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The Man of the House

The Man of the House

by Stephen McCauley

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Stephen McCauley's much-loved novels The Object of My Affection and The Easy Way Out prompted The New York Times Book Review to dub him "the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen." Now McCauley stakes further claim to that title -- and more -- with a rich and deftly funny novel that charts the unpredictable terrain of family,


Stephen McCauley's much-loved novels The Object of My Affection and The Easy Way Out prompted The New York Times Book Review to dub him "the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen." Now McCauley stakes further claim to that title -- and more -- with a rich and deftly funny novel that charts the unpredictable terrain of family, friends, and fathers.

Thirty-five-year-old Clyde Carmichael spends too much time at things that make him miserable: teaching at a posh but flaky adult learning center; devouring forgettable celebrity biographies; and obsessing about his ex-lover, Gordon. Clyde's other chief pursuit is dodging his family -- his maddeningly insecure sister and his irascible father, who may or may not be at death's door. Clyde's in danger of becoming as aimless as Marcus, his handsome (and unswervingly straight) roommate, who's spent ten years on one dissertation and far too many fizzled relationships.

Enter Louise Morris. Clyde's old friend and Marcus's onetime lover is a restless writer and single mother, who shows up with Ben, her son and a neurotic dog in tow. The looming question of Ben's paternity nudges Clyde back into the orbit of his own father -- and propels our endearing hero into the kind of bittersweet emotional terrain that McCauley captures so well.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two-thirds of the way through McCauley's dolorous third novel, a novelist sighs and says of her earlier work, ``So light and optimistic... I can't write that way any more.'' It seems that McCauley-whose first book was the sprightly and disarming The Object of My Affection-has the same dilemma. His narrator, Clyde, a tepidly unhappy gay man who teaches literature, still smarts over the dissolution three years ago of his relationship with a selfish lawyer. Clyde's stagnation is paralleled by that of his ``diligently heterosexual'' roommate, Marcus, mired in a dissertation about the ``significance of the frown in human relationships.'' Marcus and Clyde alike are shaken up by the arrival of Louise-Clyde's longtime friend and Marcus's long-ago lover. Complicating matters further are Clyde's attempts to reconcile himself with his irascible, demanding father. As these plot lines intertwine dispiritedly, the book indulges in a misanthropic kind of comedy, where McCauley holds up to ridicule not the corrupt or the cruel, but the merely hapless. Donald, Clyde's downstairs neighbor, is one such character, reclusive and socially clumsy; his hair is said to lie atop his head ``like a leaf of lettuce flung atop a grapefruit.'' There are welcome moments in the novel when McCauley's grotesques make room for more carefully drawn characters, specifically Louise and her young son, Ben. Scenes between Clyde and Ben, understated and lovely, explore with admirable nuance the difficulty with which these lonely characters let down their guard. McCauley is also capable of striking turns of phrase. One savors the richer moments, evocative as they are of McCauley's poised and compassionate debut. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
There is a unhurriedness about McCauley's (The Easy Way Out, LJ 5/1/92) third novel that is its saving grace. The story covers about four months in the lives of several low-grade dysfunctionals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, meandering toward a conclusion that involves less change than recognition. The story is told by Clyde, a gay man in his mid-thirties who teaches literature at an adult learning center and still pines for the boyfriend that left him three years ago. Marcus, Clyde's roommate nears 40 but has yet to write a word of his dissertation, spending his time instead in the company of much younger women. Enter Louise, a mid-list novelist, who used to date Marcus and is friends with Clyde, and her son Ben, whose paternity provides most of the novel's tension. Clyde's shaky relationship with his family serves up the rest-ultimately his hyperprim sister and bitchy teenage niece steal the show. Though the characters ring true, their complaints are more pronounced than their problems are serious, and caring for them is, at times, a chore. For large fiction collections.-Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Charles Harmon
McCauley applies his wit, insight, and skill for characterization to three adults in Cambridge, Mass., who haven't outgrown their college days. Clyde, who has started many a graduate program, teaches adult ed to students who attend more to talk than to learn; he allows he's not getting rich but is still paid more than he's worth. Marcus has been working on his dissertation for 10 years, and Louise, despite having written several successful books, lives like a nomad. Further, gay Clyde is so obsessed with an ex-lover that he can't begin a new relationship; Marcus goes intensely through a string of women; and Louise has a son by Marcus but is waiting until the boy is preteen before letting anyone else know who Daddy is. Instead of a main plot, their story has several secondary actions--what will happen with two students in Clyde's class? with Clyde's crazy father? and will Marcus learn The Truth? Although not as engaging as "The Object of My Affection" (1987), "Man" will satisfy the fans that first book won McCauley.
Kevin Allman
Very, very funny…Clyde is just as charming as he is neurotic.
—Kevin Allman, Washington Post
David Weigand
Sparkling…THE MAN OF THE HOUSE ripples with humor…McCauley's best novel to date.
—David Weigand, San Francisco Chronicle
From the Publisher
Kevin Allman Washington Post Very, very funny....Clyde is just as charming as he is neurotic.

Marhta Duffy Time A funny, fluent novel...McCauley's particular skill lies in his grasp of the bonds that link straights and gays in the maze of life's daily dealings...

US magazine Stephen McCauley writes novels so delightful you want to collar passersby and read them passage out loud.

David Weigand San Francisco Chronicle Sparkling....The Man of the House ripples with humor...McCauley's best novel to date.

USA Today Charming...a wry, bittersweet look at the importance and impossibility of father-son relationships....The writing is seamless, the story never lags, and it is filled with eccentric characters and observations that you'll find yourself reading aloud.

The New York Times Book Review A comic novel about human predicaments....McCauley has mastered the small yet perfect comic gesture....Readers will welcome back the rueful and rumpled comic vision that is unmistakably his own.

Kirkus Reviews A wry and melancholy comedy of modern manners....A lovely, funny book that represents an impressive strenghtening of McCauley's themes and talent.

Time Out New York Fine, funny, and appealing... The Man of the House is consistently compelling in its depiction of the intertwining relationships between Clyde's friends, neighbors, and relatives...A talented and winning writer.

St. Petersburg Times (Fl) A painful, humorous look at life as a grown-up, where great expectations give over to silent resignations...Clyde's observations are witty and right on target.

Elle Irresistible....McCauley's latest and most emotionally complex probe into family dysfunction.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Stephen McCauley is the author of Alternatives to Sex, True Enough, The Man of the House, The Easy Way Out, and The Object of My Affection. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit his website at www.stephenmccauley.com.

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