Nora and Isaac are wonderfully well drawn, an angular, asymmetrical pair whose love has nothing to do with happy endings. Morton, like his heroine, is more interested in vice than in virtue, which may not endear him to every reader. The outcome of Nora's interior battle -- to be a writer or a friend, ''Virginia Woolf or Florence Nightingale'' -- is never really in doubt, and only someone who has been touched by the fire of creative intensity will be able to sympathize with her choices. For Nora, art is an undeniable force. Most of the rest of us will never bend to its dominance.
Janice P. Nimura
Isaac and Nora - he's a photographer, she's a writer -- were once a couple. After a five-year separation, a late-night telephone call draws them together, but their reunion, as Morton reveals in his affecting third novel, becomes increasingly problematic. Nora is ready to break up with her boyfriend, a professor who wants to become a "public intellectual." Isaac, who always believed that he and Nora were destined for one another, is frustrated by the world's indifference to his photography. What's more, he is about to become a character in one of Nora's unnervingly lifelike short stories. Morton is particularly skilled at describing the sharp rattle of artistic failure, and at bringing to life the streets and rooms of New York, where the fates of his lonely and desperate characters unfold.
Suffering a "crisis of the spirit" and stagnating in her relationship with an ailing academic, short story writer Nora Howard calls her old flame, photographer Isaac Mitchell, at three a.m. one night, after not having spoken with him for five years. Roused from a dead sleep, he's still happy to hear her voice. Thus Morton reunites a pair of New York lovers in his latest novel, an incisive story of a romance tainted by thwarted artistic ambition and fear of failure. Nora, demoralized by her extended bout with writer's block, and Isaac, who hasn't come to terms with his decision to take a job as a photo editor after years of working as a freelancer, attempt to seek solace in each other. But Nora has a cannibalistic habit of turning friends and lovers into fodder for her short stories, and fears she won't be able to resist making use of Isaac. Morton gracefully choreographs the lovers' wary dance, poignantly capturing Nora's ambivalence and Isaac's guarded adoration. The narrow Manhattan horizons and one-note plot make for an insular story, but Morton's warm yet analytical prose gives the familiar scenes a fresh, revelatory feel, especially when Nora pens a story about Isaac that gets published in a prominent literary magazine. The counterpart to the romance is an elegiac subplot about Nora's beloved Aunt Billie, who is dying of cancer. The modesty of this novel gracefully offsets the delicacy and insight with which Morton writes about the junction of love and art. (Sept.) Forecast: Morton plays to a New York audience, but strong reviews should help build his readership across the country among fans of cerebral romance. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Funny, precise and beautifully written...Morton's perceptions of the conflicts within the human heart are keen. I loved this book."
In his new novel, notable editor and author Morton (Starting Out in the Evening) introduces us to Nora, a 35-year-old Manhattan fiction writer, and Isaac, a 40-year-old photographer, as they resume their relationship after five years apart. Their mutual understanding and attraction mainly stem from their common struggle for artistic attainment. Now Nora is realizing that her quest for creative integrity leads her to write devastatingly critical depictions of loved ones (namely Isaac), and Isaac has lost his drive for photography. Their relationships with their families and friends shed further light on their personalities and motivations and expose us to the truths they would both rather hide. As these two people creep toward middle age, can they make the necessary concessions to stay together? Is it worth giving up their quests to expose the truth, no matter how ugly? And how do they stay in love once exposed to that truth? There are no easy answers, according to this novel, which digs deep to sift out what people are made of. Perhaps it cannot ultimately answer the question of what finally matters in life and love, but at least it does try. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Morton (Starting Out in the Evening, 1998, etc.) describes the complicated emotional life of a writer who cannot resist putting her friends into her stories. At 35, Manhattan author Nora is too young for a midlife crisis, but she's going through a bad patch all the same. On the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend Benjamin, she feels that her life has somehow stalled. A professional writer for the last 15 years, she hasn't published more than about five short stories-some of them very well received, but still-and has yet to attempt a novel. Lonely and depressed, Nora picks up the telephone one night and calls her old flame Isaac, a photographer she hasn't spoken to since she broke up with him five years ago. He's recently taken a job as a photo editor and moved to the suburbs, but he's still single and very happy to hear from her again. They meet for lunch and somewhat tentatively renew their friendship. Each has a different reason for caution: Nora is desperately unsure of herself and afraid of life in general; Isaac is still in love with her and wonders why she's called. As they cat-and-mouse their way around each other, life goes on as usual. Isaac keeps himself busy with his job and his young friend Renee, who may or may not be attracted to him. Nora works on her stories and tries to help her beloved Aunt Billie, who is dying of breast cancer. Along the way, however, Nora makes her perennial mistake: She puts Isaac in one of her stories-and shows it to him. This bad habit has cost her more than one friend in the past. Will it wreck things with Isaac? Or can one artist see his way to understanding the foibles of another? A modest tale of quiet sincerity, good-natured and freshlynarrated, but it needs more bite than Morton's dull characters can provide. Agent: Harvey Klinger
PRAISE FOR STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
"Nothing less than a triumph."
-The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderful . . . this is what a novel is supposed to be."-Newsday