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Face-Time: A Novel Hardcover – December 29, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (December 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609604635
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609604632
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,362,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Face-Time is set at an unspecified date in the early 21st century, when the sex scandals rocking the presidency of Bill Clinton have faded into history--but the Washington, D.C., in which it takes place isn't too much different from that of 1998. Ben Krause is a thirtysomething speechwriter for charismatic president Charles Sheffield. His girlfriend, Gretchen, works in the White House travel office--and when President Sheffield catches sight of her at a party, he quickly executes his droit de seigneur. When he finally puts the pieces together, Ben is naturally less than thrilled... especially when Gretchen reports that she doesn't want to break up with him and she doesn't intend to stop servicing the chief executive.

First-time novelist Erik Tarloff--the husband of former Clinton advisor Laura Tyson and an occasional contributor to Clinton's speeches--has a firm sense of plot development, although at times the narration comes across as overerudite, as Ben casually drops allusions to Desmond Morris, the madwoman of Chaillot, Casablanca, and other topics that make the young protagonist seem about a decade or so older. But this is a minor quibble that does nothing to detract from the book's perfect suitability for a weekend's entertainment.

From Publishers Weekly

Political speechwriter Ben Krause discovers his girlfriend has better access to his boss?the president of the U.S.?than Ben does. The question, in Beltway insider Tarloff's timely first novel, is whether the affair really bothers him. Ben and curvaceous, plainspoken Gretchen Burns, who works in the White House Office of Social Affairs, make an ambitious young Washington couple who don't have to be told twice about the value of "face-time" or direct access to the president. They receive all the right invitations, including private film screenings with the president and first lady and their coterie of friends. There, Gretchen catches the commander in chief's eye and soon Ben is being sent out of town on unlikely peace missions. A wry, self-deprecating and appealing narrator given to gee-whiz expressions ("I know it sounds dopey and sappy"), Ben struggles with the issue of sharing his girlfriend with a man who, on one hand, is the leader of the free world, yet, on the other, represents a humiliating insult to his manhood. Gretchen, in contrast, remains the not terribly bright opportunist observers have come to recognize from presidential scandals, notwithstanding Tarloff's attempt to portray her sympathetically. The husband of Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who served on the Council of Economic Advisers for President Clinton, and a speechwriter himself, Tarloff has penned a book that is more a benign meditation on the effects of being cuckolded than a pointed political send-up, although his acute observations aptly illustrate how absolute power can corrupt absolutely. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Erik Tarloff has been writing professionally since his college years.
Much of his early work was written for the screen, both large and small. His list of credits includes almost one hundred situation comedy scripts, including multiple episodes of M*A*S*H, All in the Family, the Bob Newhart Show, the Jeffersons, Alice, Room 222, Housecalls, My World and Welcome To It, and many others. For his television writing, he has been nominated for an Emmy Award, a Writers Guild Award, and an NAACP Image Award.
He has also been involved in the development of some fifteen or twenty long-form theatrical motion picture scripts for the major studios in Hollywood. These include an early draft of the animated feature Aladdin for Disney Studios, Cheetah for the same studio, and Car 54, Where Are You? for Orion Pictures.
He is the author of three plays, Something to Hide, Another Week-End in the Country, and Cedars. Cedars will be in production at the 2014 Berkshire Theater Festival, starring the distinguished actor James Naughton. Another Week-End in the Country was produced at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Something to Hide at the Richmond Shepherd Theater in Los Angeles, where it won the Dramalog Award for Playwriting and First Honorable Mention at the Beverly Hills Theater Guild Awards.
He has had fiction published in The Paris Review, Penthouse, the online magazine Slate (a serialized novel written in collaboration with Francine Prose and Jefferson Morley), and anthologized in the volume Last Night's Stranger.
He has contributed reviews and articles to Earth, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Washington Post Book Review, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Working Woman, Washingtonian Magazine, San Francisco Focus, Vogue, Salon, The American Prospect, and The Financial Times, among others. He has been a frequent contributor to the British magazine Prospect, where he is a contributing editor. He has also published music criticism (both popular and classical), literary criticism, a diary from the 1996 Democratic Convention, and an assortment of other features in Slate, where he was a regular book critic for several years. He is currently a blogger at Atlantic Online.
He has lent a pro bono speechwriting hand to the addresses of former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
He is the author of the novels Face-Time and The Man Who Wrote the Book, both published by Crown. The latter was on the recommended summer reading lists of the New York Times Book Review, Long Island Newsday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon.com, and National Public Radio, and was named as one of the memorable books of the year by the New York Times. His new novel, All Our Yesterdays, is scheduled for publication in July of 2014.
He currently lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, economist Laura Tyson.

