How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood

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Overview

From strip clubs to the Academy Awards to the basketball court—a ride through the landscape of guyhood.
Acclaimed fiction writer Thomas Beller digs deep into his own history in this humorous and insightful collection about the state of masculinity. With sharp and engaging eloquence he discourses on T-shirts; being your mother's date at the Academy Awards; life at a bagel factory; the irrational pleasures of old American cars—and the mysterious disappearance of the author's own ...

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How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood

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Overview

From strip clubs to the Academy Awards to the basketball court—a ride through the landscape of guyhood.
Acclaimed fiction writer Thomas Beller digs deep into his own history in this humorous and insightful collection about the state of masculinity. With sharp and engaging eloquence he discourses on T-shirts; being your mother's date at the Academy Awards; life at a bagel factory; the irrational pleasures of old American cars—and the mysterious disappearance of the author's own particular vehicle from a street in downtown Manhattan; love, sex, and breakups in an office environment; the social ecology of street basketball—including the sudden peril befalling a particular court in Manhattan and the heartwarming efforts of previously disparate community members to save it; coaches; the death of a parent; getting over J. D. Salinger; and an attempt to build a complicated piece of furniture for a beloved. Through stints as a bike messenger, a drummer, a boyfriend and—possibly, potentially, finally—a husband, Beller writes about the life-changing effects of love and marriage—past, present, and future.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Some of the pieces are fairly straight reportage, albeit with a personal angle: a center for the treatment of "sex addiction" in Arizona, strip clubs, a minor-league basketball tryout camp. These are all good enough as such things go and contain occasional moments of insight -- "the recovery movement colonizes every aspect of human experience and makes it something that needs to be cured. . . . It makes pathological that which is part of life" -- but the best pieces turn out to be those in which Beller writes about himself and his own experiences.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Old cars, custom carpentry and chemistry sets are just some of the topics novelist Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist) uses to explore his own emotional maturation. In spare, crisp language, his descriptions of items and tasks slowly become excavations of memories. The best sections of his book-which is largely assembled from pieces that first appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Elle-call to mind Raymond Carver in their clarity of language and subdued emotion. In one essay, Beller's fond recall of his 1977 Thunderbird morphs into a meditation on the difficulty of letting go of the romantic notions of youth. In another, a girlfriend's constant purchases of clothing for the author eventually become occasions for melancholy (the gifts began to feel like apologies). A third piece addresses the "paradoxical reality" of strip clubs: they're "one of the few remaining places men can go to not think about women." The only blot on this otherwise excellent book is the chapter in which Beller describes the end of a relationship between the cofounders of Nerve.com; its reportorial tone feels jarring and out-of-place. The rest of the book is thoughtful and controlled; overall, Beller has penned a fine collection of essays that will resonate with many. Agent, Mary Evans. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Beller is known primarily for fiction (e.g., The Sleep-Over Artist). Here, however, he presents a collection of loosely related essays, many previously published in The New Yorker, Elle, and Men's Health, that analyze his maturation as a young man in New York. The topics range from working at a bagel shop to his beloved car to relationships past and present. As the subtitle suggests, he struggles throughout to come to terms with adulthood. These thoughtful essays will reach more than young twentysomethings going through their own maturation crises; Beller's smooth prose and insightful analyses will appeal to fans of good writing everywhere. He prefaces each piece with his age at the time the scene occurred, but he skips around. Also, the pieces on sex addiction and an office breakup focus (comparatively) impersonally on other people, which is a sharp departure in tone and focus from the rest of the book. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Audrey Snowden, John F. Kennedy Sch., Santiago de Queretaro, Queretaro, Mexico Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393326833
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/17/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Beller is the author of Seduction Theory, The Sleep-Over Artist and How to Be a Man. He is a founder and editor of Open City magazine and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.com. He lives in New York City and New Orleans.

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Table of Contents

Manhattan ate my car 1
The costume party 9
Mother goes to Hollywood 19
Chemistry set 27
The drummer 35
The birthday suit 43
Portrait of the bagel as a young man 51
The problem with t-shirts 77
A biker in the city 81
Turtles in New York 87
The breakup 91
The tryout 105
Addicted to love 113
The last days of Shakespeare & company 135
Scenes from a playground 141
A bike messenger in the city 155
Strip club 165
A car is not a castle 173
Walking the dog 189
The floating armoire 211
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