Men in Black

Overview

"Darkly comic...satirical... lyrical...remarkable." --The New Yorker

"Once every few years a novel will fill me with an almost magical joy...Everything in Spencer's latest book--his slightly surreal plot, stunningly drawn protagonist, and brilliant use of language--produces in me that feeling of deep personal gratification. Men in Black is narrated, for the most part, by Sam Holland, a literary novelist with a sideline of writing quickie, pseudonymous books ("An Intelligent ...

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Men in Black

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Overview

"Darkly comic...satirical... lyrical...remarkable." --The New Yorker

"Once every few years a novel will fill me with an almost magical joy...Everything in Spencer's latest book--his slightly surreal plot, stunningly drawn protagonist, and brilliant use of language--produces in me that feeling of deep personal gratification. Men in Black is narrated, for the most part, by Sam Holland, a literary novelist with a sideline of writing quickie, pseudonymous books ("An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Pro Football," "Traveling With Your Pet") to pay the bills. When Holland writes "Visitors from Above" no one suspects that this is largely made-up primer on UFOs will become an enormous bestseller. At bottom, Men in Black is the story of one man trying to tell the truth, but it is also the story of a marriage, an angry kid, media hype, and a country whose identity has become hopelessly fractured...Profound ideas are interwoven with a story that is not only thoroughly engrossing, but very funny as well." --Los Angeles Times Book Review

To pay the bills, Sam Holland wrote "Visitors from Above"--a quickie book on UFOs seasoned with sensationalism. He never expected it to become a smash bestseller, and now that his teenage son has run away, his marriage is deteriorating, and his publisher is planning a publicity tour, Sam is beginning to wish he could return to the restless obscurity he once enjoyed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Family politics, marital discord, personal integrity, extraterrestrials, the publishing game and the vagaries of the American public find wise and witty treatment in this perceptive, highly readable novel from the author of Endless Love and Waking the Dead. Novelist Sam Holland has moved with his wife and two children to tiny Leyden, N.J., because his writing-despite favorable notices-can no longer pay the rent in Manhattan. To make ends meet, Sam has taken to penning pseudonymous volumes of popular nonfiction-"An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Pro Football," "Crystal Death" (about the hazards of table salt) and, most recently, "Visitors from Above," a UFO primer. Now, as his family fabric is seriously fraying (he's at constant battle with his wife, and his adolescent son runs away from home and into serious trouble), and as he is just beginning to realize how he has failed them and others, his UFO book is about to make him rich. Wrenching ironies abound, along with some keen insights into the subtleties of husband-wife and parent-child relationships. There are some awkward shifts between first- and third-person narration, but Spencer's prose is engaging, his characters are etched with tender intensity and the story proves compelling and hard to forget. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Sam Holland's life is mired in failure. Constantly aware of his inadequacies as a son, husband, father, and writer, he is made even more uneasy by a quirky success. His book on UFOs, written for quick money, suddenly propels him onto the best-sellers lists. Ironically, the status he has longed for is now an embarrassment. As he is pulled into a semicelebrity world of book tours and publicity, his family comes apart. His runaway son winds up cavorting with petty criminals, his wife suffers from her own estrangements, and his former lover is pregnant. There is a good story buried beneath the jumbled emotions here, but it never quite surfaces. Spencer's previous novels include Secret Anniversaries (LJ 5/1/90). For larger collections.-Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., N.C.
Lisa Orzepowski
The new novel by the well-known author of Endless Love tells a curiously familiar tale about a once-not-so-famous author whose latest literary endeavor changes his life. Sam Holland is a writer, a family man, and someone on the verge of a total, self-afflicted catastrophe. Sam is proud to write reputable fiction. He even moves from his beloved New York City to the country to support his family on a meager, on-and-off-again salary. Much to his chagrin, Sam drums up a trashy, sf novel--using a pseudonym to save face--that surprisingly skyrockets to success. Sam is embarrassed. To add to the pain, his son Michael is missing after a therapy session, affairs occur and resurrect, and a promotional tour leads Sam, or rather "John Retcliffe," to a quasi-nervous breakdown. Sam can no longer stomach the discussions of men in black, UFO sightings, and people around the country extrapolating theories from his fake book, "Visitors from Above". As a result, he takes an unauthorized hiatus from the tour to get back in touch with family matters. The real-life characters and writing style in this entertaining new book will surely appeal to many readers, whether they are newcomers or old fans of Spencer's.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517179628
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/20/1997

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