"Hayes has done for bruised men what Jean Rhys does for bruised women, and they both write heartbreakingly beautiful sentences." Paul Bailey
About the Author
Alfred Hayes was born in London. He grew up and went to school in New York where he later worked for a time as a newspaperman, magazine writer, and radio hack. After joining the army in 1943, he served with the U.S. forces in Italy. While in Rome he worked with Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini on the film Paisá (1946). He returned to the United States in 1945 to work in Hollywood.
As the novel opens, an unnamed forty-year-old man meets a pretty girl at a hotel bar one afternoon in the 1950s, and lonely and cynical, and looking to connect with her, he promises to tell her a story. Using her as a passive sounding board while he relives his previous relationship with another woman whom he believes he loved, he begins the story. What follows are the random maunderings of an insensitive man who has no idea who he is or what he is doing, and since he is the only speaker in the novel, the primary listener to his story becomes, in effect, the reader, rather than the pretty listener at the bar.
Alfred Hayes (1911 - 1985), a brilliant but woefully neglected author, focuses on the man's behavior towards women in New York in the 1950s, developing the story of the man's relationship with another, much younger woman of about twenty, whom he also met at a hotel bar. This former lover, a divorced mother of a child, has come to New York City, where she believes that she may be able to find a more suitable (and more financially secure) lover and, eventually, a husband. When they go to his room together, he has no sense of commitment beyond a single night. Eventually, they begin an affair, which changes when a stodgy but wealthy acquaintance offers her a thousand dollars for just one night with him, an offer this woman actually discusses with the speaker. "It would be all over in a night," she asserts.
As he discusses all this with his silent companion in the bar, the reader becomes exhausted with the mundane details, the banal "insights," and the ignorance with which the speaker tries to explain away his present situation.Read more ›
Normally, I don't like books full of dysfunction and sorrow. Some, sure. But lots? It gets to feel too emotionally suffocating. But there's something about Alfred Hayes's language and storytelling abilities that make In Love not only bearable, but actually quite beautiful.
This edition's description says that it is "Executed with the cool smoky brilliance of a classic Miles Davis track," and that's entirely accurate. One of my favorite beers, Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, tastes like this book reads. The first time I tried it, I told my husband that it tasted like a jazz saxophone played on a Bourbon Street balcony at dusk. He smirked at me disbelievingly, took a sip, and said, "Wow...you're absolutely right." That's sort of what it felt like to read this book.
In Love, which takes place in New York in the 1940s, is told by a man who is casually dating a young divorcee whose parents are raising her daughter so that she can make something of herself. However, neither her piano lessons nor her noncommittal relationship are amounting to much in the way of greatness. So when an immensely wealthy, cultured gentleman asks her to dance, she accepts. And while they are dancing, he makes a startling proposition: he would like her to spend the night with him in exchange for one thousand dollars.
Okay, let's stop here for a minute. If you're like me, you just said, "One thousand dollars? If he's so rich, why is that all he offered her?!" But remember that this is the '40s. According to a conversion website I found, a thousand dollars in 1940 is equivalent to over $16,000 in 2012. So he's offering her a decent sum of money.
Anyway. She declines, and it becomes an anecdote for her to tell (and retell...and retell...) to her current lover, our narrator.Read more ›
Right from the beginning you'll know this is an ordinary love story. Soon after you'll sense that it's not told in an ordinary way. There are no fuzzy backlit scenes of lovers running toward one another in slow motion, riding a carousel, smiling benignly at one another over dinner, etc. This is a gritty sophisticated big city love story where somebody, and maybe everybody, is gonna get hurt.
It's told in syncopated prose that doesn't attempt to soften the pain. Everyone involved is on their own and vigilance is required if they want to survive. Even the off stage characters are in pain. Alcoholic beverages are not only served they're necessary. The sensuality stops just short of brutality. The only redeeming factor is the high quality of the writing. Hayes's writing reminded me of Edna O'Brien in its absorption in love affairs and its refusal to look away from people's worst motives and their aching needs.
As with most New York Review of Books reprints one of the best things about this edition is the foreword. This one is by Frederic Raphael. He places the book in context of its time and within the writer's career. Here is Raphael's conclusion, "Hayes may have been forgotten (if he was ever remembered), but he belongs to a serene company of petits maitres whose exquisite work, however sparse, need not await the endorsement of critics or the retrieval of anthologists, a gem is a gem is a gem."
This review is based on an advance reader's copy supplied by the publisher. (Disclaimer given per FTC requirement.)