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The Beauty of Men: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
"The Nest" by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lake doesn't work and doesn't have friends, a job, or even a first name. All he really has is an abundance of memories of the unsatisfied life of a middle-aged gay man. "I've been a flop as a homosexual," says Lake. The book revolves around Lake's recollection of a time spent lost and hopeless and takes place in Gainesville, Florida, a place as unspectacular as his existence. In this examination of a life given to thinking about worry and lust, Andrew Holleran raises disturbing questions for people of every sexual preference. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Lark, the protagonist of Holleran's profoundly sad, elegant and insightful new novel, his first since Nights in Aruba was published 13 years ago, is virtually unique in today's gay literature: he is a 47-year-old gay man, caring for his quadriplegic mother in a small town in Florida, whose sex life is confined to rest rooms and the baths, who has never come out to his family and whose increasingly empty existence is defined by agonizing loneliness. All the friends from Lark's long-ago glamorous youth in New York are dead of AIDS, and his mother's health has consumed his life as surely as HIV has destroyed the world of Holleran's Dancer from the Dance (1977), one of the classics of gay literature. Age and gray hair have rendered Lark invisible in the sexual competition that defined his life until AIDS, and his mother's impending death has forced him to see that his failure to come out has made him fundamentally invisible to her as well. But Lark, as retrograde and politically incorrect as his life in the closet may make him appear, is nevertheless a chillingly emblematic Everyman, failing to find meaning and purpose in a world devastated by AIDS. Holleran's trademark prose-lush, carefully cadenced and keenly observed-creates a mesmerizingly claustrophobic world where the trapped elderly residents of Lark's mother's nursing home, the lonely men Lark encounters in his fruitless search for love and the overwhelming anonymity of suburban America have equal power to break the heart. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1st Plume edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452277744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452277748
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The first time I read this book, I was moved enough to read it through in one sitting. Re-reading it two years later, I am conflicted about it. It is incredibly well-written, has many crucial observations to make about gay life in the late twentieth century (as Holleran always has), and has a distinctive, authoritative voice. Yet, the same things that will make some readers love this book will make others want to hurl it through a window. The protagonist is unsympathetic, whiny, pretentious, dolorous, self-pitying and even at times self-hating in the extreme, and repetitious (parts of the book feel inadequately edited; you will read certain details in one chapter only to run across them in almost exactly the same guise a chapter later, which appears to be a case of a novel having been cobbled together from what could have more successfully stood as a novella or a group of vignettes). The author tacks on the usual disclaimer about no resemblance between the story being told and events in real life, but an essay he has included in a more recent anthology is a transparent re-write of the same story he tells here, down to the details of dialogue he exchanges with the object of his obsession. Thus, any protest that this is fiction is almost irrelevant. But what the book does do, even if it is not truly a work of fiction, is cast a discerning light on the way a number of men in Holleran's generation, the set of urban gay white men who came of age in the late seventies, view life now that they are no longer the kings of the mountain.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a post-epidemic work, some might find this book either irrelevant or a curiosity from another age. It is most emphatically neither. While many younger gay readers will possibly fail to grasp the pathos of the subject's life, a very large part of that life has been painfully lived down to the last detail by those of us gay men above the age of 50. Indeed it became so painfully real in places, that I was tempted to put it down; however Holleran's crystalline insights and observations drew me further and further into the story to the extent that quitting it became immpossible. For these insights/observations and his delightful command of the language, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Format: Paperback
To read Andrew Holleran's books is to want to know who he is and why he writes. Are his works autobiographical? With other novels I'm not interested necessarily in the writer's own life. Why is it, then, that this reader wonders and why is it important? In The Beauty of Men, with its hauntingly beautiful prose, Holleran writes what life has become for Lark, the main character, living in Florida in the 1990s. With sickness and death all around him, he seeks sanctuary for his grief, while worrying about aging and his success or failure as a homosexual. Holleran,in this and his other works, effectively draws the reader into the dream of his writing and story. By the end of the book, you feel as though you've just read a long letter from a friend you haven't heard from in a long time, describing what life's been like over the past few years. I think it's this intimacy that Holleran creates in all of his books which is the key to the question. As in Dancer from the Dance, you want to learn more about the novelist. If you haven't read Holleran's other novels, I would recommend reading them in order before reading The Beauty of Men. Holleran may just be at a point where critics talk about his oeuvre, though I hope this novel isn't his last.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Holleran usually chooses an elegiac tone for his writing, and this novel is no exception. Lark, living in exile in Florida, visits his elderly, infirm mother almost daily in her nursing home, brings her home on occasional weekends, and mourns for the lost, fast-lane life of 1970s New York and his friends from that time, most of whom have died since he moved to this small, rural town. Lark also pursues an unrequited, somewhat imaginary relationship with Becker, a man some 15 years younger whom Lark picked up once at a local boat ramp. Some critics have accused this novel of employing self-pity and pathos--Lark does have a rather negative self-image and he persists in mooning over Becker when most would have written off that affair with disgust--but the writing is gorgeous. Holleran is peerless (among the gliterati, anyway) with his evocations of time and place. One can smell northern Florida's pine forests and hear the wind through the branches just as one can smell the unpleasantly antiseptic nursing home and hear its senile chatter. Holleran's wit veers toward the sarcastic, but he's often dead-on hilarious, as in the chapter entitled "Il Paradisio," where Lark ventures into a bathhouse. I recommend this book for anyone who likes tight, concise yet lush writing--and doesn't expect a political manifesto in a novel.
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