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How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood Paperback


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How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood + The Sleep-Over Artist: Fiction + Seduction Theory: Stories
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (August 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393326837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326833
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,515,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Old cars, custom carpentry and chemistry sets are just some of the topics novelist Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist) uses to explore his own emotional maturation. In spare, crisp language, his descriptions of items and tasks slowly become excavations of memories. The best sections of his book—which is largely assembled from pieces that first appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Elle—call to mind Raymond Carver in their clarity of language and subdued emotion. In one essay, Beller's fond recall of his 1977 Thunderbird morphs into a meditation on the difficulty of letting go of the romantic notions of youth. In another, a girlfriend's constant purchases of clothing for the author eventually become occasions for melancholy (the gifts began to feel like apologies). A third piece addresses the "paradoxical reality" of strip clubs: they're "one of the few remaining places men can go to not think about women." The only blot on this otherwise excellent book is the chapter in which Beller describes the end of a relationship between the cofounders of Nerve.com; its reportorial tone feels jarring and out-of-place. The rest of the book is thoughtful and controlled; overall, Beller has penned a fine collection of essays that will resonate with many.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Beller casts himself as both hero and hapless sidekick—just the guide you want for a jaunt down memory lane. -- Adena Spingarn, Vogue

I absolutely loved this book. -- Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!

These quite marvelous and darkly hilarious personal essays derive their power from shameless honesty, often about the most shameful moments. -- Phillip Lopate

[Beller] can write his butt off. -- Donnell Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle

[Beller] is disarmingly self-deprecatory and gets his laughs, of which the book has a number, mainly at his own expense. -- Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

More About the Author

Thomas Beller is the author of Seduction Theory, a collection of stories; The Sleep-Over Artist, a novel; and How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood, an essay collection. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker's Culture Desk, has edited numerous anthologies including two drawn from his website, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, and was a cofounder of the literary journal Open City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Margolis on July 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ironic that Beller's exploration of maturity, or lasck of maturity, should be presented in a series of vignettes that are so intricately woven and so insightful. I enjoyed every page but particularly appreciated the deftness and subtlety of his conclusions. We used a piece from this book in a class on memoir writing: students responded to it as they did to no other reading in the course.

Read it!

Teach with it!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Iverson 28 on August 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Reading this book of essays was a real joy. The subjects that Beller explores-trying out for a basketball league run by John Starks, visiting a sex addicts recovery camp, the life of a bike messenger in New York- are fascinating in and of themselves, and Beller writes about them with great style. His metaphors and insights on things as varied as the nostalgic attachment to a t-shirt or a doomed road trip with a girlfriend are fantastic, and you find yourself marveling actually at how often he is able to reveal the absurd and the poignant in life, often in the same moment. Some of the writing sounds like great conversations that you could see Woody Allen wanting to steal, or even something that Adam Gopnik might riff on if he were only a little cooler. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on June 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Very few reviews on the site for a book written by one of today's top writers. Wonder if something about the strange boy photo on the front made people shirk away as though afraid to be spotted reading it on the subway, in fear of being thought a pedophile or something worse.

Anyhow once I wrapped a brown paper cover over the front image I enjoyed this book ever so much, and going in, when Beller has placed one, two, three, four top pieces right in a row, I had the notion that he'd hit on something henuinely new under the sun, a way to tell one's life story through a jumping scale of all different places, times in one's life, emotional states. In the first story, "Manhattan Ate My Car," Beller takes a simple fact of life, having one's car towed away, and through sheer storytelling magic made it seem like a rite of passage, an episode from a South American "magic realism" novel from the 1970s. In the follow-up, "The Costume Party," we are suddenly with Tom at age 13, all nervous about friends and girls and absolutely riveted by the supermodel who's moved into his building and seems to like him. Next up, Tom goes with his mother to the Oscars where she loses the "best documentary" award to someone *seated at the end row of the aisle,* confirming the mother's worst suspicions about Oscar voting. You get the picture, it is a dazzling run of beautifully told stories, but then somewhere halfway through when he goes to a sex addiction workshop, not because he's a sex addict but because he's on the job, the discouragement begins, the scales drop off, and you realize what you had thought to be a Nabokovian experiment in "Take Three Tenses" is really only a collection of journalism pieces slopped together and tarted up a bit.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Berding on September 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
You don't have to be a New Yorker to enjoy this book. The author provides a humorous and honest look at his human relationships over the years, to which we can all relate. For anyone who has ever been in a failing relationship (or a budding relationship), several of the stories will strike home. The allegories are sharp and insightful, the stories honest and concise.

I recommend this book.
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10 of 24 people found the following review helpful By bumbles on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
what's in that bag of chips you've got on your shoulder? get over YOURself. beller's book is great and thougthful and inspiring and, as a narrator, he's not the least bit self-absorbed! in fact it's his modesty that i find most attractive about him in these essays: he deflects attention away from himself at every turn. he never boasts a hard-won male wisdom. and as for his so-called pampered life? i say to you: look who's talking! that you have time enough to take the time to write such disparaging reviews suggests to me that you're the one still in diapers, mister!
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