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Subtle Bodies Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004250X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400042500
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ned and Nina are working hard to get pregnant. But when Ned suddenly flies across the country to attend the funeral of college friend Douglas, Nina follows in hot pursuit. When she finally catches up with him, Nina finds her husband holed up in Douglas’ upstate New York compound, surrounded by his former NYU roommates, instantly immersed in the rivalries and politics of their student days. Nina’s role as an outsider gives her a unique perspective on the group as she watches them grapple with the death of their revered Douglas and attempt to reappraise their lives, relationships, and futures through the clarifying lens of the passage of time. Rush, author of the National Book Award–winning Mating (1991), has written a quiet, contemplative novel, bringing together a group of people whose pasts and presents have suddenly come face-to-face as they struggle to make sense of their personal histories. Subtle Bodies is a funny, deeply satisfying look at friendships—why we make them, why we keep them, and how they change us over time. --Carol Gladstein

From Bookforum

Though Subtle Bodies tunnels in various directions, including toward a meditation on the enigma of male friendship, here again the marital banner flies strong from the novel’s first pages, its first syllables. In Subtle Bodies, as in so much of his work, confronting the world returns Rush to his central question: What matters, in the end? That we do what we can, is the author’s refrain. Even if all we can do— all any two people can do—is form a country of our own, whose flag is love. —Michelle Orange

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Customer Reviews

The writing is pretentious and often annoying.
Amy Lansky
Rush skillfully presents their character flaws most of us think cannot be seen by others.
J. Nachison
Subtle Bodies is smartly written and very entertaining.
Elizabeth Hendry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By T. Hayes on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Subtle Bodies is a radical and deliberate departure for Rush, and a welcome one for this reader. For one, it is very cinematic; it is easy to see SB as a screenplay, as a movie. Secondly, Rush does not flesh out the main characters as he did for us in his previous two novels. He leaves it to us to reckon with his characters on our own terms, leaves it to us to fill-in-the-blanks both in the characters' lives and in our relationship with them, as we ask ourselves how the characters (or ourselves) ended up the way they did. Third, it is a broad but subtle comedy. I laughed out loud many times. In short, it is a challenging book and what we gain from it depends a great deal on what we bring to it and how deeply we work to understand what Rush is saying and what he is leaving to us to conclude about how we relate to friendship, death, marriage, war, protest and change. And we also are left to wonder how much of what we think we understand of the characters is understood by the characters themselves. I'm on my third reading and still have no answers and likely never will but the effort is rewarding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Hilda J. Goldberg on September 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm surprised that more people haven't mentioned how funny this book
is. Rush's other books have funny parts, but this one is a drawing
room comedy.
Except that I also cried a couple of times. If you have read the book,
you definitely know one of the times I cried.
Nina is smart and loveable and hilarious. Ned and the other men are
all characters I'll remember with sympathy (even Elliot, but not so
much). I feel that I know them. Claire never appears in the flesh
(that's may be a very slight spoiler, as I at least feared she would)
but her treachery is unspeakably vile, except that someone insists on
speaking of it. Nina is real and touching (brings a tear) in how she
helps Ned through the pain the widow inflicts on him.
The widow is Iva. She manipulates everyone with sex and by putting
on a good helpless widow act, but the worst to me isn't her major
plot, which involves money. It's when she sticks an emotional knife
into Ned's heart for no reason except for the pleasure she gets out
of telling him certain dirty secrets she knows will be terrible for
him to hear. And there's a short scene describing the widow taking
a cigarette that naturally smells of herself out from between her
breasts and handing it to Gruen -- that small, small incident shows
her as almost obscene in the way she uses her body and her acting
skills to get what she wants out of males, and, it seems, out of her
whole world.
I won't forget a single character. I've read it twice already, though.
But I don't think anyone could ever forget Nina or Iva or Ned or the
last chapter of the book.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By brjoro VINE VOICE on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am a huge Norman Rush fan. 'Mortals' is, in my humble opinion, one of the most incredible and important books published in the last 50 years. So it truly pains me to write a bad review for 'Subtle Bodies.' But it is simply not a good novel. It is a story of a group of 5 college friends from NYU in the 1970s and what happens to them when one of them dies and they gather for his memorial. The big problem is that none of the characters is in any way compelling or interesting, and I felt absolutely zero investment in caring about what happened to any of them. The beautiful writing that Rush brought to 'Mortals' and 'Mating' is still here in bits, he writes great dialogue, the way his characters speak to one another has always been one of his strengths. But it's not enough to salvage this story. If you are a Norman Rush fan, well, he only writes a book every 10-15 years, and it's short, so make your own judgement. But color me devastatingly disappointed in 'Subtle Bodies.'
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Case Quarter VINE VOICE on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
four college friends are summoned a couple of decades after their school years to participate in a memoriam to the leader of their group of self-proclaimed wits on the lower east side of new york in the seventies. douglas died in a freak accident on his property in the catskills. central to the property is the castle where douglas lived with his wife and son, hume, a teenaged wild child who prefers living in the woods instead of the castle or the cabin his father had built for him.

douglas was a bit of a goethe, his fortune was made in identifying questionable documents, but he also worked on film scripts and inventions, rumor had it one of his inventions was of interest to the world intelligence community. it's left up to the reader to decide if douglas' death was more than accidental, and if espionage figures into the story. other than a subtle body of coincidences that read like clues, the plot does not divulge any mystery.

instead, the story focuses primarily on the couple ned and nina. ned is employed at a non-profit, armed with petition for his friends to sign to protest the entry of the usa military into iraq. the year is 2002, the protest, planned for february 15, 2003, turned out be the largest anti-war protest in history. knowing the outcome, norman rush revisiting the commitment and hope of activists to recruit and get out the word on a massive scale, believing their voices will make a difference, reveals the cynical worm inside the apple of optimism. but hope, alive in another form, beats on in this story as nina follows ned to the castle, to keep on their schedule to conceive a baby.

the other friends have also done well.
Read more ›
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