Customer Reviews

I found this story very touching and quite humorous in a dark way.
Max
He pens an all too plausible plot line and goes far enough to develop the characters well in this darker bedroom farce, and it has the ring of too much truth.
Bart A. Charlow
The only complaint I have about the book is that once you pick it up you can't put it down, and so forget about accomplishing anything for the duration.
satchel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderful. This is one of those books that I stayed up all night to finish. Tarloff's writing filled me with the characters's joy and sorrow as if it were my own. The writing is exquisite. The book is perfect.
The first thing I did after finishing this book was to look for more books by Erik Tarloff, but there are none. I hope to see more by this author soon, whatever the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen on October 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have just revisited this book in its e-book format. A well written political satire which was originally published when it ironically proved to be reality. Buy it, read it today. Good reading demonstrating a truly excellent vocabulary by author, Erik Tarloff. More books needed by this writer!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Wilner on October 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Face Time, a sharp-eyed novel by former Bill Clinton speechwriter Erik Tarloff disproves George S. Kaufman's maxim that satire is something that closes in New Haven.
Published (coincidentallly) around the time of the Monica Lewinsky revelations, it's fictional merits may have been lost in the general scandal, but withstand the test of time. A confrontation between the speechwriting protagonist who's being cuckolded and the feckless President, who quotes Winston Churchill's misbehavior (apparently he was mean to his servants) is classic, as the long-suffering scribe calls him on it....Are you comparing yourself to Winston Churchill?
The book had a keen sense of human failure and rich novelistic detail, which leaves me puzzled about some of the negative responses to it on this site. I guess tastes differ. My hope is that it's re-release in this edition will gain it the wider attention i believe it richly deserves...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jon regnoc on October 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an old English teacher, I return to this book because it holds a kind of timeless perspective. I think of Gatsby and those few books that capture a fundamental and unique character of our culture. It seems like a writer stumbles into something like that and it just happens. Facetime has that uniqueness of vision. I find it is a book so well written and inevitable that i wonder if, like Camus, who wrote the Stranger in two weeks, Tarloff had a similar experience as if the book wrote itself. But so much for the lofty point of view. I think I liked sneaking into the presidency and seeing what constellates around power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A very enjoyable read. Face Time is topical, in light of the Monica/Clinton story. It is also a very interesting exploration of modern relationships and the ways we justify prioritizing our work vs family.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By schapmock on December 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
This sure sounded good. Joe Klein made an excellent novel out of similar material. Tarloff begins with an interesting premise and keeps his characters in the intriguing gray area of believable human behavior, their hats neither clearly white nor black.
So why is the novel not much fun, and eventually interminable, despite its brief length? Perhaps because it doesn't read like a novel, but rather like a prose outline for one: we are told everything, shown little. In theory, the story presented is interesting, but theory is all we get, and eventually it all gets kind of whiny and annoying. And although the book remains well-balanced, it almost never, ever funny.
Without humor, or anything resembling a satiric edge, we're left with an earnest sexual/political soap opera in which not much happens. This book feels as if it contains a good story struggling to break free, but it never quite manages to do so.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Care to spend a few endless hours with a couple of characters who have absolutely no respect for each other or for themselves? Do you like characters that are less appealing than a 2-day root canal? Enjoy reading a book of "light satire" written in prose that makes the telephone directory seem fresh and clever by comparison? Do you love a tortoise-like pace, a leaden style, and an approach to humor that considers the word "shit" the ultimate bon mot? If so, boy does Mr. Tarloff have a book for you.
Consider just one sentence that demonstrates this author's distinctive style. You don't have to get far into the book to reach this first of many nadirs the book has to offer. It's in the second paragraph of the first chapter. Here it is:
"They come accompanied by a certain measure of irony, even self-satire, since a good part of her youth and adolescence was spent in Washington, and she graduated from Georgetown; she isn't exactly fresh off the farm."
What?
There are 256 pages of sentences like this facing anyone masochistic enough to try and shovel through it. Its almost impossible to make it all the way through, because the author keeps grabbing you around the ankles and throwing you to the ground with pointless, rambling, disjointed prose such as the quote above.
This book is a total waste of paper and ink and (worse) people's time. Despite the fact another write got the title first, this book is the one that truly deserves the title "Less Than Zero."
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Not witty, not hilarious, not funny (wickedly or otherwise), not believable, not riveting, not thoughtful, not superbly written, not razor-sharp, not savvy, and definitely not worth reading. The prose is plodding. The characters are utterly unsympathetic and unbelievable. The references to Desmond Morris, Casablanca, etc., are pitiful in their cut and paste awkwardness. And somehow, the plot manages to be both contrived and predictable.
Jim Lehrer, Michael Lewis, Larry Gelbart, Judy Woodruff, Gail Sheehy, and Christopher Hitchens should all be ashamed of lending their good names to the promotion of this dreary dreary book, regardless of how good a friend Tarloff or his wife might be. The only one of of the group that came close to the truth in her jacket blurb was Woodruff. If in calling it the "ultimate Washington novel," she's referring to the fact that in D.C, too often who you know is more important than what you know, then she's right on the money.
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