Taft

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Overview

"Taft" is the story of John Nickel, a black ex-musician who wanted nothing more than to be a good father. But his son is taken away from him and he is left with nothing but the Memphis bar he manages. When he hires a young white waitress named Fay Taft, he doesn't know that he is taking on her desperate brother, Carl, as well. Nickel's sympathies for these two quickly become a dangerous path into the lives of strangers. As the ominous events of the story unfold, Nickel is consumed with the idea of Taft, Fay and Carl's dead father. Through
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0613175441 Ex-library book with usual markings. Clean text. SATISF GNTD + SHIPS W/IN 24 HRS. Sorry, no APO deliveries. Ships in a padded envelope with free tracking. 6107b

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Overview

"Taft" is the story of John Nickel, a black ex-musician who wanted nothing more than to be a good father. But his son is taken away from him and he is left with nothing but the Memphis bar he manages. When he hires a young white waitress named Fay Taft, he doesn't know that he is taking on her desperate brother, Carl, as well. Nickel's sympathies for these two quickly become a dangerous path into the lives of strangers. As the ominous events of the story unfold, Nickel is consumed with the idea of Taft, Fay and Carl's dead father. Through imagination, he begins to reconstruct the life of a man he never met. Through Taft, he begins to define the priorities of his own life. The voice of John Nickel is a stunning artistic achievement. The story it tells is universal in its appeal to our instincts to protect the people we love.

The eagerly awaited new novel from the author of The Patron Saint of Liars tells a simple story about a man's desire to be reunited with his son. And it is a complex story about the way the human imagination works and the universal, basic instincts of fatherhood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following her well-received debut, The Patron Saint of Liars , Patchett convincingly portrays a bar manager's conflicted feelings for a teenage waitress in this tale of fatherhood and unfulfilled dreams. Narrator John Nickel runs a bar called Muddy's on Memphis's Beale Street. He took the job to help provide for his lover, Marion, and their 10-year-old son, Franklin, who have since moved away, leaving him concerned that the boy lacks paternal guidance. When 17-year-old Fay Taft shows up at Muddy's, lies about her age and asks for a job, Nickel is touched by her neediness and hires her. But he doesn't bargain on her growing desire for him, or on her drug-dealer brother, who brings sleazy clients to the bar. Another complication is the issue of race--Fay is white, Nickel black--but the author concentrates on the color-blind moral problems that any family faces. As Nickel contemplates his own predicaments, he imagines scenes of the Tafts in a stable home before their father died. His sincere sense of responsibility--to his son, to Fay, even to Fay's no-good brother--is conveyed with visceral power, although the hard-boiled dialogue often resembles parody. Patchett's characters may include tough cookies with hearts of gold, but the novel is at its best when she mutes the melodrama and focuses on basic moral issues. Oct.
Library Journal
This second novel from the author of the well-received The Patron Saint of Liars LJ 4/1/92 is narrated by John Nickel, an ex-drummer who manages a Memphis bar that is a sort of anti-Cheers. He is also African American, a fact you can soon forget. For one thing, in Patchett's Tennessee, everyone, regardless of age, race, sex, class, or locale, speaks nearly the same flat language. John is obsessed with his young son, who has moved to Miami with John's ex-girlfriend, and his longing for the child is the pivotal and most convincing aspect of the novel. In the meantime, 18-year-old Faye Taft enters the bar and John's life, with her drug-addicted brother in tow. They're running from a family destroyed by their father's sudden death. Strangely, John starts imagining the Taft family before the death in passages that are vividly realized yet so disassociated from the narrator that you begin to wonder if he is receiving ESP transmissions. Patchett is a fine writer, but here we are most aware of her ideas for the novel-the fiction itself rarely takes off. For large public library collections.-Brian Kenney, Brooklyn P.L.
Kathleen Hughes
This is a modest yet intricate story about a man's longing to be a father to his son. After his girlfriend and son leave him and move to Miami, John Nickel, a black man, becomes involved in the lives of Carl and Fay Taft, two white teenagers who have recently experienced the death of their father, Taft. Nickel, a bar manager and exblues drummer, hires Fay to work as a waitress in his bar. As he becomes more deeply involved in their lives and caught up in their problems (Carl is a drug-dealer/user, and Fay has become infatuated with Nickel), he yearns more keenly than ever to be reunited with his son. The story unfolds through the eyes of Nickel. We see the events surrounding the end of his relationship with his girlfriend interwoven with the death of Taft. Ultimately, the issues that John Nickel encounters (race, parenting, despair) foster his emotional growth and offer hope for all involved. This compassionate and deeply moving second novel by the author of The Patron Saint of Liars deals swiftly and intelligently with the mystery of human behavior.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613175449
  • Publisher: Demco Media
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Format: Library Binding

Meet the Author

Ann Patchett

ANN PATCHETT is the author of six novels, including Bel Canto, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. She has written for the Atlantic, Gourmet, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, the Washington Post , and others.

Biography

Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles but raised in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she studied with such notable authors as Russell Banks and Grace Paley before getting her first short works published. She labored long and hard in the trenches of Seventeen magazine (where her talents went largely unrecognized), before striking gold with her ambitious first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of 1992 and subsequently made into a major motion picture.

Since her auspicious debut, Patchett has crafted a handful of elegant novels, garnering several accolades and awards along the way. But her real breakthrough occurred with 2001's Bel Canto, a taut, psychological thriller set in the claustrophobic confines of an embassy under siege in South America. Winning both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize, Bel Canto catapulted Patchett into the ranks of bestselling authors.

