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Out of My Skin: A Novel Paperback – February 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374299099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374299095
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,032,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his excellent third book, Haskell gets into the head of a lonely writer whose shot at a second chance hinges, strangely and brilliantly, on an impersonation of an impersonation of Steve Martin. The narrator, who could or could not be named Jack, leaves New York after a breakup and lands in Los Angeles to write about movies at the invitation of his editor friend, Alan. Soon, Alan introduces him to Jane, an ex-dancer apparently, who wanted to learn about photography, and assigns him a story about celebrity impersonators. When the narrator meets Scott, a Steve Martin impersonator, he begins channeling a version of the actor himself, and his impersonations mushroom into continuous Steve. Meanwhile, his relationship with Jane escalates (complicated by his Steveness), he tries his hand at acting and muses about famous movies and the ways in which Hollywooders reinvent themselves. Haskell's vision is frightening and exhilarating, and his prose can imbue a spiritual glow to, for instance, a discarded raisin on a Starbucks table. It's an odd world, and certainly one worth entering. (Feb.)
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From The New Yorker

A journalist leaves New York in the wake of a failed love affair and heads to Los Angeles, hoping to write about movies. He winds up interviewing a Steve Martin impersonator and is inspired to try “being Steve” himself—not as a paid gig but as a daily incarnation. What at first seems like just another novel about L.A. anomie turns out to be something more transfixing: a kind of pop Zen parable, at once whimsical and austere. Haskell cultivates a winking deadpan to chronicle his narrator’s twilight of the soul, inserting revelations in unexpected places. When the narrator (who, inevitably, becomes an actor) is cast as a monster in a video game and required to lift a heavy co-star for a prolonged shot, he hopes that “with acceptance the pain would lose its meaning”; later, he discovers a raisin abandoned on a table at Starbucks, “glowing with its raisinness.”
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Haskell has written a taut, sinewy novel Out of My Skin, which presents a self-loathing narrator, a struggling New York writer who has recently moved to Los Angeles, so crippled by neuroses that he feels compelled to reject himself and instead become the actor/comedian Steve Martin. When he experiences insecurities as himself, these insecurities seem unpalatable, but when he experiences his foibles as Steve Martin, they become easier to swallow.

As the novel progresses, the narrator becomes more and more obsessed with Steve Martin, living vicariously through what he perceives Steve Martin to be. This alter ego becomes a way of coping: An escape from the demons within himself he is too terrified to face.

A good companion for this funny, sometimes lugubrious novella, is the film Being John Malkovich, which also tackles the theme of self-loathing people wanting to vicariously live through celebrities.
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Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) In this "autobiographical novel," author John Haskell tells the story of Jack Haskell, an excruciatingly self-conscious young man who has given himself one month in Los Angeles to see if he can find a job. Unsure of himself and constantly obsessing about the impression he is making, Jack is seeking a job in journalism, preferably writing about the film industry. It is not surprising that Jack, insecure in the real world, loves old films and feels most comfortable with actors and acting. In Los Angeles he soon meets Scott, who is starring in Bertold Brecht's Galileo, while supporting himself as a Steve Martin impersonator. Soon Jack is acting like Scott acting like Steve Martin. Eventually, Jack applies for a full-time job as a Steve Martin imitator.

As Jack throws himself completely into his role as Steve Martin, he discovers that "an entirely new world was possible." When he meets Jane, a writer of young adult fiction, he finds that he is able, as Steve, to make overtures with a confidence that the real Jack Haskell has never felt. As the relationship progresses, however, Jack realizes that he must understand who he is--without relying on Steve--if he is ever going to have a complete relationship.

Within this relatively simple framework, author John Haskell writes a fully realized and rich novel in which every detail adds to his themes of fantasy vs. reality, pretense vs. integrity, and expediency vs. personal courage. The author creates dozens of parallels between the insecure Jack, and the world of drama and actors, compressing them to give depth and universality to what might appear at first to be a somewhat superficial story about a superficial and undeveloped character. Every detail counts.

Several films serve as motifs.
Read more ›
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By MV on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This novel is like being inside the head of someone with a schizoid personality disorder at worse or Asperger's at best. Unable to recognize himself as a "being", the main character spends the novel in a way both trying to lose and find himself. The beginning of the novel he imitates a Steve Martin imitator but when he gets tired of that, he finds it difficult to be something else.

Interspersed with this strangely compelling narrative is the narrative of various movies and books that pop into the character's mind as he tries to make sense of his self. Most of the novel is the main character looking at himself. In a way, it's a meta novel."
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By Ed on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An unhappy man decides to become Steve Martin. It starts a bit slowly, and at times the main character's depression is a bit of a drag to read. But it is far more original and interesting than the vast majority of books. Well worth a read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is sufficiently well-written that I kept reading, supposing that an author so skilled would get around to creating some significant action or event. But, at least by my standards, this did not occur. The protagonist, Jack Haskell, instead spends his time drifting about town imagining himself to be channeling the personality of the multitalented Steve Martin. Not channeling Mr Martin's talents, just apparently the upbeat way Martin relates to people or perhaps maneuvers his pelvis in standing and walking or something. This takes place after Jack Haskell has reached Los Angeles and begins socializing with a girl. The fact that he's in LA is of minor importance, though, since his interest, aside from the girl, is almost entirely in staying aware of how much Steve Martin he is channeling at the moment and whether that is serving him well in whatever social situation he's in.

This is a short book and even if you find it unsatisfactory, you'll have not wasted a lot of time in reading it. Then again, you may find it quite gratifying in some way.
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