to the west coast to study literature at Stanford University, but later returned to the heartland, where he received his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1980. A writer recognized early on for his promising talent, Cunningham was awarded several grants toward his work, including a Michener Fellowship from the University of Iowa in 1982, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1988.

In 1984, Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, was published. While generally well-received by the critics, the book -- a narrative chronicling a few weeks in the life of a 12-year-old-boy -- is often dismissed by Cunningham. In an interview with Other Voices, he explains: "I'm so much more interested in some kind of grand ambitious failure than I am in someone's modest little success that achieves its modest little aims. I felt that I had written a book like that, and I wasn't happy about it. My publisher very generously allowed me to turn down a paperback offer and it has really gone away."

With a new decade came Cunningham's stirring novel, A Home at the End of the World, in 1990. The story of a heartbreakingly lopsided love triangle between two gay men and their mutual female friend, the novel was a groundbreaking take on the ‘90s phenomenon of the nontraditional family. While not exactly released with fanfare, the work drew impressive reviews that instantly recognized Cunningham's gift for using language to define his characters' voices and outline their motives. David Kaufman of The Nation noted Cunningham's "exquisite way with words and ...his uncanny felicity in conveying both his characters and their story," and remarked that "this is quite simply one of those rare novel imbued with graceful insights on every page."

The critical acclaim of A Home at the End of the World no doubt helped Cunningham win the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 -- and two years later, his domestic epic Flesh and Blood was released. Chronicling the dysfunctional Stassos family from their suburban present back through to the parents' roots and looking toward the children's uncertain futures, the sprawling saga was praised for its complexity and heart. The New York Times Book Review noted that "Mr. Cunningham gets all the little things right.... Mr. Cunningham gets the big stuff right, too. For the heart of the story lies not in the nostalgic references but in the complex relationships between parents and children, between siblings, friends and lovers."

While the new decade ushered in his impressive debut, the close of the decade brought with it Cunningham's inarguable opus, The Hours (1998). A tribute to that seminal work that was the author's first inspiration -- Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway -- the book reworks the events and ideas of the classic and sets them alternately in 1980s Greenwich Village, 1940s Los Angeles, and Woolf's London. Of Cunningham's ambitious project, USA Today raved, "The Hours is that rare combination: a smashing literary tour-de-force and an utterly invigorating reading experience. If this book does not make you jump up from the sofa, looking at life and literature in new ways, check to see if you have a pulse." The Hours won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was adapted into a major motion picture starring the powerhouse trio of Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman in December 2002.

To come down from the frenetic success of The Hours, Cunningham took on a quieter project, 2002's tribute/travelogue Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown. The first installment in Crown's new "Crown Journeys" series, the book is a loving tour through the eccentric little town at the tip of Cape Cod beloved by so many artists and authors, Cunningham included. A haven for literary legends from Eugene O'Neill to Norman Mailer, Cunningham is -- rightfully -- at home there.

Good To Know

Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, can be hard to find; check out our Used & Out of Print Store to find a copy!

Cunningham's short story "White Angel" was chosen for Best American Short Stories 1989 -- the year before his acclaimed novel A Home at the End of the World was published.

When asked by Barnes & Noble.com about any other names he goes by, Cunningham's list included the monikers Bree Daniels, Mickey Fingers, Jethro, Old Yeller, Gaucho, Cowboy Ed, Tim-Bob, Mister Lies, Erin The Red, Miss Kitty, and Squeegee.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 6, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cincinnati, Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A., Stanford University, 1975; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1980
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1935

Constantine, eight years old, was working in his father's garden and thinking about his own garden, a square of powdered granite he had staked out and combed into rows at the top of his family's land. First he weeded his father's bean rows and then he crawled among the gnarls and snags of his father's vineyard, tying errant tendrils back to the stakes with rough brown cord that was to his mind the exact color and texture of righteous, doomed effort. When his father talked about

"working ourselves to death to keep ourselves alive," Constantine imagined this cord, coarse and strong and drab, electric with stray hairs of its own, wrapping the world up into an awkward parcel that would not submit or stay tied, just as the grapevines kept working themselves loose and shooting out at ecstatic, skyward angles. It was one of his jobs to train the vines, and he had come to despise and respect them for their wild insistence. The vines had a secret, tangled life, a slumbering will, but it was he, Constantine, who would suffer if they weren't kept staked and orderly. His father had a merciless eye that could find one bad straw in ten bales of good intentions.

