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Outlaws
     

Outlaws

by Josh Michaels
 

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A lot of people are attracted to their in-laws. But they pay attention to the warning signals. Usually prudent, history professor Jon Marcus has blundered through the flashing red lights. Twice. He's sleeping with his brother's wife and his wife's sister. Compounding Marcus's problems is the fallout, twenty-five years later, from a teenage romance with his cousin.

Overview

A lot of people are attracted to their in-laws. But they pay attention to the warning signals. Usually prudent, history professor Jon Marcus has blundered through the flashing red lights. Twice. He's sleeping with his brother's wife and his wife's sister. Compounding Marcus's problems is the fallout, twenty-five years later, from a teenage romance with his cousin. When Jon's mother is diagnosed with lung cancer, relations with his wife, his contentious brothers, and the sisters-in-law begin to unravel.

Outlaws is more than the story of illicit affairs with relatives. Marcus is helping direct an unorthodox production of The Magic Flute, with a subversive take on Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. He also volunteers at his local animal shelter on weekends, where he walks the dogs that will be euthanized on Monday. These activities weave their way into the plot, as does his passion for Venice and his curiosity about "the sister-in-law problem" in European history.

Set in Tampa, Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas, and Venice, California, and Venice, Italy, Outlaws is an erudite, entertaining, and moving narrative about some of the most dangerous of liaisons, a subject that's apparently taboo even today. The disgruntled academics, eccentric singers, quarrelsome brothers, appealing cousins, and seductive sisters-in-law are rendered with sympathy and wit, and their tragicomic story is one that readers won't soon forget.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
In Michaels' debut novel, a professor explores sexual relationships with his cousins and in-laws. On the surface, Jon Marcus seems to live a rather ordinary existence as a history professor with a wife and daughter, but his life has been far from conventional. Early in the novel, readers meet Jon's cousin Julie; even as children, Jon and Julie's mutual attraction is palpable, and by the time they are of legal age, they can't help but consummate their love. Their affair gives them a son--a secret they keep from the boy, named Jayson, and later from their respective spouses. Jon goes on to have sexual relations with another cousin, Cheryl; his brother's wife, Wendy; and his wife's sister, Laura. But when his mother is diagnosed with lung cancer, his life begins to unravel. His son reappears in a surprising, ironic way, as Jon tries to remain afloat while everything around him seems to be sinking. Readers may be tempted to see the book as a simple chronicle of conquests, but Jon's genuine, down-to-earth manner makes it hard to dismiss him as a kinky playboy. The plot is even somewhat Shakespearean--thick with outlandish characters and themes of deception and love. As such, the novel may seem a bit over-the-top at times, but it's well-written and often funny, as when Jon says, "I could do a short guidebook on romantic Italian restaurants to take your sisters-in-law to before and after you sleep with them." It's also quite self-aware, which keeps the plot from becoming silly; for example, academic Jon is interested in laws and taboos, which allows Michaels to weave several literary references about love and masculinity into the story. Conventional familial relationships, the novel seems to say, can be much darker than forbidden ones. An engaging, eccentric take on love and family.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780989099301
Publisher:
The Brabant Press
Publication date:
08/30/2013
Pages:
268
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)

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What People are Saying About This

Josh Getlin
If all Josh Michaels served up in Outlaws was a darkly comic take on the dilemma of having sex with one's in- laws—a provocative theme reminiscent of Philip Roth at his best —it would have been enough. But Outlaws, a compellingly readable first novel that touches down in Florida, Southern California, Venice, and Las Vegas, offers so much more. Painting a scathing portrait of a modern American family, Michaels mixes vignettes of petty squabbling and cringe-worthy spats with moments of genuine tragedy and revelation. Along the way, there are engaging riffs on the history of Venice, the humiliations of academic life, the world of pet rescue activists, and ruminations on Mozart's The Magic Flute, including a sympathetic (and long overdue) reassessment of the Queen of the Night. The beauty of Outlaws is that all of this fits together in a seamless, beautifully written narrative you won't soon forget. A solid literary debut, highly recommended. --Josh Getlin - New York-based books and culture writer, former New York Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.
Barry Spacks
A Balzacian variety-show full of learning and hi-jinx, this sophisticated study of eros and family takes no prisoners. Featuring warring siblings, impulsive bed-switchings, full-hearted academic satire, and a production of The Magic Flute to boot, in the good old praise-phrase, it's a page-turner. --Barry Spacks - author of the novels The Sophmore and Orphans, and eleven volumes of poetry, including Spacks Street: New and Collected Poems and The Hope of the Air

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