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How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood Paperback – August 17, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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.
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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
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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: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,079,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Beller's most recent book, "J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist," won the New York City Book Award for Biographer/Memoir. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Cathleen Schine called the book "sensitive and irresistible," "lyrical and precise," and concluded, "'J. D. Salinger' is the story of the resonance of its subject, but it is also the story of a generous, humorous, sensitive writer, which is to say, Thomas Beller. Not much escapes him."

Beller's previous books are a collection of stories, "Seduction Theory," "The Sleep-Over Artist," a novel; and "How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood," a collection of personal essays, many of which appeared in the New Yorker and The New York Times, publications to which he contributes regularly.

In addition to his writing, Beller has edited several anthologies, including two drawn from his website, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. Through the literary journal he co-founded and edited from 1990 until its close in 2010, Open City Magazine and Books, he published a diverse array of authors, from Said Sayrafiezedeh and Meghan Daum to Sam Lipsyte and Edward St. Aubyn, among many others. He teaches creative writing at Tulane University and lives in New Orleans with his wife and two children.

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Top Customer Reviews

By S. Haines on November 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This collection of stories/vignettes drawn from TB's life is rich in the common experience of growing up male in the U.S. Considering giving it as a XMAS gift to my brother and a few close friends
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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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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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