BN.com Gift Guide

Tales Out Of School

Overview

The strange hothouse world of Galveston Island, Texas, has been good to the Mehmels, German Jewish immigrants who prosper there in the late nineteenth century, and whose second generation is still flush as the century turns. But destruction – moral and natural, including the great hurricane that nearly destroyed the city – is not far off, and for bookish, fourteen-year-old grandson Felix, last of the line, salvation lies in self-discovery. Pried away from his Ovid and Virgil, he is seduced by the rough, handsome ...
See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (26) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $4.01   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

The strange hothouse world of Galveston Island, Texas, has been good to the Mehmels, German Jewish immigrants who prosper there in the late nineteenth century, and whose second generation is still flush as the century turns. But destruction – moral and natural, including the great hurricane that nearly destroyed the city – is not far off, and for bookish, fourteen-year-old grandson Felix, last of the line, salvation lies in self-discovery. Pried away from his Ovid and Virgil, he is seduced by the rough, handsome bully who has long taunted him. And over the sultry summer of 1907, he asserts his independence and launches into manhood even as his family’s morale, sanity, and fortunes wane. Erotic as it is exalted, defiantly comic as it is sad, Tales Out of School is a timeless novel by a masterful contemporary writer.

A breathtaking debut novel of family and coming of age, in the tradition of Edmund White and David Leavitt. In turn-of-the-century Galveston, the Mehmets are a privileged, eccentric family headed for destruction--with the possible exception of 14-year-old Felix, whose very salvation lies in his own self-discovery. 304 pp. Author tour. 10,000 print.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the Harold Ribalow Prize

"All the great themes... sibling rivalry, generational conflict, birth, death, and the magical, miserable phenomenon of love... The beauty of Taylor's language ratchets up and down from lyrical exposition to hardscrabble dialogue. His elaborate idiom allows him to sound certain metaphysical depths, to explore what he calls 'the abyss of humanness into which we reach, not knowing where the bottom lies.'" Newsday

"Elegant, lyrical, elegiac [and[ powerful... Taylor's spare, supple prose easliy accomodates effective forays into magic realism as well as nuanced evocations of the desire, religious doubt and affection that animate his memorable characters."— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Beautifully rendered, moving, original ... Taylor writes in a richly poetic language steeped in time and place." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Some prose invites being heard .... Benjamin Taylor's language is lush, exotic, at times peculiar, as befits a novel set in Galveston Island, Texas, where the extraordinary finds a fertile environment at the beginning of this century. Catholic, Jew, redneck, homosexual — these mix, marry, exchange vocabularies and dialects. Latin and Hebrew are sung on the Texas shore. It's a setting where Taylor feels confident to fit rare words to a rare locale." The Riverfront Times (St. Louis)

“Dryly humorous and moving, learned and colloquial, lyrical and richly suggestive. …Taylor’s vision is an idealistic one, but it is nonetheless effective.” Times Literary Supplement (London)

Tales Out of School reads like a haunting and significant dream, the key to a precious life.” — Lily Tuck

“A magical and mysterious work.” — Edward Albee

“A lyrical evocation of time recaptured . . .[and]of stories interconnected and so hauntingly told that we are hypnotized by the sheer force of Taylor’s style. I have not read paragraphs this good, this informed about history…in quite some time.” — Sanford Pinsker (Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)

“A tale of the Tribe as enmeshed with the harebrained circumstance as it is with heretical myth. Classical resonance, I learn from reading this affectionate affabulation, has nothing to do with grand scale, it is the grand style that works the mystery—and the mischief. What a lovable, brilliant recital!” — Richard Howard

“I enjoyed the book immensely; it is a wonderfully beguiling vision.” — Amitav Ghosh

“The novel is about other days and other people: their eccentricities and interdependencies. But the wonder of this book is its style. Through that, it is made to be a story that draws the reader into an enchanting moment and holds the attention from sentence to sentence. Ben Taylor’s real achievement is to restore the tension and magic of song to narrative.” — Eavan Boland

“I didn’t want the book to end, and its long reverie stays with me.” — Rachel Hadas

“One of the great novels of the decade. If you have to, steal a copy.” Gay Times (London)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Elegant, lyrical and elegiac, this powerful first novel affectingly introduces members of a genteel, wealthy German-Jewish family living in early 20th-century Galveston, Tex. Felix Mehmel, scholarly and loyal, works his way through the Aeneid and through adolescent stirrings of desire, which he acts upon with Wick Frawley, once a bully and now a friend. Felix's mother, estranged from her New Orleans Christian community for marrying a Jew, finds herself vulnerable once more after her husband dies during the 1900 hurricane. Her brother-in-law Leo becomes the enthusiastic sponsor of Roache and Munger, amateur ``aeronauts'' who model themselves after the Wright brothers. The mysterious and benign interventions of Yankel Schmulowicz, a mute immigrant from Russia, who stages puppet shows so realistic that the audience is spellbound, indelibly alter the lives of these people and others in their orbit. Taylor's spare, supple prose easily accommodates effective forays into magic realism as well as nuanced evocations of the desire, religious doubt and affection that animate his memorable characters. Because he handles so many different characters in a short narrative span, some of them inevitably are less than full-bodied actors in his human comedy. It is a measure of his skill that even those met briefly in this bewitching novel continue to resonate in the reader's imagination. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Soon after immigrating to Galveston Island, the Gerson Mehmel family attains wealth (as brewers of Sweet Brook beer) and social prominence. A few decades later, bankruptcy, disease, and madness wipe out all their gains. The able elder son, Aharon, marries outside his Jewish faith, contracts syphilis, and dies in a hurricane. The effete younger son, Leo, watches birds and loafs. As the sole member of the next generation, Felix is a precocious adolescent who quotes Virgil, attempts to fly, and experiments with homosexuality. Meanwhile, his mother suffers the inner turmoil of having been raised a Catholic, converting to Judaism, and becoming an apostate to both religions. Taylor's first novel combines grand lyric musings with realistic social commentary. Containing a character with arcane powers, it is at times a disquieting mixture of the magical and the mundane.-Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781581952278
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,156,081
  • Product dimensions: 4.97 (w) x 7.53 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Taylor is also author of the novel The Book of Getting Even. He is the editor of The Letters of Saul Bellow, scheduled for 2010. His travel memoir, Naples Declared, will appear in 2011. He lives in New York City.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)