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Prosperous Friends Hardcover – November 6, 2012

3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
"The Nest" by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance. Learn more | See author page
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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Schutt penetrates to the core energies of human drama with a pointillist's touch; feeling is lent graceful shape, less readily apprehensible, but ultimately more incisive. —Albert Mobilio



"Sinewy, unsentimental . . . Schutt depicts [Isabel's] rattled consciousness with quick, painterly strokes—a glancing, impressionistic style that owes a happy debt to Virginia Woolf. . . . Schutt has formed genuine moments of beauty and hope."—The Wall Street Journal

"[Schutt] has honed a language that feels wholly hers: a carefully cadenced poetic prose that warrants being read reverently, aloud. . . . Prosperous Friends proves Schutt to be one of the finest stylists alive. . . . Reading Schutt's prose is like listening to music: beneath its manifest meaning, her language is full of ther, ineffable messages, encrypted in rhythms and melodies. . . . It isn't so much that Schutt succeeds in making order from chaos—she knows that she can't, we can't, no one can. So she says, once you've failed, go on living: make order from failure."—Los Angeles Review of Books

"A disposition to illuminate peaks of cognizance amid humdrum circumstances invests Schutt's latest novel, Prosperous Friends with an almost electrical charge. . . . Schutt has a delicate eye for the visceral. Like a Pre-Raphaelite painter, she shines unnatural light on natural things to disconnect and unbalance viewers. . . . In her brevity and elevated pitch, her sentences sound ready to pounce upon intimate disclosure. Like [Henry] James, Schutt penetrates to the core energies of human drama with a pointillist's touch; feeling is lent graceful shape, less readily apprehensible, but ultimately more incisive. . . . Prosperous Friends presses adventurously against mere telling's quotidian restrictions and attempts to enact 'the lyrical impulses of the soul.'"—Bookforum

"Prosperous Friends was another revelation this year, a devastating story of young love, old love, and no love, written with a razor, it would seem, on living skin."—The New Yorker (Best Books of 2012, P.S.)

"With terse sentences that read like poetry, Schutt strips each scene of excess context and cuts to the heart of the moment. Her prose evokes emotions more vital to the novel: frustration and despair juxtaposed with understanding and desire. The characters instantly come to life with a clever turn of phrase or a well-crafted sentence. . . . In a collection of carefully thought-out moments, Schutt's haunting yet lyrical words linger long after the final page."—Los Angeles Times

“Artful . . . Astonishing . . . Piercingly real . . . The poetic concision and allusiveness of [Schutt’s] prose give the story more heft than a mere two-hundred pages would suggest. . . . Her sentences never waste a phrase or even a word. In these finely cut scenes . . . Schutt deals killing blows with such short, precise movements that at first you barely register the wound.”—The Washington Post

"By turn poetically mesmeric and brutally unsentimental . . . [Schutt] beguiles us with . . . forensic attention to detail. . . . Schutt's writing dazzles while it disorients. This is a beautiful but disquieting novel about broken vows and hearts."—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"[A] powerful work of craftsmanship . . . While her sentences are lyrical and flowing—she is perhaps the single best practitioner of the acoustical clustering technique described as 'consecution'—her scenes tend to be stripped down and brutally juxtaposed. . . . Prosperous Friends is intimate and alien as a dream. Like poerty, it rewards careful reading, and though brief, the questions it raises linger, unanswerable and self-complicating."—The New York Observer

"Lovely and unpredictable . . . An unsettling book that is by turns grim, scathing, and droll. Watching it unfold in the presence of an author who is part poet and part sculptor is its own reward."—Portland Press Herald

"Christine Schutt's slender yet powerful novel examines modern love with a poet's insight."—Barnes & Noble Review

"Schutt is a writers writer whose elegant prose seems like chiseled diamond."—Library Journal

"Prosperous Friends is masterful, a comic-tragic astonishment. Christine Schutt continues to write some of the most original and rewarding prose I've ever read."—Sam Lipsyte

"Delicate prose, fearless storytelling...exquisitely wrought...Schutt lets readers feel the yearning sadness of a love that never quite happens...spare but lyrical."—Chapter 16 Blog

"Feeding off Chekhov, Wilder, O'Neill, and the emotional electricity of live theater, Christine Schutt stages her own brand of parlor drama in Prosperous Friends. . . . Schutt prodes prosperity's margin of error: free spirits who've pissed away entire legacies, scions sweating out trusts and entanglements, and fatalistic women who leverage sex and cohabitation as a means to financial security. With its well-bred, art-damaged Gothicism—and a bewitching knack for appearing both full-frontal and oblique—Schutt's prose may have no closer counterpart than the lyrics of P. J. Harvey. . . . At root, Prosperous Friends may be a knotty comedy or a confounding dramawhich is, in all likelihood, the living truth."—Paste

“No one writes sentences like Christine Schutt. Prosperous Friends is sure to be her masterwork. Like Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, Schutt’s por¬trait of a young couple in ruins is exquisitely beautiful, stunningly resonant, and so minutely and vividly observed you feel devastated at its close. With Prosperous Friends, Schutt takes her place among the best writers of our time.”—Kate Walbert

“Why do we love one, and not another? Christine Schutt's beautifully telegraphic prose goes to the heart of a question posed in scenes and moments so real and exquisitely framed that the reader enters her vision completely. Elliptical, haunting, perfectly pitched, Prosperous Friends re-defines itself as it unfolds, changing and transforming, alive with truths and questions. Schutt demands our meditation, our intimate consideration, our awe.”—Jayne Anne Phillips

"Clever . . . Unorthodox . . . Schutt rips the facade off marriage."—California Literary Review

