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The Man Who Was Late Hardcover – December 29, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As in his prizewinning first novel, Wartime Lies , Begley has written an ironic narrative from an emotionally displaced person's distinctive point of view. The protagonist here is a middle-aged international investment banker with a Wall Street firm. Despite his Harvard education and sophisticated social skills, Ben cannot surmount a sense of loss and dislocation, the result of his background as a post-WW II emigre from Central Europe (he deliberately distanced himself from his parents and his Jewish heritage). Masking his existential angst with a luxurious lifestyle, Ben has survived a divorce and the loss of beloved stepdaughters, and is determined never to endure such pain again. When his beautiful French lover destroys her marriage and risks everything by declaring her love for him, Ben subconsciously torpedoes their future together. Finally he understands that his ingrained caution, symptomatic of his fear that happiness is ephemeral, has ruined his life. Begley's sophisticated prose is studded with highbrow references to authors, filmmakers and artists, and contains solid descriptions of the world of international commerce in New York, France, Japan and Brazil. In writing of the upper class, Begley invites comparisons with Louis Auchincloss; his style is similarly urbane and elegant, his eye equally unsparing. Despite his "barren, dark and desperate" protagonist's failings, Begley succeeds in making him a poignant figure. BOMC and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Begley follows up National Book Award nominee Wartime Lies ( LJ 5/1/91), the story of a young Jewish boy's survival during World War II, with a second work that at first glance seems markedly different. His hero is Ben, a high-gear, high-profile banker who is nevertheless always "late"--in certain essential matters, he misses the mark. Ben is a Harvard graduate who mingles easily with the upper class, but his roots as a Jewish refugee are still evident. Ben's story is narrated by Jack, a genuine Harvard WASP who writes for a living but is too obtuse to get around the slippery corners of his friend's personality. An affair with Jack's cousin, Veronique, brings out Ben's fatal inability to confront himself and eventually leads to tragedy. Ben's slick personality sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and readers might wonder whether Begley is mocking or buying into upper-class pretensions. But the author demonstrates once again that he can write a compelling story in disarmingly lucid prose. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92.
- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (December 29, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679415114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679415114
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,347,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
In prose beautiful for its sheer economy as well as its clarity, here is the story of the genteel life adopted by a survivor of the least genteel event of the century. There are hidden costs associated with the comforts of Ben's chosen path, not least of which is his self-image, as a man who is perpetually late to realize the existential significance of major choices, and late to act thereupon; a man who misses chances; a man out of sync with his own life.

This is simply an extraordinary story, told with a courtliness and understatement evocative of William Maxwell and Ford Madox Ford, from the author of About Schmidt, Schmidt Delivered, Shipwreck, Mistler's Exit, Wartime Lies, and As Max Saw It.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Rosenberg on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although this book is about Ben, his story is told by his college friend, Jack. Why? I have no idea. Jack's life is orderly and traditional. Ben, a ..survivor, finds love and rejects it. Jack knows all through reading Ben's journal and because Ben tells him all at their occasional lunches.
I just didn't get this book. I've read three others by Begley. All were excellent, told believable stories, had interesting characters and satisfying conclusions. I finished this one only because I started it.
Also, there is way too much male fantasy [stuff]. How many scenes of anonymous or paid for intercourse must a reader witness to get the point? And I am certainly tired of "beautiful" but problematic women and the repetitive descriptions of ..[them]. Enough already!
Many sharp details do not a novel make. If you want to sample Begley, read "About Schmidt."
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