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The Extra Man (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)) Paperback – July 1, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When he comes to New York City, having been fired from his job at a Princeton prep school, Louis Ives, the confused young hero of Ames's comic new novel, finds that his first challenge is the search for an affordable apartment and an acceptable roommate. He gets more than he bargained for with a cozily squalid place on the Upper East Side and the man with whom he shares it, Henry Harrison. Henry is a dedicated eccentric, unsuccessful playwright, gentleman freeloader and ageless senior citizen whose vocation is escorting elderly rich women as an "extra man." As Henry introduces him to some peculiar delights of city living?how to sneak into Broadway plays and piss in the street unnoticed?Ives begins to indulge the sexual fixations, notably cross-dressing, that got him into trouble in the first place. Ames balances Henry's arch if not camp lifestyle, peppered throughout with Noel Cowardish observations, with Ives's tentative exploration of New York's transvestite underworld. As the drag queen hostess at Ives's favorite bar puts it to him, "You're not really straight, but you're not really gay. You're straightish." Ives, however, continues to push his sexual ambivalence, until his "tranny-chasing" inevitably threatens his friendship with his outlandish roommate. Unlike Ames's moody debut about sleazy New York (I Pass Like Night), this narrative maintains its sense of humor even in the most straightened, kinky or depressing circumstances. If the resolution is a bit mechanical, the novel's comic atmosphere is otherwise admirably sustained. (Aug.) FYI: Ames, a columnist for the New York Press, is also a stand-up comic.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Louis Ives is going to "find himself" in New York City. This nice Jewish orphan from Princeton, NJ, likes to think of himself as a "young gentleman" of F. Scott Fitzgerald's description. However, Louis has just lost his job as a seventh-grade teacher at a posh private school, owing to his misappropriation and misuse of a colleague's brassiere, and he finds himself living with Henry Harrison in a dirty, fourth-floor, one-bedroom apartment uptown. Henry is an elderly eccentric whose avocation is acting as "the extra man" for wealthy elderly society ladies who live on the East Side. Louis lands a job telemarketing subscriptions to an ecological magazine by day, while by night he makes periodic attempts to establish his uncertain sexual orientation. The escapades of the two men, together and separately, make unbelievable but hilarious reading. Ames's second novel (after Pass Like Night, Random, 1990) is outrageous, yet his characters evoke sympathy and interest. Recommended for public libraries.AJoanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st such edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671015583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671015589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,795,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Extra Man" is Ames' follow-up to his debut novel, "I Pass Like Night," which covers some of the same territory, but is not as detailed as this. Here, Louis Ives, a sexually confused school teacher, is fired from his job following a comic encounter with a female colleague's bra. Determined to start life anew, he moves to NYC into the claustrophobic, roach-infested sty of an apartment with Henry Harrison, a misanthropic elder who makes his way through life as a gentleman escort for woman in high society. While in New York, Louis succumbs to the temptations and mystique of transvestite hookers in seamy Times Square, all the while cultivating his relationship with Henry, who serves so very well as the father figure Louis has always craved. "The Extra Man" is eminently accessible, and filled with honest, frenetic, and ribald writing reminiscent of Philip Roth and Paul Rudnick. I've never read a novel quite like this.Throughout, I rooted for both Louis and Henry, who became, for me, the quintessentail post-modern "odd couple." "The Extra Man" is as touching as it is funny.
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Format: Paperback
Boy am I glad I picked up "Extra Man" before anything else by Jonathan Ames. Struck by his work for the New York Press, I finally found this book secondhand and it's a classic! Ames has a very distinctive and winning voice and his New York is a perfect balance of charm, chaos and perversion. Unfortunately, Ames tends to recycle the best bits in his work, but what incredible bits! His great aunt should be bronzed and put in Central Park as an unforgettable New York character. She needs a book of her own, Jonathan!
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Format: Paperback
Reading this brilliant novel, I can't help but thinking what a shame it is the author remains largely unknown. Part Fitzgerald/part Bukowski, Ames is a master of noticing 1st person male neuroses but and is as inventive with his characters and dialogue as any modern out there! Aone with a sense of humor needs to read this!!! Hysterically funny this is a book you'll read in one sitting, not because of simplistic style, but because it's that damn good!!! Oh, and you'll never look at a transexual the same way again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great author. Imagery is vivid (I can still clearly "see" the giant stuffed lion falling from the overhead), as well as viscerally imagine some of the "club" scenes.. Really, a lovely story about being sweet, loveable, lonely, and perfectly imperfect.
Here's to being Strange ... and learning that it's ok to be so.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I greatly enjoyed the writing on Jonathan Ames HBO show "Bored to Death", so I picked up his novel "Wake Up, Sir!". I loved it, and then chose "The Extra Man" for my book club. Although I think it is a weaker text than some of Ames other novels, it is a very easy and enjoyable read.
First off, "The Extra Man" is vulgar, gratuitous, and graphic when it comes to sexual thought and exploration. If this is not something you are comfortable with, then don't pick the book up. It is a pervasive part of the text. The novel also offers a very unsanitzed view of NYC prior to the administration of Giuliani, who cleaned up a lot of the seedier elements of Manhattan. When these elements come together in the hands of Mr. Ames they create an engrossing, ambiguous, and interesting tale of sexual confusion and the human need for companionship.
The novel has two main characters, the first Louis Ives a twenty something ex teacher who has a myriad of sexual dysfunctions and issues. The other main character, although Louis is our narrator, is an older gentleman of ambiguous sexuality named Henry Harrison. Although I detested his character and the manner in which he lived, Ames has created a personality that leaps off the page and demands your attention. He is one of the most interesting and thought provoking characters I have come across in literature in a long time. These two men are thrown together through a unique plot twist, and the novel follows their lives for the next year or so. The relationship these two share is a mash up of love, need, power, getting comfortable with someone, control, jealousy, lust(?) and all of the other things (many of them gross and embarrassing) that make up the day to day of two people living in close proximity with each other.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I had never read anything by Ames before picking up The Extra Man. I found the novel to be interesting, surprisingly graphic, and oddly touching. Unfortunately, it is also too long and repetitive.

The story of the relationship between Louis and Harry is unique and funny for awhile, but quickly gets bogged down by the repetition and the fact that Harry doesn't really do anything that the reader actually gets to see unless he is with Louis. Often, Ames relies on redundant dialogue and situations for Harry to be involved in while Louis has more interesting adventures.

Louis' sexual explorations and confusion actually turn out to be the most involving scenes in the novel, along with his relationship with his great aunt. While many of the scenes are more graphic than I had expected, they also are the most insightful. They will also be the most off-putting if that kind of thing bothers you.

Overall, an interesting read that is probably too long, but worth looking into.
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