As if to prove her versatility, Patchett departed from fiction for 2004's Truth & Beauty, the heartbreaking account of her longstanding, difficult friendship with the late Lucy Grealy, a gifted writer whose disfigurement from cancer precipitated a tragic descent into addiction and death. This memoir won several literary awards and appeared on many end-of-year best books lists.

Success breeds success; and with each book, Patchett's reputation grows. Perhaps the secret to her popularity has been captured best by Patchett's friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. "She is a genius of the human condition," he says. "I can't think of many other writers, ever, who get anywhere near her ability to comprehend the vastness and diversity of humanity, and to articulate our deepest heart."

Good To Know

In 1997, The Patron Saint of Liars was adapted into a TV movie, and Patchett also helped to write the screenplay for Taft, which was optioned by actor Morgan Freeman for a feature film.

Patchett knew absolutely nothing about opera before writing Bel Canto; she began her research with Fred Plotkin's book Opera 101.

In our interview, Patchett shared some fascinating facts about herself:

"I've never had a television."

"I brush my dog's teeth every morning."

"I got a pig for my ninth birthday and haven't eaten red meat since."

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    1. Hometown:
      Nashville, Tennessee
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

I had such a wave of sickness come over me that I thought I was going to throw up, but by the time I walked into the bathroom it had calmed some and I poured myself a glass of water from the tap and went back to the bed. Four in the morning. I held my eyes open to keep from seeing the part where he was falling.

Then for no reason at all I thought of that girl Fay. I didn't know where she lived. I didn't have her phone number so I could call her and tell her that she couldn't have the job, if I was to decide not to give it to her. I couldn't call to find out if she was okay if I was to go in tomorrow and not find her. It wasn't that I wanted to think about her, but by seeing her face I could make myself not see Franklin's, so I thought about her. I could barely fix her in my mind, the thin skin on her temples, the red that the cold put on her cheeks. I couldn't remember the color of her eyes or if her straight hair that wasn't blond or brown was cut into bangs the way so many girls her age like to wear their hair these days. I wondered where in the east she came from. I wondered who was looking out for her. Who made her that ugly hat. I remembered how careful she was when it came time for her to cross the street and it made me feel comforted. Someone taught her what to watch for. But then, they didn't teach her well enough if she was wandering down to Beale looking for work in bars. There was no watching them every minute, Marion. We can't be everywhere. What are you going to do but teach them to look?

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Reading Group Guide

1.         At the start, John Nickel seems to see Fay and Carl in terms of someone else's children that he is tempted to father. Clearly, his relationship to Fay changes: Why? What is the connection, in his head, between romance and parenthood?

2.         Why do Fay and John go to Shiloh?

3.         The scenes of Levon Taft's life aren't real; they are imagined by John Nickel. Why is John so interested in Fay and Carl's father? What does it mean that John imagines Levon Taft in relation to black children, first the boy who is selling chocolates and later the boy at the wrestling meet in Memphis?

4.         How do you interpret the last scene in the book? Why does the author choose to end with a scene in which Taft, Fay, and Carl are all much younger than they have previously appeared in the story? Why not end the book with John and Franklin?

5.         The action of this novel takes place over a very short period of time, about ten days. How would this have been a different story if it had taken place over a year?

6.         The neck plays an important role in this book: John feels the lingering touch of Fay's hand on his neck; Mrs. Woodmore scratches and scars John's neck when he is late for Franklin's birth; Carl shoots the deer in the neck though his father tells him not to, and later he shoots John through the neck. Is there any connection between these events?

7.         How do you feel about an author writing outside his or her own race and gender? Would you think this book had more validity if it were written by a black man?

8.         The blues are a strong presence in the book, and yet they remain offstage. We never see John perform as a drummer. How important is his life as a musician to the way in which we understand his character?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2000

    A beautifully realized novel

    I thought that this was an excellent book. It was captivating and meaningful. It questioned interesting concepts about life and love. It was deeply moving and interesting. The characters were so well developed that reading the book made you feel like you knew them. They were realistic and allowed you to relate to them.The plot was original and the descriptions and writing style was vividly beautiful. I recomend this book to anyone.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My favorite!

    Now that I have completely read all of Ann Patchett's novels, I would have to say that "Taft" was my favorite. I wish I had read it first. Excellent book, I do not want to give the story away, but as in all her novels you will become lost in the characters and wonder what took you so long to get to her books. She takes me away every time, and at least for a time, I get lost in her world. . .it's better than meditation.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great Ann Patchett read

    I loved Bel Canto, Run,and The Magician's Assistant so when I saw this recently I decided to give it a try. I was surprised to find that this book was written before the other more successful books and according to the author did not do as well, in part because of the title making it confusing. I found the characters to be original, likeable and easy to believe. I especially loved how the relationship between John and Faye is developed alongside the historical relationship between John and Marion. It helps to give both relationships so much more perspective and depth. I think character and relationship developments and the ease with which this author takes you through them and helps you to connect with them is why I love to read her work. I will be reading anything she writes in the future.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    DO NOT BUY THE INCOMPLETE E-BOOK!!!

    A great, albeit incomplete, read. The e-book version abruptly stops approximately half way through, which is incredibly frustrating when you find yourself caught up in the story and are aching to know what happens next. After calling and emailing Barnes & Noble multiple times, and making a personal visit to my local Barnes & Noble months ago (who confirmed half of the e-book version was indeed missing and could not be downloaded), I am still waiting for the rest of the story or a refund so I can at least purchase the paperback and see how it ends. Barnes & Noble proved most unconcerned and unhelpful. You may do better with a Kindle.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    Mildly entertaining!

    The characters John Nichel and Marian's parents made the book entertaining with a realistic quality. In general my readers' group were not thrilled with the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 24, 2011

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    Posted August 13, 2011

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    Posted November 8, 2011

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    Posted March 3, 2012

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