As he worked he thought of his garden, hidden away in the blare of the hilltop sun, three square feet so useless to his father's tightly bound future that they were given over as a toy to Constantine, the youngest. The earth in his garden was little more than a quarter inch of dust caught in a declivity of rock, but he would draw fruit from it by determination and work, the push of his own will.

From his mother's kitchen he had spirited dozens of seeds, the odd ones that stuck to the knife or fell on thefloor no matter how carefully she checked herself for the sin of waste. His garden lay high on a crown of scorched rock where no one bothered to go; if it produced he could tend the crop without telling anyone. He could wait until harvest time and descend triumphantly, carrying an eggplant or a pepper, perhaps a tomato. He could walk through the autumn dusk to the house where his mother would be laying out supper for his father and brothers. The light would be at his back, hammered and golden. It would cut into the dimness of the kitchen as he threw open the door. His mother and father and brothers would look at him, the runt, of whom so little was expected. When he stood in the vineyard looking down at the world -- the ruins of the Papandreous' farm, the Kalamata Company's olive groves, the remote shimmer of town -- he thought of climbing the rocks one day to find green shoots pushing through his patch of dust. The priest counseled that miracles were the result of diligence and blind faith. He was faithful.

And he was diligent. Every day he took his ration of water, drank half, and sprinkled half over his seeds. That was easy, but he needed better soil as well.

The pants sewn by his mother had no pockets, and it would be impossible to steal handfuls of dirt from his father's garden and climb with them past the goats'

shed and across the curving face of the rock without being detected. So he stole the only way he could, by bending over every evening at the end of the workday, as if tying down one last low vine, and filling his mouth with earth. The soil had a heady, fecal taste; a darkness on his tongue that was at once revolting and strangely, dangerously delicious. With his mouth full he made his way up the steep yard to the rocks. There was not much risk, even if he passed his father or one of his brothers. They were used to him not speaking. They believed he was silent because his thoughts were simple. In fact, he kept quiet because he feared mistakes. The world was made of mistakes, a thorny tangle, and no amount of cord, however fastidiously tied, could bind them all down. Punishment waited everywhere. It was wiser not to speak. Every evening he walked in his customary silence past whatever brothers might still be at work among the goats, holding his cheeks in so no one would guess his mouth was full. As he crossed the yard and ascended the rocks he struggled not to swallow but inevitably he did, and some of the dirt sifted down his throat, reinfecting him with its pungent black taste. The dirt was threaded with goat dung, and his eyes watered. Still, by the time he reached the top, there remained a fair-sized ball of wet earth to spit into his palm. Quickly then, fearful that one of his brothers might have followed to tease him, he worked the handful of soil into his miniature garden. It was drenched with his saliva. He massaged it in and thought of his mother, who forgot to look at him because her own life held too many troubles for her to watch. He thought of her carrying food to his ravenous, shouting brothers. He thought of how her face would look as he came through the door one harvest evening. He would stand in the bent, dusty light before his surprised family. Then he would walk up to the table and lay out what he'd brought: a pepper, an eggplant, a tomato.


