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The Act of Love: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 17, 2009

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his naughtily erudite 10th novel, British author Jacobson (Kalooki Nights) explores the nature of the erotic with a wicked twist. Narrator Felix Quinn, a fusty antiquarian bookseller in contemporary London, wants to cuckold himself in order to save his marriage and give himself the freedom to be jealous. The unwitting but willing participant in Felix's scheme, Marius, is a libertine without scruples: he first appears in the tale some years previously, letching after two underage girls while attending the funeral of a man whose wife he had seduced. As for Felix's wife, Marisa, she embraces the infidelity foisted on her with gusto, relishing her thrice-weekly assignations and, after much persuasion, titillating her curious husband with details of their intimacies. Though Felix's narration is disconcertingly mannered, he's remarkably honest and blisteringly funny, while Jacobson's prose is sharp as ever, loaded with spiky dialogue and wonderfully arch observations. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Antiquarian bookseller Felix Quinn is sophisticated, intelligent, and a proper English gentleman in all ways but one: he longs to see his wife, Marisa, in the arms of another man. When his masochistic matchmaking results in Marisa’s affair with a brooding writer, Felix is both tortured and tickled by their tryst—begging Marisa for details of their sexual encounters and obsessing over their interactions. Yet, like Philip Roth’s David Kepesh in The Dying Animal (2001), recently made into the feature film Elegy, Felix can never be satisfied unless he has Marisa to himself and, thus, becomes increasingly jealous and conflicted over his wife’s affair. The book is mostly concerned with Felix’s sexual fetishism and remains disappointingly reticent about the inner life of Marisa, who is meticulously described but barely allowed to speak. Jacobson conjures a twisted yet sophisticated love story here, walking a thin line between humor and erotica and often blending the two. --Heather Paulson

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141659423X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416594239
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,764,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and, most recently, the highly acclaimed The Act of Love. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RR on October 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Jacobsen's book broaches the somewhat taboo subject of those who find the unfaithfulness of their partner to be stimulating. The narrator has no wish to physically participate or indeed visually witness the intimacy taking place but only that the clandestine sexual activities are described to him in detail after the event.
This particular idiosyncrasy is one of the few sexual proclivities yet to be been given a name perhaps "audio-erotic" may suffice or "sexual hearing" although Marvin Gaye may have objected
The story is that of a London book seller who surreptitiously arranges for a stranger to have an affair with his beautiful wife and the mainly cognitive repercussions that stem from this decision.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
An erotic, exotic and esoteric novel that deals with one man's fetish ad nauseaum. And it's not even a very prurient fetish. Lots of dialogue and litle action add up to a surfeit of tedium, although there is one brief account of a swingers'/fetishist club that piqued my curiosity.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Schwartz on November 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Actually this novel reminded me of Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, but it's not nearly as entertaining, clever, or absorbing as Roth's masterpiece. Like Portnoy's Complaint The Act of Love is the compulsive first person narrative of a sex obsessed man. It is all about sex of a mildly "perverted" sort. Felix Quinn, after observing his wife's breasts being examined by a doctor, becomes obsessed with being cuckolded (his word) by her. He arranges by various subterfuges for Marisa, his wife, to have an affair with Marius, a rather unsavory character Felix has met at a funeral. Felix cogitates endlessly about his masochism, the sexual thrill of knowing his wife is with another man, how only with intense jealousy can one feel the intensity of love, and so on and on and on in this vein. Alas, I don't share Felix's, shall we say, "oddity," so a lot of this was lost on me.

But is Marisa really with another man? Felix's story or narrative has the feeling of fantasy. It seems to be a surreal twisting of Felix's imagination rather than the retelling of actual facts. The reader cannot tell what is the invention of Felix's overactive sexual cogitations or has genuine reality within the story world. The reader is absorbed by Felix's self-absorption, his quaint and orthogonal mental world. Well, I should say "not quite absorbed" in that I found it all a bit tiresome after awhile, and found myself reading faster and faster and savoring less and less. I guess I finished this novel despite my disinterest because I didn't have another book ready to hand. And one must have something to read mustn't one?

Unlike Portnoy, who is a nerd from Newark, New Jersey, Felix and Marisa are sophisticated and rich Londoners who live in Marylebone. I guess another reason I stuck with it is that I like novels about contemporary London. This one almost comes up to the bar in that sense.

Jacobson is a word master. Too bad his talent is wasted on Felix Quinn.
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By deenietab on April 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Act of Love sometimes reads more like an act of revenge.
The novel is a hodge-podge of human emotions as the writer tries to explore the psychological aspects of love, obsession, and jealouusy.
The narrator presumably madly in love with his "perfect" wife will not rest until he shares her for the enjoyment, admiration and appreciation of other men. -- in this case one particular man with whom he, himself is obsessed.. Want to read further?
The rest of the story is consumed by the details and complexity of human behavior as our characters form passionate and all consuming relationships which eventaully lead to failure and disappointment.
Fortunately Jacobsen is a brilliant writer but it was really hard to pull this one off!
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By Jack C. Castillo on March 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sub-space - abandonment of your will to the sexual caprice of another! I really enjoyed this read, a lot of the reviews here have not been favorable but for me this was a literary treat. Jacobson explores a taboo that is pretty to difficult to understand in western culture, he reveals the inner workings of obsession, passion, and love. If you're looking for a hot steamy novel this is not the book for you but, if you're into the explorations of the psyche and the dark emotions that I believe color all our lives, then I recommend it. As with most sexual fantasies, in the end we come to realize that they are best left as fantasies If you've read Fowler's The Magus then I think you would enjoy this book also.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So it is, however, to Jacobson he answered the challenge presented and created a magnificently written and constructed relationship for deviates and designed by deviates. I couldn't find the four letter word represented anywhere in the story and anything else bored me painfully. I had to force myself to finish reading the book. However the writing and construction left me full of admiration for the author.
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