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A Fan's Notes Paperback – August 12, 1988

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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: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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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Customer Reviews

Exley found his answer by writing this ignored American classic.
Gary Bauer
Since I've read this book I've tried several times to sort out just what it is that makes it so compelling.
This is a brilliant, tragic book, exquisitely written and sharply observed.
Elisa DeCarlo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 162 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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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By George Grella VINE VOICE on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
In these ridiculous 'dot.com' 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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10 of 10 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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David Burks on January 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
A Fan's Notes is one of the best books I have ever read. This guy is amazing. Keep a dictionary handy--it's well worth it. Some say this book is more sad than funny. I disagree wholeheartedly. A conventional life is what's sad. Mr. Exley-- drunken sot or not, is beyond eloquent. The writing is beautiful and the story is thought provoking. When I read the last sentence I felt a tangle of strong emotions that I still have not, nor do I care to, unravel. Thank God for people like Frederick Exley. Get rid of what you think you know about living a successful life and just enjoy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jay Glickman on April 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
As I went through A Fan's Notes I couldn't stop thinking of it as a sequel to J.D. Salinger's famous coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye. From the utter lack of direction to his search for the ideal and deeper meaning to life, Fred Exley is every bit the Holden Caulfield. Exley details his life of alcoholism, his dreams of making it big on Madison Avenue and marrying the perfect girl with the golden thighs, his numerous trips to his mother's davenport, the mental asylum and back again, his mindless endeavors with the mysterious Mr. Blue, the Counselor and anyone else he can hit up for money, and of course his infatuation with the inimitable Frank Gifford.

Though it may read like one man's rant about a wasted life and lost opportunities, A Fan's Notes is a reflection of people's universal albeit often doomed quest to escape anonymity, and ultimately matter in this world. Exley's insatiable desire for fame and not so subtle rebellion against society are his ways of attempting to be "more than a mere fan in this life." Oppressed by the shadows of his father and his fellow USC grad Frank Gifford, Exley is consumed by his need to escape. However, he is also haunted by the harrowing superficiality and phoniness of the reality. Unable to reconcile his pursuit of purpose and his ideal vision of the world, Exley sinks into depression and finds himself sustained only by alcohol and football.

By his own admission, Exley is stuck in the past or rather past-present, utterly incapacitated by the continuous wave of change. This book should serve as a warning to people's indulgence in self-pity and constant comparison with false heroes. Indeed it was only after Frank Gifford's debilitating injury that Exley was able to come to terms with his life and accomplish the one act that now defines his life- writing A Fan's Notes.
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