Other Books With Reading Group Guides



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Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Who is the narrator of Flesh and Blood? From whose point of view is the story told? At different points in the book, Cunningham switches to Jam's point of view and to Ben's point of view. What is the effect achieved by doing this? What effect does it have on you? Is it successful? If so why, if not, why not?
  2. Cunningham opens the book with the quote: "Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard.'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last. 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'" How does this quote relate to the story Cunningham tells in Flesh and Blood?
  3. Cunningham makes the wise hero/heroine, Cassandra, a transvestite. Why might he have made this choice? What might he be trying to imply about men and women and their roles? Cassandra teaches Mary about being a woman. What might Cunningham be trying to say about femininity? Is it inherent or learned? What do you think femininity means to Cunningham?
  4. Both Mary and Susan are prized for their beauty. What is the value of their beauty in Flesh and Blood? Does it offer them any power? What is the price they pay for their beauty?
  5. Cunningham takes us through 40 years of different characters' lives. Are his characters dynamic or do they remain the same? How do Mary, Susan, and Billy grow? Do you feel the characters find what they are seeking? What does each seek, and more importantly, what does each find?
  6. Throughout Flesh and Blood, Mary is concerned with cleanliness and order. What might Mary's desire to create cleanliness and order represent? What is out of order ordirty in Mary's life? What might Cunningham think one finds or loses in the messiness of life?
  7. Mary feels her impulse to shoplift "had more to do with cleaning up" than covetousness. What does this mean? What might her desire to clean up say about her secret yearning? Constantine calls Mary a "thief" for shoplifting. In the context of their relationship, why else might Mary be considered a thief?
  8. Mary takes Valium to help her breathe and to calm her anxiety. "The anger was sourceless — just nerves, she'd tell herself." Why is Mary so angry? What does she want that eludes her? What does Mary get from life and from her marriage with Constantine? Why might "her face stare at him with black emptiness?"Where does her disappointment come from?
  9. Maintaining a vegetable garden is associated with Constantine. Why might Cunningham have chosen to make him a gardener? What does it say about Constantine and his desires? The garden can be viewed as a metaphor for many situations and themes in the novel. Describe what they might be. What does the garden represent at the beginning of the book? Does this change by the end of the novel? Both Zoe and Constantine share a bond based on the garden. What is similar about their interest in the garden? What is different?
  10. Constantine is also a builder. Why might Cunningham have chosen to make him a builder? What do houses represent to Constantine? What associations do they have for the other members of the Stassos family? In the beginning, Constantine spies on the people that live in the houses he builds. Why might he do this? For what is he "yearning"? What is he looking for? At the end of the book, he again spies on his houses. At this point is he looking for something different?
  11. On two occasions Susan "makes out" with her father. Why did Cunningham make this part of his novel? What purpose to the plot does it serve? What drives Susan to do this the first time What is inside of Constantine which allows him to comply? What need are they each trying to fulfill? Why does Susan do this again at the funeral? How do you feel about it?
  12. Billy's relationship with his father is strained. He and Constantine are always fighting and Constantine asks himself, "How could he fail to adore his son?"What is the tension between Billy and Constantine? Why doesn't Constantine adore his son? What is the main issue over which they clash? What might Cunningham be trying to say about fathers and sons?
  13. Jamal is always finding things. Has he lost anything? What is he looking for? One time he finds a gull's wing "bleached, hardened, cleaned of its flesh...only bone and feathers."What might it mean that he finds this particular object? What metaphor can you draw about a character who is always finding things?
  14. What is Cunningham's vision of a successful life? Does any character attain a successful life? Who might come the closest? Does Cunningham have a vision for humanity?
  15. Cunningham writes about families in Flesh and Blood. What changes occur in the Stassos family as it is portrayed from 1950 to the present? What is unique about Cunningham's vision of the family in 20th-century literature? Do you think he believes that families in general can continue the way they are? Are they destined to change? What is the cost of family, the "flesh and blood?" What are the benefits? What are the rewards of the invented, created family? Does Flesh and Blood leave you with hope for the family?
Recommended Readings

Angels in America, Part 1: Millennnium Approaches, Tony Kushner

Theater Communications, 1993

Anywhere But Here, Mona Simpson

Vintage Books, 1992

Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

Plume, 1993

Vice Versa, Marjorie Garber

Touchstone, 1994

Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe

Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995

A Boy's Own Story, Edmund White

Dutton, 1994

History of Sexuality, Vol. I, Michael Foucault

Vintage Books, 1990

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler

Ivy Books, 1991

The Object of My Affection, Stephen McCauley

Washington Square Press, 1987

Lost Language of the Cranes, David Leavitt

Bantam Books, 1987

Machine Dreams, Jayne Anne Phillips

Washington Square Press, 1992

Orlando: A Biography, Virginia Woolf

Harcourt Brace & Co., 1973

The Politics of the Family and Other Essays, R. D. Laing

Vintage Books, 1972

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Reading Group Guide

1. Who is the narrator of Flesh and Blood? From whose point of view is the story told? At different points in the book, Cunningham switches to Jam's point of view and to Ben's point of view. What is the effect achieved by doing this? What effect does it have on you? Is it successful? If so why, if not, why not?

2. Cunningham opens the book with the quote: "Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard.'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last. 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'" How does this quote relate to the story Cunningham tells in Flesh and Blood?

