Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn

Overview


After celebrated author Jasper Gwyn suddenly and publicly announces that he will never write another book, he embarks on a strange new career path as a “copyist,” holding thirty-day sittings in a meticulously appointed room and producing, at the end, brief but profoundly rich portraits in prose. The surprising, beautiful, and even frightening results are received with rapture by their subjects—among them Gwyn’s devoted assistant, Rebecca; a beautiful fabric importer; a landscape painter; Gwyn’s own literary ...
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Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn

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Overview


After celebrated author Jasper Gwyn suddenly and publicly announces that he will never write another book, he embarks on a strange new career path as a “copyist,” holding thirty-day sittings in a meticulously appointed room and producing, at the end, brief but profoundly rich portraits in prose. The surprising, beautiful, and even frightening results are received with rapture by their subjects—among them Gwyn’s devoted assistant, Rebecca; a beautiful fabric importer; a landscape painter; Gwyn’s own literary agent; two wealthy newlyweds; a tailor to the Queen; and a very dangerous nineteen-year-old.

Then Gwyn disappears, leaving behind only a short note to his assistant—and the portraits. As Rebecca studies his words, she realizes that the mystery is larger than the simple fact of Gwyn’s whereabouts, and she begins to unravel a lifetime’s worth of clues left by a man who saw so much but said so little, a man whose solitude masked a heart as hungry as hers.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Rachel Donadio
Baricco has written a tender meditation on the almost imperceptible ways in which people, and books, can change us, resonate, call out over the years, sending us back in time and destabilizing us, like so many Trojan horses smuggled into our lives under cover of darkness. In these mysterious novellas, a gift is given from Jasper to Rebecca, from a writer to a reader, and from Baricco to us—elegantly wrapped, with much, it turns out, to ponder inside.
Publishers Weekly
05/05/2014
A prolific European master often compared to Italo Calvino, Baricco is still best known in the States for the cult classic Silk—but that should change with this enigmatic novel, which offers genial weirdness unparalleled this side of Haruki Murakami. Posing as a pair of novellas, the book centers on Jasper Gwyn, an acclaimed author who, to his agent’s despair, has cheerfully given up his career. But Gwyn soon finds a new vocation as a “copyist,” writing, rather than painting, portraits of high-end clients. Gwyn pursues his quest for realism from a run-down studio, helped by a carefully arranged array of lightbulbs, a 72-hour sound loop, and his devoted assistant Rebecca, to whom the story shifts after her employer vanishes amid a scandal. Years later, Rebecca comes to suspect that Gwyn the copyist might have been up to something even stranger than written portraiture. The nature of Gwyn’s secret lies in the book’s novel-within-a-novel, “Three Times At Dawn,” about the mysterious and seductive Malcolm Webster, whose life’s central events all transpire in hotel lobbies. Taken as one novel, the two sections make for a charming call-and-response meditation on how art connects the few brave enough to forget themselves. (July)
From the Publisher

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Pick.

"A prolific European master often compared to Italo Calvino, Baricco is still best known in the States for the cult classic Silk—but that should change with this enigmatic novel, which offers genial weirdness unparalleled this side of Haruki Murakami." —Publishers Weekly

"Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is the kind of wonderful discovery for which book critics wade through stacks of volumes. It is a standout... [and] one of the most unusual stories about love you’ll ever read." —San Francisco Chronicle

"[Alessandro] Baricco has written a tender meditation on the almost imperceptible ways in which people, and books, can change us, resonate, call out over the years, sending us back in time and destabilizing us, like so many Trojan horses smuggled into our lives under cover of darkness. " —The New York Times Book Review

"The work is a blended balance of satisfying resolve and loose ends that wander off the borders of the page, and recommended to anyone interested in fresh similes, comforting strangeness, and the confusion that clouds the human heart." —Booklist

"A tour de force of literary fiction" —Kirkus (Starred review)

“[A] high-minded literary mystery novel.” —Vanity Fair

"A very enjoyable read.” —The Complete Review

"Intriguing... a work of subtle touches."—Three Percent

"A cerebral mystery"—Minneapolis StarTribune

"This is a strange, satisfying summer read. Fast and light, though not without a little intellectual rigor." —Brooklyn Paper

