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The Biology of Luck Paperback – October 7, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Elephant Rock Productions, Inc. (October 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975374680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975374689
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Appel—a New York sightseeing guide, psychiatrist, bioethicist, and prolific, prizewinning playwright and short story writer—offers a nimbly satiric variation on Joyce’s Ulysses in this tale of one summer day in the life of Larry Bloom, a nebbishy New York City tour guide and struggling writer. A self-described prisoner of his own inhibitions, Larry is hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unconventional, and confused young woman, Starshine, who has agreed to have dinner with him. As in every romantic comedy, forces conspire to keep them apart, but in Appel’s clever, vigorously written, intently observed, and richly emotional tale, hilarious mishaps are wildly complicated by the intersections between life and Larry’s novel about Starshine. From bagel-throwing demonstrators attacking a group of puzzled Dutch tourists to Starshine’s bicycle odyssey in quest of a fruit basket for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted aunt to the mysterious powers of a one-armed building superintendent, Appel’s funky urban fairy tale is spiked with canny observations about human nature. Do we inherit or create luck? Is beauty a burden or a gift? Can love transcend fantasy? Seductive and thought-provoking. --Donna Seaman


"There are not many books like "The Biology of Luck." Why? Because few authors have the hyper-verbal skills of Jacob Appel." -- New City Lit  

"An inventive exploration of the place where love, chance, expectations and ambitions intersect in the city that never sleeps." - Kirkus Review

There's a richness of allusion (besides the obvious nods to Joyce and his Bloom in June, Appel's loving paean to his hometown pays extensive tribute to New York's twin titans Melville and Whitman) in Biology that makes a few of Appel's critically beloved contemporaries seem almost rootless by comparison. - The Masters Review

" We're offered a nuanced and sympathetic exploration of both characters, but the nuance and sympathy in Starshine's narrative also suggest the fullness of Larry's love, the degree to which Starshine has come to rule his imagination."--The Colorado Review

"Appel captures the sounds, smells and feeling of human idiosyncracies, describing each person and place with layers of specifics and closely observed characters." --  North American Review

“Astounding in its vividness, its originality, its inventiveness and heart. This outstanding novel will draw worthy comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders, but more than anything I’m struck by the sheer force of Appel’s vision and voice. The book marks the arrival of a trenchant and necessary voice in American letters. How lucky we are!” —Bret Anthony Johnston, author, Corpus Christi: Stories

“A delightful book that is ultimately about the act of writing and the power of love.”  —Nicole Cooley, author, Judy Garland, Ginger Love

“A burghers’ banquet of the best of New York and an unapologetic romantic’s hopes for the dreams of the last and most forgotten among us. Appel’s novel is outstanding—a singular and extremely funny read for those of us who find our pleasures in contemplating loneliness and despair.”  —Michael Dahlie, author, A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living

“Appel’s clever, vigorously written, intently observed, and richly emotional tale, is spiked with canny observations about human nature. Do we inherit or create luck? Is beauty a burden or a gift? Can love transcend fantasy? Seductive and thought-provoking.”  —Booklist

“Even the secondary characters are as vivid as any found in fiction. Though The Biology of Luck is only his second novel, Appel’s status as a prolific writer is well-cemented.”  —Green Mountains Review

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The chapters alternate between the book written by Mr. Appel, and the book written by the character Larry Bloom.
Alyson C. Miller
This was something about the book that I liked very much, but might be frustrating for one who prefers the tied up with a neat little bow approach.
Mike Williams
Jacob Appel is a master of farce, caricature, compelling language, unique stylistic devices, and extraordinarily beautiful descriptive language.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rick O on August 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
The roots to Jacob M. Appel's novel can be traced back to the eighth century BC. That is when Homer wrote his epic poem,'The Odyssey'. Now bear with me. In 1922, James Joyce, in an attempt to match the characters and happenings of Homer's poem, published 'Ulysses'. And in 2013, Appel published, The Biology of luck. Okay, so what. Well, Joyce's novel and Appel's novel are both one day ( in June) occurrence novels. Secondly, Joyce's protagonist is Leopold Bloom and Appel's is Larry Bloom. Thirdly, both novels are in big cities, Leopold walks the streets of Dublin and Larry walks the streets of NYC. Both characters meet some very strange people. So there you go, a little literature history. Jacob M. Appel, in a question and answer interview at the book's end, admits that he paralleled parts of his novel after Homer's and Joyce's books. Also I have read some minor criticism about Appel's prose...too hard to understand. What? Try reading China Mieville's neologisms without consulting a dictionary. Appel's novel is written in an prestigious composition, very easy to understand without having to `google' a word. I also thought the book within the book stratagem was very clever. Enough, lets get to the story.