“It is no longer a secret that Christine Schutt is the finest writer among us, and Prosperous Friends is her finest work yet. There isn't a corner in any of her sentences left ungraced by her lyrical genius, her heart-fathoming wisdom. A few pages in, you'll know you have a classic in your hands.—Gary Lutz

“Christine Schutt casts the light of her brilliant prose into the shadowy corners of marriage and sex, aging and art-making, wealth and aspiration. What she finds there is thrilling, dangerous, true: impossible to forget. This is a moving, luminous novel, its radiance all the more striking for the darkness it's willing to explore.”—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

"With her elusive, suggestive prose, Christine Schutt examines the mystery of one couple's dissolution. In its spare delicacy, Prosperous Friends recalls nothing less than James Salter's Light Years."—Stewart O'Nan

“Give me the tough, adamantine beauty of Christine Schutt’s writing any day. Her new novel, Prosperous Friends, is about that, about friends, and their marriages, and within the eddy of these various enterprises, within the many come-hithers and get-thee-gones, is a character at once Isabel Stark and Isabel Bourne. It's Portrait of a Lady one hundred and thirty years on, except it’s all incisively new, and it’s Christine Schutt at her finest.” —Michelle Latiolais

"Poignant . . . Schutt creates noteworthy texture with what she withholds . . . making for abrupt juxtapositions, vivid moments, and terse language, the sum of which feels fittingly reflective of the [book's central] relationship itself." —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120380
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,158,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Not such reading Nightwood by Djuna Barnes several years ago have I come across such original writing by a female novelist as this book contains. Now I admire Jane Hamilton for her virtuosity, though I find her subjects too mundane; Paulette Jiles for her ability to sustain poetic prose over hundreds of pages. But what do we have here in this briefly flowing book--words in and out, going somewhere and then receding. Sort of like an imitation of our thoughts on a green, shady day.

Ordinarily I would not choose to read a book about a shaky marriage, maybe two of them, though one is older and more solid. Compromise has set in and all is found suitable. Adjustments have been resolved and semi-life is lived. Not so the younger couple who never seem to get to know one another. They hardly even try. They are more interested in being known. Affection is not a common bond.

However, when I read the description by John Ashbery, perhaps our greatest living modern poet, of this work as "pared down but rich, dense, fevered, exactly right and even eerily beautiful," my resistance dissolved. I trusted the integrity of Ashbery's recommendation and I'm glad I did because it led me to the reading of this book.

Upon reading the first chapter (just a few pages), I had to stop. "Wow!" I thought. "What did I just read?" Time for a reread already? The writing, like musty wine, cries to be mulled. I found myself pausing many times during the reading of this fluid prose, constantly surprised by original phrasing, images and even tone. Rewind, fast forward, then rewind again. Then on to the next sighting of rarity. Rarified?...An example, not taken directly from the text, of the author's inclusion of wordplay. Another quality of her unusual writing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This stunning short novel is about the rapid disintegration of a marriage that should never have happened. Both parties to it -pretty boy writer Ned and kind of pretty but desperately unfulfilled Isabel-- are basically unattractive types: the husband is a taker and a user, the wife seems doomed to dissatisfaction, starting with the disillusionment of their sex life. Their marriage is already unraveling when they become entangled with an older couple who seem to have what they've never gotten: a relationship, however incomplete it may be in many respects, that allows them to move forward through life together. The older man, Clive, is a successful painter, a serial adulterer and a roaring egoist, but his wife, a poet, has found a way to make it work between them, where the young couple just scar each other terribly before moving on to separate, who knows what kind of, lives.

The prose in this novel is luminous. Schutt uses alliteration repeatedly, creating waves of sound that just beg to be declaimed like the best poetry or an epic: "Might they not be released and made green again at some greater god's touch?" "g - g- g..."

The final paragraph in the book floats forward on cushions of alternating front-end "p"s, "w"s, "c"s and "ch"s, "s"s and "sh"s: "For eating rather than feeding his guests, the one-eyed giant Polyphemus lost his eye. Pious mortals who stick to the code fare better. Like the poor old couple --what were their names?- who offered all of what they had for the comfort of gods in disguise: the best chair, their last chicken, the cask of wine now sour but the gods make it sweeter.... etc., etc.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Christine Schutt writes well, there's no doubt about it. As a poet, though, not your normal novelist. The book is made up of images, moments in time, stages in a relationship, oblique encounters bereft of the usual machinery to connect one part to another in linear narrative. Yet a story does emerge, a story in which little happens but much is revealed.

It begins with a young married couple, Isabel and Ned Bourne, both writers, both beautiful, both very much in love -- though Isabel, despite Ned's best efforts, is anorgasmic -- a minor detail, or sign of something deeper? It is Ned's postdoctoral year in London, and they are both in awe of the history, the theatre, the literary heritage, and rich friends who can cart them off on a whim to Rome or Florence. Other friends follow, in New York and later in Maine; it is a marriage characterized by semi-tolerated infidelity.

Eventually, out of the many acquaintances, another couple emerges: Clive Harris, a celebrated painter in his seventies, and his wife Dinah, a poet. Though Dinah also also accepts her husband's serial adultery, somehow their marriage works. Such shape as the novel has comes from the gradual emergence of the Harrises into the limelight, eclipsing the disintegrating Bournes.

The jacket blurb compares the book to James Salter's LIGHT YEARS, and I agree, in that both deal with the marital problems of artistic couples in a slightly precious impressionistic way. But I remember being enthralled by the Salter whereas Schutt, despite her brevity, could not imprint any part of the book on me sufficiently to remain in my mind when I was a mere forty pages on. So, despite the beauties on almost every page, I could barely glimpse the architecture of the book as a prose poem, and had very little investment in it as a story.
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