3. Cunningham makes the wise hero/heroine, Cassandra, a transvestite. Why might he have made this choice? What might he be trying to imply about men and women and their roles? Cassandra teaches Mary about being a woman. What might Cunningham be trying to say about femininity? Is it inherent or learned? What do you think femininity means to Cunningham?

4. Both Mary and Susan are prized for their beauty. What is the value of their beauty in Flesh and Blood? Does it offer them any power? What is the price they pay for their beauty?

5. Cunningham takes us through 40 years of different characters' lives. Are his characters dynamic or do they remain the same? How do Mary, Susan, and Billy grow? Do you feel the characters find what they are seeking? What does each seek, and more importantly, what does each find?

6. Throughout Flesh and Blood, Mary is concerned with cleanliness and order. What might Mary's desire to create cleanliness and order represent? What is out of order or dirty in Mary's life? What might Cunningham think one finds or loses in themessiness of life?

7. Mary feels her impulse to shoplift "had more to do with cleaning up" than covetousness. What does this mean? What might her desire to clean up say about her secret yearning? Constantine calls Mary a "thief" for shoplifting. In the context of their relationship, why else might Mary be considered a thief?

8. Mary takes Valium to help her breathe and to calm her anxiety. "The anger was sourceless -- just nerves, she'd tell herself." Why is Mary so angry? What does she want that eludes her? What does Mary get from life and from her marriage with Constantine? Why might "her face stare at him with black emptiness?"Where does her disappointment come from?

9. Maintaining a vegetable garden is associated with Constantine. Why might Cunningham have chosen to make him a gardener? What does it say about Constantine and his desires? The garden can be viewed as a metaphor for many situations and themes in the novel. Describe what they might be. What does the garden represent at the beginning of the book? Does this change by the end of the novel? Both Zoe and Constantine share a bond based on the garden. What is similar about their interest in the garden? What is different?

10. Constantine is also a builder. Why might Cunningham have chosen to make him a builder? What do houses represent to Constantine? What associations do they have for the other members of the Stassos family? In the beginning, Constantine spies on the people that live in the houses he builds. Why might he do this? For what is he "yearning"? What is he looking for? At the end of the book, he again spies on his houses. At this point is he looking for something different?

11. On two occasions Susan "makes out" with her father. Why did Cunningham make this part of his novel? What purpose to the plot does it serve? What drives Susan to do this the first time What is inside of Constantine which allows him to comply? What need are they each trying to fulfill? Why does Susan do this again at the funeral? How do you feel about it?

12. Billy's relationship with his father is strained. He and Constantine are always fighting and Constantine asks himself, "How could he fail to adore his son?"What is the tension between Billy and Constantine? Why doesn't Constantine adore his son? What is the main issue over which they clash? What might Cunningham be trying to say about fathers and sons?

13. Jamal is always finding things. Has he lost anything? What is he looking for? One time he finds a gull's wing "bleached, hardened, cleaned of its flesh...only bone and feathers."What might it mean that he finds this particular object? What metaphor can you draw about a character who is always finding things?

14. What is Cunningham's vision of a successful life? Does any character attain a successful life? Who might come the closest? Does Cunningham have a vision for humanity?

15. Cunningham writes about families in Flesh and Blood. What changes occur in the Stassos family as it is portrayed from 1950 to the present? What is unique about Cunningham's vision of the family in 20th-century literature? Do you think he believes that families in general can continue the way they are? Are they destined to change? What is the cost of family, the "flesh and blood?" What are the benefits? What are the rewards of the invented, created family? Does Flesh and Blood leave you with hope for the family?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2006

    Great epic novel!

    I really liked this book a lot and would recommend it to others. It is a little racy in some parts, but from the way Cunningham writes, it just seems like that is what life is like for these characters. It's neat to see how the characters develop over the years.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2003

    A book anyone questioning family should read

    I liked this book. It gives a candid tale of a family over three generations. I think that the trials of the family, and the detail they are described in, pulls you into the story. Life is disterbing, this book relays life, not the impression of life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Amazing character-driven story

    WOW! That's the first thing that comes to mind about this amazingly well written story. Cunningham makes these characters not only believable, but *real*.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2006

    one of the greatest books i have ever read

    if anyone likes disfunctional family books here's the best of them all. terrific writing and a great plot!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2004

    The poetry of reality...

