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Passionate Spectator
     

Passionate Spectator

by Eric Kraft
 

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In Passionate Spectator, memoirist Peter Leroy and his wife Albertine are living by the skin of their teeth in Manhattan. Casting about for a source of income, Peter purchases a book from a homeless peddler, Creative Self-Promotion for Taxidermists, hoping he can adapt its techniques to promote his fledgling business: Memoirs While You Wait. That

Overview

In Passionate Spectator, memoirist Peter Leroy and his wife Albertine are living by the skin of their teeth in Manhattan. Casting about for a source of income, Peter purchases a book from a homeless peddler, Creative Self-Promotion for Taxidermists, hoping he can adapt its techniques to promote his fledgling business: Memoirs While You Wait. That book opens into a beguiling journey from fiction to truth and back again, involving Peter, his childhood friend Matthew Barber (who is undergoing emergency heart surgery), and Peter's witty, urbane alter-ego, Bertram W. Beath--an erotic opportunist and "passionate spectator"of life's pageant.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The only American author since Pynchon to completely erase the line between the literary novel and the spit-out-your-coffee comedy.” —The Washington Post

“The novel playfully riffs on Proust and the Nabokov of Pale Fire, and its denouement touches on The Odyssey and 'Jack in the Beanstalk.' That the book also manages to entertain the neophyte is a credit to Kraft's colorful incisive prose and off-kilter wit.” —Time Out (New York )

“Kraft manages to spin one delicate yarn after another by mixing a dollop of plot with observations, asides, offbeat humor, and an abiding and infectious enthusiasm.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune

Publishers Weekly
In his 10th novel featuring the irrepressible Peter Leroy, Kraft steers his engaging protagonist into the thickets of freelance writing as Leroy attempts to fund a series of unusual adventures by helping others write their memoirs. Leroy lives in New York City, where he and his pianist wife, Albertine, maintain a precarious existence short on money but long on compassionate understanding. As the novel begins, Leroy is itching to slip again into one (or several) of his elaborate fantasies ("I am a crowd... one of the people one passes on a New York street who hear inner voices"). Albertine ("I have heard her referred to as my long-suffering wife") acts as his enabler, gently encouraging him to indulge his flights of fancy and experiment with alter egos. The scene switches from New York to Boston and then to Miami as Leroy assumes the imaginary identities of Matthew Barber, a heart patient, and Bertram Beath, a lothario who makes a habit of sleeping with total strangers. Meanwhile, Leroy's memoir-writing business languishes, though he expands it to include pets. It's not always clear what Leroy remembers from previous forays as Barber and Beach, and what triggers his transformations, but the reader is distracted from any minor inconsistencies by Leroy's endearing frankness and Albertine's wry, tolerant wit. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Middle age, mortality, and the meaning of life: all are examined with the lightest touch imaginable in this tenth in Kraft's ongoing Chronicles (Inflating the Dog, 2002, etc.). Long Island clam-fancier and personal historian Peter Leroy and his splendid wife Albertine, now fortysomethings, have moved to Manhattan, where he, a freelance writer of such unfulfilling fluff as explanatory booklets for "Eager Readers," hatches the idea of a "memoir-assistance service" for prospective autobiographers. The project is put on temporary hold when Peter is summoned for possible jury duty, strikes up acquaintances with attractive female fellow citizens, and drifts into daydreamed experiences involving two of the alter egos who help populate his overactive fantasy life. Imagining himself simultaneously accompanied by them and becoming them, Peter-"as" his old school friend Matthew Barber-gets into a fight, suffers a mild heart attack, and recovers in a Boston hospital, aided by a gorgeous nurse who gives him (in no particularly logical order) a sponge bath, a provocative "theory of time," and an unruly erection. Then, "as" Matthew's opposite and nemesis B.W. Beath (the pseudonym Peter had used when moonlighting as a restaurant reviewer), he takes a vacation trip to Florida and points beyond, where he encounters several more fetching females, stimulates their intellects, and tumbles into bed with them. The Beath episodes are somewhat strained (more like middling Rushdie than vintage Kraft), but the novel rights itself quite agreeably as Peter, spared from jury duty after all, "returns home" like a very Odysseus to the comforts of Albertine, and a most surprising fulfillment of his wishes. Kraftwoolgathers with an energy that would shame a sheep-shearer, and overhearing Peter's evening conversations over martinis with the ineffable Albertine is almost as good as listening to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio again. More of the same, and may it go on forever. Mark Twain and Will Rogers would have felt right at home with the Leroys. Agent: Noah Lukeman/Lukeman Literary Management

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312424848
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
07/01/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

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Meet the Author

Eric Kraft is the author of nine novels, including Inflating a Dog and Leaving Small's Hotel. He and his wife recently moved from New York City to St. Petersburg, Florida.

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