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Mammals

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One of the most internationally noteworthy titles from Europe in recent years, Mammals is a witty anatomization of modern life. Caustic, comic, and unflinchingly honest, Mammals is a cruel but beautiful tale of love, solitude, alcoholism, family, and unemployment. This fictional memoir of a glorious loser recounts the life of the Uncle, an unhappy Parisian bachelor whose only true loves were a Polish girl and a divorcee. He is a drunk; he is sarcastic; he works and fails desultorily in several fields until he ...
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Overview


One of the most internationally noteworthy titles from Europe in recent years, Mammals is a witty anatomization of modern life. Caustic, comic, and unflinchingly honest, Mammals is a cruel but beautiful tale of love, solitude, alcoholism, family, and unemployment. This fictional memoir of a glorious loser recounts the life of the Uncle, an unhappy Parisian bachelor whose only true loves were a Polish girl and a divorcee. He is a drunk; he is sarcastic; he works and fails desultorily in several fields until he winds up surrounded by neurotic women, a teacher in a secondary school. He tries out therapist after therapist and can't figure out who is the butt of the joke. He has nephews and this makes him nervous. In fact, almost everything about family life makes him nervous — especially now that he's living at home again. He coins proverbs for living with lowered expectations and attempts a bestiary of his pathological parents, the mammals of the title.

Riding its handbasket merrily to hell, veering now and then toward overwhelming lyricism, Mammals pieces together the portrait of modern society's Everyman. It establishes Pierre Merot as an extraordinary and delightful voice of international stature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Merot, in his first English translation, is romantic and dark, with a weakness for the well-turned paradox ("Psychoanalysis teaches you one vital lesson: it teaches you that seeing a psychoanalyst is pointless...") and the surrealistic metaphor (coming into Poland in the winter, the protagonist sees "snow with white vodka claws"). Merot's novel centers on an overeducated, underemployed 40-something man known as "the uncle," for his role as the black sheep of a model family. The story line strings together the uncle's life in episodes involving alcoholism (eight pints per evening and counting), marriage (unsuccessful), cohabitation (with a woman reminiscent of his childhood fantasy, Cruella de Ville), odd jobs (in various contemptable venues, including "Walt Disney College"), and the sadness of ending up at 40 with a small apartment and a large belly. While the protagonist is a man, Merot's novel invokes the most bitter of chick lit, capturing the pessimism characteristic of the unlucky-in-love working-gal heroine: "The more mediocre the times, the greater the disappointment." Though it takes some missteps, Merot's American debut should please casual fiction readers and Francophiles alike. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This work offers a glimpse into the life of a depressed, alcoholic, self-loathing 40-year-old man. After a series of dead-end jobs, the uncle, as he is referred to, remains as pitiful as he is on page one. He enjoys numerous sexual partners and shallow friendships, never allowing himself the time and energy it takes to be remotely happy. Eventually, the uncle is compelled to move back in with his parents but continues his sex-crazed, alcoholic life. Lacking plot or general structure, this novel (Merot's first to be translated into English) reads more like memoir made up of random graphic stories. Though he is "the uncle" and the others are "the mammals," they all lack humanity. Ultimately, this novel fails to maintain its pace, and, overall, it is hard to become invested in the characters. Though M rot has been compared to Charles Bukowski, he fails to capture the humanity that makes Bukowski's characters so entertaining. Not recommended.-Stephen Morrow, Amherst, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Merot's first book to be translated into English is the wild tale of a Parisian anti-hero called the Uncle. It would probably be safe to say that Merot's protagonist is something of a poorly adjusted sort. Intermittently employed, occasionally married, most always drunk and still living at home with his parents, he embodies a sort of cautionary tale for those who might thumb their nose at the idea of bourgeois respectability. He's the type of guy who would bum all your smokes over the course of an evening out; or cadge drinks off you all night at the bar; or crash on your couch for a week or two and sleep with your girlfriend while you were out working to make the rent. In other words, a highly unreliable fellow. He's a charmer, though, which is why this book, despite being chock-full of windy, juvenile philosophizing from beginning to end, rarely fails to entertain. The Uncle lets loose in a series of free-flowing reminiscences, touching on his jobs, his parents, his women. He rails against family, work, love-all the usual targets of your misunderstood bohemian-bemoaning the sorts of disappointments grownups generally learn to accept. It would all be pretty obnoxious were he not at the same time delightfully funny. He's able, with his thoroughly jaundiced gaze, to ferret out absurdity. A trip to the psychiatrist, an all-night bender, a stint at a crumbling publishing outfit-all provide fine satirical fodder. The Uncle is a frustrating creature, no doubt, and his complaints for the most part are worth little more than an eye-roll, but were he not so petty a man, it's unlikely he'd be such an amusing one, either. Tiresome at times, but with enough laughs to make it worthwhile.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802170194
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/10/2006
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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