    The greatest thing about this book is the courage of writing reality with all the words it deserves. Some might call too sexual, to visual and shocking... but, that's the way life is. Umperfect, dirty... and so heartbreakingly beautiful. Cunningham's story about this family makes us realise that ours is not that different... and, by realising that, we get to understand things better... and accept things better. Leave your prejudice behind when reading this book... it deserves an open heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2002

    It's an OK book

    Yeah..this book sort of catches your interest in the beginning, but it drags on later. Also, I think there are too many sexual scenes vividly described in this book. That includes gay encounters, incest, and both--a male cousin gives oral sex to his other male cousin. I don't know. It's pretty disturbing to me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The book was a fun, easy read and just wonderful.

    Michael Cunningham creates a trace of Americana by following one hundred years (1935 - 2035) of three and a half generations of the Mary Guccio and Constantine Strassos marriage.

    Mary is an Italian immigrant and Constantine came from Greece. They meet in the US and they fall in love. They bear three Children: Susan, Billy, and Zoe.

    Originally Constantine struggles to keep bread on the table and is abusive physically with his family; sexually attacks Susan, Billy is his punching bag, and Zoe is such a rare being, he has no idea of what to do with her. She fares the best because Constantine loves to garden, a trait that he shares with Zoe.

    One night in 1963, Constantine meets another Greek at a bar, Nick Kazankakis. They connect immediately and this results in the upward mobility of Constantine. Building track houses and cutting costs they build an empire that makes Constantine very rich.

    Susan marries Todd, her high school sweetheart and they move to New Heaven where Todd is going to Yale. She works to support her husband and is afflicted by infertility, which makes her quite unhappy. Finally she has an affair with their tree doctor, Joel, and after deciding to end the affair, she conceives (either from Joel or Todd) a boy, Ben.

    Billy goes to Harvard and is gay. He is permanently looking for love, until he meets Harry, a cardiologist, with whom he establishes a long lasting relationship.

    Zoe moves to New York, where she befriends Cassandra, a transvestite, who adopts her. Zoe lives a life of the 60's with lots of drugs and sex. She conceives a boy, Jamal, from an African American father she dated for a while. She gets AIDS from her drug use.

    Mary knew that her husband was having an affair with his secretary, and in 1979, when she meets her at the office, she goes ballistic. She gets a separation and later a divorce in 1982.

    Constantine marries Magda, his secretary, to spite everyone.

    A really funny moment is that when Mary calls to inquire about Jamal, Cassandra answers the phone and Mary can relate to the "woman" very well and they form a bond that lasts for the rest of their lifetimes. Even after Mary discovers what Cassandra really is.

    Ben is gay, and to hide it, he learns to sail with his grandfather, Constantine. Zoe is the first to pick on Ben's sexuality as she suspects that Jamal and Ben are having sex. Jamal is straight and just love to have sex, but he finally rejects Ben because it is getting awkward for Jamal to screw his cousin. In the middle of the rejection, with Jamal's dick out and Ben on his knees, Ben is caught in the act by Constantine. After being discovered, Ben decides to go sailing with his grandfather. He sails dangerously fast until they capsize. Instead of picking the boat up, because he can't deal with his sexuality he commits suicide swimming away until he drowns.

    Zoe and Cassandra are both die from AIDS and Jamal is adopted by Billy-who changes his name to Will-and Harry.

    Susan leaves Todd after the death of her son and remarries: at age 45 has a daughter whom she names Zoe.

    The book ends in 2035 as Jamal, now married and with kids is spreading the ashes of Will and Harry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    Very human

    The characters, like actual people, cling to all the changes they experience in effects, relationships, knowledge, and time. The writing is full of knowledge and a gift for observation and its translation. A true telling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2004

    Michael Cunningham's Least Recognized Novel Is Stupendous

    Flesh and Blood is a spectacular novel. This book has heart and soul and I would reccomend it to anyone. Although Cunningham was awarded the pulitzer prize for the hours (also a spectacular novel,) I found this novel to be cunninham at his very best.

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    Posted May 12, 2013

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    Posted January 17, 2011

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    Posted December 19, 2011

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