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A Fan's Notes Paperback – August 12, 1988

98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Frederick Exley recounts his life as the son of a hero-worshipped high school athlete who is doomed to be a spectator not only of sports, but of life. From irresponsible drifter, to dreamer of impossible dreams, to drunkard, to frequent patient at an insane asylum, Exley carried baggage from his childhood through much of his adult life, never feeling he could escape the dark cloud of expectation that hung over him. When Frank Gifford, former New York Giants backfield star, is injured, Exley is jolted into painful realizations about his life, and a confession.


Mr. Exley is a very good writer . . . there's a lot of wit and bravado in this book, but it's more painful than funny. -- The Nation

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition Thus edition (August 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679720766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679720768
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

171 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Paul McGrath on March 31, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A buddy of mine used to give a Christmas party every year that everyone eagerly looked forward to. The reason was that he, more than anyone else, would get outrageously drunk. Standing next to the keg in the garage, tipping back and forth, he would insult everyone who came near him in the vilest, most obscene terms. The rest of us stood out there laughing until our bellies hurt. The beauty of these parties was that the host's getting crazy allowed everyone else to feel a little freer to cut loose themselves. The parties ended up getting very wild and were huge fun.

I thought of this while reading A Fan's Notes, not just because the author is an unabashed, morbid alcoholic (although he is), but because he is so many other horrible things as well. In and out of insane asylums; watching soap-operas for days on end while lying on his mother's davenport, eating oreos and masturbating; tormenting his father-in-law; abandoning his wife--that this loser, this crawling degenerate, was able to put together this magnificent, hilarious, scathing piece of literature . . . well, it should give even the most unworthy of us hope that we might be able to do the same. No matter how drunk you got at the Christmas party, the host was always drunker. No matter how irrelevant you may think your life is, Mr. Exley's was way more so.

It is a fictionalized memoir, which means that basically he wrote about his life and gave himself the liberty to stretch things here and there. Don't look for a straight-forward, page-turning, sequenced plot here. It is the kind of a book where the author starts to talk about something, which reminds him of something else, which then requires him to go into a lengthy background explanation.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By gtra1n VINE VOICE on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
In these ridiculous '' times, when the making of money has somehow assumed a hip cachet among the young, this fantastic novel is more important than ever. Exley's struggle to simply live, get by, in a family, society and world in which he feels like such a stranger, in which his values alienate him from peers and colleagues, is fascinating, funny and painful. The narrative is simply gripping, and there is never the sentimental solace of 'lessons learned' or personal transformation. This is one man's view of himself and the world, a view never seen on TV, in the movies, or heard on the radio. And his voice is needed more than ever. Hopefully, this book will be kept in print perpetually.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on August 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You know how they say the books that really speak to you, you don't choose them: they choose you?

Fred Exley's "A Fan's Notes" is a good example of that.

One day, rooting around in the bookstore, I came across Jonathan Yardley's effusive Misfit: The Strange Life of Frederick Exley, and thought, "Exley? Who dat?" Odd, I thought, that there would be an author deserving of such expansive praise, yet of whom I had never heard. I thought I knew everything!

So I went over to the E's and, quickly ascertaining that Exley's reputation rested on this one book (there were two dud sequels), bought it.

What can I say? By this point I've read it -- I think -- 19 times. It helped me do a lot of growing up, and got me through a pretty rough time.

And the lessons it contains! That you can spend your entire life an alcoholic wastrel flopped on the couch, yet if you can pull it all together and put your heart on the page you can get into the Modern Library. That fame is a disease. That putting on a tie and giving things the ol' college try can be in many ways a sickness. That redemption is possible and that suffering and humiliation can lead to wisdom.

The kind of reaction I've had to Exley's book is a reaction I've only had for two or three books in my life. And it's strange: I've never drunk, I deplore football, and I've never been in a mental institution; yet when I read "A Fan's Notes" it's like my future self writing back to me from a wiser, sadder time, warning me about the vanity of earthly achievements and the ambiguity of the good life.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By brassawe on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Exley died of alcoholism in 1992 at the age of 63. Most of his life had been spent living with friends and family members. The only job he apparently ever held was as a high school English teacher for a couple of years. He was an utter failure, an utter misfit in mainstream American life. In fact a recent biography of him by Jonathan Yardley is entitled "Misfit." He wrote this novel as well as fictional memoirs, "Pages from a Cold Island" and "Last Notes from Home." He won several prizes for non-fictional short pieces and journalistic bits, too.
This novel is regarded as a cult classic and consists of a picaresque account of Exley's drunken wanderings in and out of a mental institution along with great portrayals of the strange characters he had encountered in his life. He is tortured by the memory of his father, a football hero who died when Exley was a teenager. Unlike his father, Exley is an abysmal failure at everything in life. He is a football fan, fixated on the New York Giants and most particularly, Frank Gifford. In fact therein lies the heart of his big epiphany at the end of the novel. Just as importantly, he has wonderful insights into the torture of becoming a writer and what he went through to get there. The book is just brutally, unbelievably honest.
It is most certainly a book for only a small number of readers--those who have something of the misfit in themselves. If you have a bit of that in you, it is an hilarious and rollicking read.
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