Larry Bloom, a nondescript and balding NYC tour guide has written a novel about his dinner date, Starshine Hart, the most beautiful girl in the City (according to everybody in the novel). The story unfolds with Larry taking a group of Dutch visitors on a tour of the city after he visits the local post office. He meets his group at Grant's Tomb where a protest is taking place. Larry hustles the group to their first destination. Meanwhile, we meet Starshine in the first chapter of the book Larry has written.
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Format: Paperback
This novel is set within a single day in New York City: a day in the life of Larry Bloom, a middle-aged New York City tour guide. On this particular day, Larry has dinner planned with Starshine Hart, the girl of his dreams. Larry has written a book, and while he has received a letter from the publishers Stroop & Stone, he doesn’t want to open the letter until he is with Starshine.

And so, in a three part story where we move from the face of morning through the belly of the afternoon to the heart of the night, we navigate New York City during the day with Larry while alternately reading chapters of his book ‘The Biology of Luck’.
Larry’s day is fraught with challenge: he has a group of Dutch tourists to guide through the city. Perhaps unsurprisingly there are plenty of obstacles to his success, including a riot, a death, an irritating journalist named Rita Blatt, and even an opportunity for heroism.

‘It is a universally established truth that teenage girls don’t appreciate come-ons from down-at-heel tour guides.’

In between the events of Larry’s life, we read chapters of his novel. In this novel, Larry has imagined Starshine’s life on this, the very same day that he hopes both to win her heart and achieve literary success.

It’s an interesting narrative technique – juxtaposing Larry’s own reality with his imagined concurrent life for Starshine while travelling through Larry’s New York City. Some characters appear in both narratives, which works surprisingly well because these secondary characters help to bring Larry Bloom’s New York City to life. Echoes of a similar but different June journey undertaken by Leopold Bloom through Dublin over a hundred years earlier.

But how will it end? Will Larry achieve literary success?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alyson C. Miller on January 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
<i>The Biology of Luck</i> is not only a story within a story, but the internal story is written by the main character in honor of another character. The chapters alternate between the book written by Mr. Appel, and the book written by the character Larry Bloom. Both Appel and "Bloom" paint an engaging portrait of NYC, and the stories weave together perfectly. I found that while I certainly saw some of these tie-ins between stories coming, I was just as often surprised and delighted by the subtle and clever ways that Appel merged his stories.

Appel is, without a doubt, a fantastic writer; his prose is fluid, florid, and fun. His knowledge of NYC is outstanding, and he shows his readers the city through the eyes of both his neurotic hero, and his over-confident heroine. At times he can be a bit verbose, but even when I found myself tiring of the overly-elaborate descriptions I still recognized superior writing at work. To be completely truthful, my occasional desire for a bit more editing is much more an indictment of my personal attention issues than Appels writing style or skills.

The only reason this book receives 4 instead of 5 stars is because I really did not like the main character. I found him to be extremely whiny, self-absorbed, unwilling to accept any responsibility, and incapable of utilizing even a smidgen of logic. Similarly, I found the object of his affection to be shallow, selfish, and make horrible decisions; these traits appeared so frequently that I think her character is actually a bad person. If Appel was not such a talented writer, I might have found them unbearable.

However, the novel rises above its characters and truly shines as a wonderful piece of fiction. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who love New York as much as I do.

I received this through the "Goodreads Giveaways" as a promotional copy.
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