A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living

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“A tour filled with moments of grace and angst, and an overwhelming sense that compassion matters.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
Arthur Camden’s greatest talents are for packing and unpacking suitcases, making coleslaw, and second-guessing every decision in his life. When his business fails and his wife leaves him—to pursue more aggressive men—Arthur finds that he has none of the talents and finesse that everyone else seems to possess for ...
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A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living

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“A tour filled with moments of grace and angst, and an overwhelming sense that compassion matters.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
Arthur Camden’s greatest talents are for packing and unpacking suitcases, making coleslaw, and second-guessing every decision in his life. When his business fails and his wife leaves him—to pursue more aggressive men—Arthur finds that he has none of the talents and finesse that everyone else seems to possess for navigating New York society.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Dahlie's entertaining debut, Arthur Camden is a fly fisherman, devoted husband and father, and minor Manhattan socialite who would like nothing more than to avoid "troubling introspection." Yet his slow botching of the family import-export business and the sudden dissolution of his marriage certainly have something to do with his bursting into tears at a meeting of the Hanover Street Fly Casters-a men's club founded by his great-grandfather-and declaring his steadfast love for its members. This display of emotion is only the first crack in his reputation, and a sojourn to his son's Colorado ranch begins a retreat to the safety of the club's restricted world, while sorting out a bevy of complex feelings he struggles to recognize, let alone process. In the balance is nothing short of his identity and self-worth, stakes that debut novelist Dahlie makes abundantly clear with light comic touches. Dahlie's dry and understated portrayal of old upper-crust Manhattan is as crisp and authentic as a well-made gin and tonic; the various turns of plot are swift and precise; and one is soon rooting for Arthur to get his groove back. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Portrait of a well-heeled wimp. When we first see Arthur Camden he's crying his eyes out. The middle-aged New Yorker has reached his nadir. He has run the family import-export business into the ground, and his trampy wife Rebecca has divorced him. Arthur's a member of an exclusive fishing club, the Fly Casters, and he has his tearful breakdown in front of his fellow members, believing them to be his friends. He's wrong; for most of them he's a figure of fun, but there's an exception, Ken Fielder, who fixes Arthur up with some dates which don't pan out. Then Arthur dates a woman called Rixa who insists he show her the club's luxurious lodge in the Catskills, though it's breaking the rules to sneak in strangers. The evening is a disaster; accident-prone Arthur causes a fire and bursts into tears as the club burns down. He's forced to resign, but he still has his Park Avenue apartment and enough money to sustain a work-free lifestyle. Time to escape Manhattan. He takes up the reluctantly proffered invitation of an old school friend with a nice spread in the French Alps, but Prentice Ross is no more a friend now than his erstwhile fishing buddies. He's a neglectful host, an angry alcoholic who lands Arthur in trouble with the cops; lacking the guts to deck Ross, Arthur beats a hasty retreat to Switzerland. Instead of a plot Dahlie arranges a series of scenes that humiliate Arthur without granting him self-knowledge; the point being, presumably, that there's no fool like an old fool. At a family reunion on Nantucket he steals his cousin's watch, an expensive family heirloom, only to have its loud alarm incriminate him, a moment of primitive farce. Farce is followed by wild improbability whenex-wife Rebecca, quite drunk, pressures Arthur into meaningless sex, leading him to hope for a reconciliation. Fat chance. Touted as a comedy, Dahlie's debut is an exercise in schadenfreude that is not remotely funny. Agent: Douglas Stewart/Sterling Lord Literistic
New York Times
“Charming. . . . Mr. Dahlie’s debut novel takes a surprising tack. It deals quite affectionately with its central character and his frailties.”
Boston Sunday Globe
“You will root for this winsome, unique narrator to the very end.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
Michael Dahlie's first novel, an elegant, restrained dark comedy, could be called a kinder, gentler Handful of Dust. It is 1998, a dreadful year for 57-year-old Manhattanite, Arthur Camden, a mild-mannered deviation from a line of business titans. He has run the family firm into the ground, and his wife of 32 years has left him, preferring someone who's fun and on the ball. The point of Arthur's life, never finely honed to begin with, now completely escapes him. His only friends, aside from his sons, are -- or seem to be -- his fellow members of the Hanover Street Fly Casters. But, unsurprisingly, disaster strikes there, too, and Arthur packs his bags -- an activity he has always enjoyed -- and sets off on a doomed, though terribly funny, journey. The better we get to know Arthur and his feelings of invincible of inadequacy, his natural talent for entering every situation on the wrong foot, and his own wonder at his knack of exasperating others, the more we are drawn to his self-deprecating decency. When he does sally forth we find ourselves rooting for him as if he were coming of age. ("After the concert...Arthur suggested they get dinner, and before long they were seated at a corner table at a restaurant called Epi Dupin, leaning into each other and, although Arthur felt he was not qualified to identify it as such, flirting.") Dahlie's writing is limpid and deadpan, maintaining the spirit of Arthur's orderly, if baffled, soul. What is more, out of this unlikely material comes extraordinary suspense. Will Arthur pull it together? Will his tormentors get theirs? What is going to happen? This is a book I could neither put down nor bear the thought of finishing. --Katherine A. Powers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393066173
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Dahlie won the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living, and he received a Whiting Award in 2010. He is currently the Booth Tarkington Writer-in-Residence at Butler University in Indianapolis.
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Customer Reviews

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