Every once in a while -- not often, for sure -- an author does a reviewer a favor and writes a book with such elegance, élan and acuity that the only way to review it -- to give readers some sense of the pleasures that await them in it -- is to quote from it, at length and with gratitude. John Gregory Dunne did that a couple of months ago with another novel about the heartland, Nothing Lost; now Ward Just does it with An Unfinished Season. A beautiful, wise book.
The Washington Post
Identity, the force that defines and often misidentifies us, is at the heart of Ward Just's stunning and complex new novel, An Unfinished Season … It is the language that delivers added weight to the novel's enduring truism: the price we pay for the identity we embrace in ourselves or impose upon others.
Providing further evidence of the fine line between being a dorky loser and a pop-culture superhero (William Hung, anyone?), this is Hyman's attempt to turn his failures at love, life and employment into a cash cow. What's in it for readers? "Well, very little," admits Hyman, a Manhattan writer and occasional stand-up comedian, but it "beats a kick in the teeth, or being shipped off to fight in Iraq." A metrosexual, Hyman reminds us, is a straight guy in touch with his feminine side, one who appreciates "expensive home furnishings, good grooming, and heirloom tomatoes." Actually, Hyman comes off as an everyman probing the outer edges of modern, mainstream, urban existence, and his essays recount his exploits with startling, often hilarious results. He recalls his appointment with Hans, a gay masseur whose hands get a little too close "to the unauthorized no-man's-land," and an aborted attempt at a manage a trois that ends up having "all the erotic panache of a Three Stooges episode." Another chapter tells of Hyman's night on the town wearing leather pants, which prompts the astute observation, "sometimes the idea of something is better than the thing itself." Hyman's stories have funny setups, and his conversational, easy-to-read prose carries a weird poignancy. Agent, Jennifer Unter. (On sale July 7) Forecast: Ads in alternative weeklies and an author tour to metrosexual hubs (e.g., New York City, Boston, San Francisco) could help this latest real-life lad lit sell. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Why does the world need a book about a finicky straight man who's often mistaken for gay and who loves not only himself but also sleek stereo equipment, name-dropping, and sharp clothing? Hyman, who has written for a number of publications, admits that there has been no pressing need for a book about his life and provides his own first review, calling this work "a pompous exercise in self-aggrandizement that tries too hard to be funny." Particularly in the introduction, and occasionally in the essays, Hyman indeed tries too hard to be funny, but the book is far from self-aggrandizing. He writes about being unemployed, computer dating, Brazilian bikini waxes, leather pants, metrosexuality in general, and how to blow up a relationship with someone you love. His genuine sense of loss over this last part informs much of the book and makes the title worthy of a purchase; for larger public libraries.-Audrey Snowden, Brewer, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Winsome, amusing, and intelligent debut collection of essays by a slacker cursed with taste, mildly astounded that a Queer Eye-influenced world has caught up with him. Journalist and occasional stand-up comic Hyman reflects on how one's lifestyle choices or aesthetic preferences can result in greater challenges or disappointments-in his case, the incongruity of loving the finer things and yearning for high society while failing to escape the impoverished and lonely life of a New York writer. Of his purported "metrosexual" tendencies, he notes that "a straight man cannot exhibit good taste in design or home furnishings, or the competence to dress himself" without being frequently mistaken for gay. (He shrewdly tags the mainstream fixation upon so-called metrosexuals as a marketing ploy akin to the Gen-X craze of the early 1990s.) Hapless but well appointed, Hyman portrays with the right mix of self-deprecation and acute observation his adventures in incompetence: a failed menage a trois, a disastrous drug-fueled Oaxacan road trip, Internet liaisons with women prone to first-date vomiting. Other essays utilize fairly ordinary set-ups as a springboard for Hyman's self-portrait as a confused yet resolute Everyman. "Law School Dropout" depicts his flight from a "mecca for conformity [that] offers vocational training more than it does intellectual challenge." In "The Seven Habits of Highly Laid-off People," he takes an archly humorous look at the white-collar chaos fomented by the 2001 recession. Hyman writes with surprising tenderness about the vicissitudes of contemporary dating, as in "The Wedding Swinger" or "The Penultimate Girlfriend," with whom his moment flamed out too quickly. And hedoesn't neglect topics specific to the true metrosexual experience, such as high-end shirts and Brazilian bikini waxes. His work may appeal to fans of David Sedaris, but Hyman has more in common with such Manhattan chroniclers of the louche life as Jonathan Ames and Thomas Beller. Though not without the occasional easy joke or sappy tangent, more thoughtful and artfully written than its sell-by-today title implies. Film rights to Miramax; first printing of 100,000. Agent: Jennifer Unter/RLR Associates
"One of Just's best works: stuffed with surprises, sparkling with insights." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“He steeps his sentences in the rhythms of 1950s jazz
.the result is Just’s most trenchant read to date
” The Village Voice