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


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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: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

More About the Author

Jonathan Ames is the author of the novels Wake Up, Sir!, The Extra Man, and I Pass Like Night; a graphic novel, The Alcoholic (with artwork by Dean Haspiel), and the essay collections I Love You More Than You Know, My Less Than Secret Life, and What's Not to Love? He is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a former columnist for New York Press. Ames performs frequently as a storyteller and has been a recurring guest on David Letterman. He has fought in two amateur boxing matches as "The Herring Wonder," and he has peformed in a number of shows. Ames had the lead role in the IFC film "The Girl Under the Waves," was a porn-extra in the porn film "C-Men," and played himself in a pilot episode for the Showtime network. At the time, he said, "It's the role I've been waiting for!" He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Quirky and very original.
M. Mara
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!
"mikapl01"
If you can, see "The Extra Man" movie first, then read the book.
John F. Rooney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 1998
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dangle's girl on April 4, 2004
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "mikapl01" on March 8, 2002
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Bartholomew on June 23, 2008
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Martha Mckie on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book because I read a review that made the character of Henry Harrison sound interesting. I was expecting descriptions of parties and dates with rich people that would fill me in on a side of society I don't have contact with. It was not like that at all, but instead it was very true-to-life in comparison with my own experiences of being in new places.
Ives' inner fancies of himself as the young gentleman are drawing him into an odd acquaintance with Henry Harrison. And Harrison is just exactly like some people I have known who try to live off of others' social status. There is something about the spacing of the episodes and the things that go unexplained or detailed that exactly mimics the feeling one gets when spending a lot of time in this half-world.
And, interestingly, more and more of Ives' secret "predilections" become exposed, and his sense of shame and fear. He is such a sensitive character, and actually so well-rounded, that I felt the injustice of his fear of following his sexual curiosities and desires.
The way the book unfolds is actually a mirror of how one comes to know better and better individual people. Also, for some reason, the descriptions of cars and parking arrangements in this book are exceptionally charming writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ames's The Extra Man is delightful, addictive, hilarious, and surprisingly touching. It made me laugh out loud again and again, and even left me teary-eyed once. Loius Ives is a character one can really feel for, while Henry Harrison is a figure one would love to meet, and the relationship between the two of them (and Ives's relationship to women and to himself) is interesting and moving. Ames pulls the whole thing off with nary a hitch; this is the kind of book one could easily read in a single sitting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darren in Kansas City on December 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I can't say enough nice things about this novel. It's quirky, centered on two main characters - an eccentric couple of Upper East Side roommates - who really attach themselves to you. Read it slowly, because you'll miss them when you're done with the book.
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