“Alessandro Baricco limns these narrative connections with a great deal of mastery and a very delicate sense of touch.” —World Literature Today

"A sly, atmospheric work." —The Millions

"Baricco’s language thrives (here through Ann Goldstein’s graceful translation) in this light application of archetypal British mystery to an otherwise Kafkaesque narrative." —Full Stop

"The reader of Mr. Gwyn... becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer." —The Quarterly Conversation

From the Publisher

“Baricco’s narrative virtuosity continues to astonish.” —The Independent (London)

From the Publisher

"A prolific European master often compared to Italo Calvino, Baricco is still best known in the States for the cult classic Silk—but that should change with this enigmatic novel, which offers genial weirdness unparalleled this side of Haruki Murakami." —Publishers Weekly

"The work is a blended balance of satisfying resolve and loose ends that wander off the borders of the page, and recommended to anyone interested in fresh similes, comforting strangeness, and the confusion that clouds the human heart." —Booklist

"A tour de force of literary fiction" —Kirkus (Starred review)

“[A] high-minded literary mystery novel.” —Vanity Fair

"A very enjoyable read.” —The Complete Review

"Intriguing... a work of subtle touches."—Three Percent

"A cerebral mystery"—Minneapolis StarTribune

"This is a strange, satisfying summer read. Fast and light, though not without a little intellectual rigor." —Brooklyn Paper

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-05-21
Two novellas, thematically related by the theme of love...or the lack of love.The first, Mr. Gwyn, is a tour de force of literary fiction about a mysterious, somewhat reclusive and definitely quirky author. At 43, much to the distress of his agent, Jasper Gwyn has tired of writing books. After a brief and restless hiatus, he's inspired to create “portraits” in a way analogous to that of visual artists. He rents a studio and even commissions a composer to create “mood music” appropriate for the space. Then, to practice his craft, he hires his agent's assistant, Rebecca, to visit the studio four hours a day for 30 days. She simply lives her life there (though without clothing), and Gwyn observes her, though some days he doesn’t even bother to show up. At the end of that time, he produces a portrait in words that Rebecca finds extraordinarily insightful and deeply moving. Gwyn develops his talents and winds up with a flourishing business for those who want their portraits “painted” in words; the most meaningful one is for his agent, who has a terminal illness. Throughout the story, Baricco suggests that Gwyn is able to do in words what he can’t in life—get close to people. Rebecca then makes a startling discovery, believing that Gwyn has plagiarized his portraits from another author, Klarisa Rode, but in fact, he's begun publishing under assumed names. One of his works, published under the name Akash Narayan, is titled "Three Times at Dawn," not so coincidentally the name of Baricco's second novella. Though slighter, in some ways, this story is even more complex, for it focuses on three separate episodes revolving around a seedy hotel. In the first, Malcolm Webster meets a mysterious and seductive woman in his hotel room, while in the second, a young woman flirts with the hotel clerk (perhaps an older Malcolm Webster) as she tries to get some perspective on her relationship with her boyfriend up in their room. In the final section, a teenager, the younger Malcolm Webster, escapes from the squalor of the hotel with a woman detective as he deals with his dysfunctional family.Although the events he recounts remain cryptic, Baricco’s style is lucid, and the appearance-versus-reality mind games he plays with his readers are fascinating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781938073960
  • Publisher: McSweeney's Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Pages: 150
  • Sales rank: 346,894
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Alessandro Baricco is an Italian writer, director, and performer. He has won the Prix Médicis Étranger in France and the Selezione Campiello, Viareggio, and Palazzo al Bosco prizes in Italy.

Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker. She has translated three novels by Elena Ferrante—The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter—Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, The Chill by Romano Bilenchi, The Father and the Stranger by Giancarlo de Cataldo, and The Worst Intentions by Alessandro Piperno. Her translation of Linda Ferri's Cecilia is forthcoming in May 2010. She received a PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award and was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. She is currently editing the complete works of Primo Levi, for which she received a Guggenheim Translation fellowship. She lives in New York.

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