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Fair Warning: A Novel Paperback – November 22, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Writers should be wary of titles that can be used against them. Fair Warning is just what the reader may need when considering this sparkling but featherweight depiction of the auction world. In his 11th novel, celebrated writer Robert Olen Butler explores the allure of possession. Amy Dickerson is a charismatic and penetrating auctioneer, the star of her New York auction house, who feels as comfortable flirting from the podium as extolling the virtues of a minor Rembrandt nude. Needless to say, she's slender, rich, and beautiful. Enter Alain Bouchard, the charming, well-educated, and too-good-to-be-true Frenchman who is buying her auction house--and trying to acquire Amy too. Although there are some lovely passages in Fair Warning, and it avoids the stock romantic ending that it appears to lean toward, Butler relies too much on the glamour of great wealth. Ultimately, he ends up short-changing the reader. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In a novel based on an award-winning short story, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain) posits a theory: in this world, everyone must own or be owned. As a high-profile New York auctioneer, transplanted Texan Amy Dickerson knows this well. She sees it reflected both in the items she tempts her clients with and in her closest relationships. Amy has never allowed herself to be vulnerable to love, her sister's marriage is on the rocks, and her entire family struggles with the memory of her philandering father, who isolated his wife and carefully parceled out his emotions with his daughters. Amy's independence is tested by a gentle and sophisticated suitor who happens to be her new boss; he may or may not be able to break through her barriers. Butler is very much in romance-novel territory here, but he transcends the formula with his usual aptitude for finding exactly the right words to make the familiar patterns of love and desire seem fresh again. An excellent introduction to readers unfamiliar with Butler's work; highly recommended.
- Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Printing Thus. edition (November 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802139566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802139566
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,318,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on October 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Fair Warning is the first of Butler's novels that I have read and therefore, I came to the novel with no expectations, other than the hope of finding a good read. Fair Warning is an enjoyable, quick read--a sort of sophisticated romance novel. I think, based on reading other reviews on these pages, if you come to this work expecting something like Butler has done before, you may be disappointed. If, however, you want to read a romance for grownups, this is your novel. It is the story of Amy Dickerson, a 40 year old auctioneer with some personal issues to resolve--her father, her mother, her failed love life. She becomes involved with two men as the novel progresses and begins to resolve some of those issues. She eventually falls in love. Not much else, but it is a quick compelling read which some readers will probably really enjoy. You just have to be careful that you are one of them.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on April 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first heard of Robert Olen Butler when he won the Pulitzer Prize for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. Then I read his book They Whisper and enjoyed it. Then, for some reason, I lost track of him. I didn't read anything else of his until I came across this novel, Fair Warning.
The main enjoyment of this novel comes from a character study in the form of its protagonist, Amy Dickerson. She is an auctioneer for a small but prestigious Manhattan auction house. She has a natural ability to read and understand people which makes her very good at her job. She is able to see what people are willing to part with in terms of both money and objects. On the other hand, this ability interferes with her relationships both with her family and her potential lovers. While longing for the ethereal herself, she can only see people's material wants and that includes a person's desire for her. In the end, she must try to see her own desires most clearly and come to peace with them.
This is a nice little book. Butler's prose is quite engaging and the book is short enough to be read at a single sitting. Amy and her relationships do make for a fun glimpse into an upper class New York/Paris world. I was tripped up a bit at the end by Alain's neo-Naked Pictures of My Ex-Girlfriends obsession which seemed a bit of a cheap ruse in an otherwise very emotionally realistic novel. Still, it is certainly worth the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book Butler paints a truly extraordinary picture of a female auctioneer from Texas, working in New York City at the 3rd biggest auction house. She is in fact the star of the house. She has an ability to auction like very few others. And as this is the case, when the auction house decides to sell to a French investor, her continued employment is a significant issue in that purchase.

But as usual, Butler takes on the role of a female character for his protagonist. In this impressive and interesting stream of consciousness presentation Butler reveals the innermost mental meanderings of a lady who is in a wonderful position in life, all she has to do is figure out who she wants to marry.

As an auctioneer, she is obsessed with collectors and valuation. This predilection would be most natural for a person who does such activity every day of her life. But what she had not thought much about is that people can also be collectors of people and memories. In a sense, all people are collectors of memories. And this concept is highly relevant to her when she is making certain life-impacting decisions.

Truly a fine modern novel, it is recommended to all those who are interested in the inner workings of the female mind, as Butler sees it. Since this is often his authorial position and since he has some incredible insight into the workings of the human mind, his book comes as no surprise.

The book is recommended for all readers of classic literature, particularly those interested in gender analysis. Once again, this book is a fine offering from Mr. Olen Butler.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Allen Kopp on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I think this is one of those books that will appeal more to women than to men. It is the story of a forty-year-old New York auctioneer who seems to think an awful lot of herself. She has the usual romantic complications, including a banal liaison with a cliched Frenchman, whose "secret," when we find out what it is, is pretty silly. This is not an offensive book; just not very interesting. There are some lines of dialogue here that will make you roll your eyes and groan.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ra2sky on August 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
There are some great passages in this book, and some interesting dialogue between the main characters. Unfortunately the plot doesn't hold up and the conclusion of the book is pretty unsatisfying.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By V. C. Wald on July 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Readers will be attracted to Mr. Butler's latest effort after being enchanted by 'A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.' However, Fair Warning, while not without merit, does not live up to the Pulitzer prize-winning Good Scent/Strange Mountain.
The stories in Good Scent/Strange Mountain are told from the perspectives of Vietnamese immigrants, both male and female, living in the United States after the war. Fair Warning is told from the point of view of an attractive, successful young professional woman in modern New York. Neither is the vantage one expects from a white American male. I found this approach astonishing in Good Scent/Strange Mountain, but just entertaining in Fair Warning.
The subject of the latter book is the worthy matter of peoples' relationships to objects of possession. This is potentially its most interesting aspect, but is treated too lightly to be completely fulfilling.
There are moments of wry humor in Fair Warning, but not quite enough to overcome the lack of originality in the characters. I would recommend Fair Warning only as light reading. It is not for the reader seeking emotionally stimulating, thought-provoking literature.
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