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Mailman: A Novel Hardcover – September 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057317
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From one perspective, mail can be seen as merely the humble ebb and flow of letters, bills and advertisements. From another perspective, it is the cosmic principle of life itself: "Every datum is addressed with the name of its beloved: the pheromone finds its receptor, the dog roots out its bone, the sentence seeks the period at its end: and it is all mail." Lennon's protagonist, Mailman, aka Albert Lippincott, oscillates between this postal version of the sublime and the ridiculous. The novel unfolds from June 2, 2000, when someone on Albert's mail route, Jared Sprain, in Nestor, N.Y., commits suicide. On that night, Albert is caught by one of Jared's neighbors delivering a letter to Jared's box. The neighbor thinks there is something irregular about Albert's activities, and she is right: his dirty secret is that he reads, copies and sometimes doesn't deliver his mail. She apparently reports him, for Albert is suddenly taken in by Post Office inspectors for interrogation. After he is released pending further investigation, he skips town, heading vaguely for his retired parents' place in Florida. Lennon (The Funnies, etc.) lays out Albert's life in big blocks of introspections and reminiscences. Albert harbors a semiconscious sexual longing for his sister, Gillian, who is an actress; retains violent memories of his mother, a slutty singer, and more pathetic memories of his father, a chemist. Albert is sensitive to odors, subject to mental dissonance, angry, and feels alternately trapped and comforted by his routines. He's both Everyman and Nobody. As with one of Chuck Close's blown-up photo-realistic portraits, we feel both confronted and fascinated by Albert's sheer materiality. This is an intermittently brilliant text-with long, maddeningly tedious patches-and will surely be much noted this fall.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Albert Lippincott--Mailman--is an odd choice for an everyman character. A loner who reads the mail before delivering it, he's obsessive, depressive, and sexually confused. He struggles with the women in his life and fights with the cats they leave behind. The narrative begins with a letter delivered too late to a suicide and a woman who reports Mailman to the dreaded postal inspectors. As external events precipitate internal crisis, Mailman scrutinizes his past, searching for meaning in a world that tolerates him at best. Lennon performs a book-long balancing act, slowly letting us into this complex character's interior life. And Mailman is a complex character: Is he misunderstood or is he a liar? Is he persecuted or justly punished? Is the lump under his arm a bruise or a tumor? Did he really try to bite out a professor's eyeball? But because his neuroses are rooted in hopes and fears we all understand, this mumbling, lurching oddball, this guy we'd all walk past on the street, becomes someone we know and care about--and maybe recognize in the mirror. Lennon's fourth novel is emotionally engrossing and intellectually stimulating, full of humor, pathos, and surprises. To choose only one word: magnificent. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

J. Robert Lennon is the author of a story collection, Pieces For The Left Hand, and seven novels, including Mailman, Castle, and Familiar. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy, Granta, The Paris Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. He has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and his story "The Rememberer" inspired the CBS detective series Unforgettable. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, and The London Review of Books, and he lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
Humorous, captivating, BRILLIANT!
P. Shelton
I just finished reading this book, and all i can say is wow!
Michael L. Engel
J. Robert Lennon is a crazy good novelist.
Bob Toevs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Cactus Ed on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I happened to have happened upon this book because of the title. You see,! Seriously! Thats what I do to make money to feed and shelter my family. I read the other reviews here and decided to get the book - and oh boy! am I not disappointed! This guy Lennon (John Lennon at that!) can write. He's amazingly perceptive of both outer descriptive elements and the inner worlds we all create and inhabit. As I've been reading I keep realizing that this novel is what it feels like to be me, a human being with constant inner dialogue and reminincing going on. Plot? I don't know nor do I care whether there's a plot to this story. The main character ("Mailman"!) is my hero, a fully-alive all-American (yes!) in the year 2000. He is wonderfully real, and I wonder how Lennon, who is only 32 or 33, does it. I am deeply impressed with his wisdom and writing ability. Incredible attention to detail, yet the story never bogs down in it. It moves right along, and I hope it never ends. Reading a novel like this is like being in love - rare and wonderful.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brad Allen on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Take a break from the hegemony of the bestseller list and check out J. Robert Lennon's new novel, Mailman, his most complex and rewarding novel to date. Masterfully written, this is a funny yet thought provoking examination of the life and mind of a small town mailman. Lennon forces his readers to face the contradictions and hypocrisy normal human beings struggle with day to day in real life rather than offer easy, simple answers and one dimensional characters who always make the right decisions. Mailman is the best new novel I have read this fall. Go get yerself a copy of this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a smart, profound and sophisticated piece of work. Funny, and heartbreaking this book is just so ambitious in scope and range. But I'm stopping short of giving it five stars because I felt that parts of the story were a little overly developed, and in general, the novel was a little long. Still though, Mailman is a wonderful read, and in many ways is an absolutely powerful indictment of heartless tragedies that can exist in modern life and society.
Albert Lippincott, or the Mailman as he calls himself, is such a complex modern "ant-hero" - trundling along in his dead-end job as a Mailman with the U.S. Postal Service, while surreptitiously reading customers mail on the sly, and also recounting in a kind of vast mindscape, the loves, dramas and tragedies of his life. There are some marvelous moments in this novel, particularly when Albert recounts his childhood: his strange, sexually ambiguous relationship with his sister Gillian, his efforts to trap and defeat his high school English teacher Jim Gorman, and his failed, obscenely misguided trip to Kazakhstan with the Peace Corps, which will have you roaring with laughter.
Robert Lennon has complete control of his narrative, and using succinct precise language explores, not only Albert's inner thoughts with his cynical and sardonic observations about life and the world around him, but also explores, with an understated beauty, the quirkiness and eccentricities of small-town American life. The reader is constantly "blasted" with an almost stream of consciousness storyline, as Albert, betrayed, disappointed, and unrequited, fills his head with equations, images, sounds and sensations as if some extra dimensional vessel has flowed into him and he is the vessel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Moogwoman on September 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Writing a novel which delves into the inner psychic state of the main character as his life dissolves around him requires verve and imagination. That Lennon can bring it off - striding the fine line between self-indulgence and insight - is testimony to his skill as a novelist.

If you live in a college town, you will recognize the familiar cast of misfits, academic wannabes and blue collar workers all trying to ply their trade against the background swagger of the SUV-owning students.

Lennon captures it all - Mailman is perverse and brilliant and the sharpest writing you will find anywhere. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C-Reader on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
With much literary fiction, I find myself skimming, but not at all with MAILMAN -- it holds the reader's attention by being filled with beauty, emotions and reminscence, and still moving at a steady suspenseful pace. I felt myself reading and enjoying every word.
Albert Lippincott is a man whose longings we feel, whose past we are intrigued by, and yet, to the customers whose mail he delivers, he is simply an anonymous Mailman. When he starts to read their mail, in one case slowing its delivery and possibly affecting a life -- and when a witness then complains about it -- we know trouble may be nigh. But there is so much more to MAILMAN.
I took this on a trip to Vermont with me and finished it at home in my cozy apartment. I thank Mr. Lennon for providing me good reading, and I'm not one who has a lot of patience with most literary fiction.
This is a clever and enjoyable book from an extremely talented young author. After having read this and the more lighthearted (but equally well-written) THE FUNNIES, I can't wait to see more from him!
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