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The Morels Hardcover – April 30, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616952431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616952433
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,814,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Hacker’s engaging debut, eccentric author Arthur Morel writes a novel that pushes the envelope of art-for-art’s-sake beyond anyone’s capacity to understand, much less forgive. Portrayed via the indulgent eye of someone who may be Arthur’s best friend, he seems like a paragon of artistic genius. But had this been written from his family’s point of view, Art would appear nothing short of certifiable, maybe even indictable. That’s how far Art’s art stretches the bounds of acceptability, even morality. While Hacker’s cleverly crafted characters grapple with the fallout after Art’s book hits the stands—has Art actually experienced the actions depicted in his novel?—larger questions loom. Should art be constrained by social mores, or does great art rise above them? Can literature be judged on the same plane as, say, a painting or a play? How much of the artist’s soul is exposed in his/her work? Can Arthur be given a pass just because he’s the son of totally loopy parents, who raised him in an environment of moral nihilism thinly disguised as artistic privilege? Whether a reader is intrigued by the philosophical questions or not, this family’s plight makes for a marvelous read. --Donna Chavez

Review

"Stunning, unsettling … this is an extraordinary book."
Commentary Magazine

"The Morels is gripping and mesmerizing, even at its most depraved and saddening." —The A.V. Club

"The Morels asks big questions. What is art? What risks must be taken to grab our attention? Where is the line between truth and fiction? Hacker's story kept me up at night, turning the pages to find out what would happen."
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Audacious, thought-provoking…. One of the top first novels of the year. The author spins out the story at a fast clip, creating a believable and entertaining tale. Woven into the fabric of the work are discussions of the function of art in society, the difficulty of arriving at the truth, and a thoughtful, compassionate detailing of the social and personal repercussions of individual actions and beliefs."
Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

"In Hacker’s engaging debut, eccentric author Arthur Morel writes a novel that pushes the envelope of art-for-art’s-sake beyond anyone’s capacity to understand, much less forgive.... Whether a reader is intrigued by the philosophical questions or not, this family’s plight makes for a marvelous read."
—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

"The Morels is a total shock, and announces the arrival of a blistering new talent."
 —Three Guys One Book

"Christopher Hacker's The Morels is a captivating book, a clever, engaging read. But it also does a lot of heavy lifting, asking big questions about art, life, and family, transforming this ambitious debut into something really special."
—Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"The Morels is a brilliant and wickedly hilarious debut novel about artists of all stripes. With a sharp-shooter's eye, alarming honesty and serious wit infused with palpable compassion and affection for his characters, Christopher Hacker has written a rollicking picnic for cynics."
—Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route

"The Morels is a daring and dangerous novel about the dangers of writing—and perhaps reading—novels, its pages stuffed with love, pain, worry, movies, music, fresh-baked bread, daily life in the real Manhattan, family secrets and, dare I say it, big bold ideas."
—David Gordon, author of The Serialist


"It's hard out there for sons and lovers in Christopher Hacker's accomplished debut, The Morels. To step into both this novel and the eponymous family it harbors is to peek into a house of mirrors that reminds us it can still be dangerous to write a novel, expose a strip of film to lightor make any kind of art, really. Hacker's splendid snapshot of a distinct cultural moment in the life of the American artist truly beguiles, and you're going to want to see how this multi-layered, flying-trapeze-routine of a story ends."
—T Cooper, author of Real Man Adventures

"Hacker's novel asks fundamental questions about imagination and art.... An unnerving and hugely satisfying novel, I hungrily read The Morels less for answers than for the pleasure of the messy and vital world Hacker creates.”
—Victoria Redel, author of The Border of Truth

"A jarring New York story of a self conscious writer who desperately over-intellectualizes his home life in order to psychologically masticate personal demons with devastating results. Set in the gloaming of the 20th century, Hacker’s creation, Arthur Morel, is on a quest to prove art is not only vital but inextricably linked with reality."
—Margarita Shalina, translator of The Duel by Anton Chekhov

“I could not stop reading this book, and it wasn’t because I was searching for some answer but rather I couldn’t wait to get to the next question."
—Michael Seidenberg, Brazenhead Books


"The Morels is an accomplished and moving novel. It’s challenging, and not easy to talk about, but in the end, I fell in love with Hackers’ characters and was deeply touched by their story."
—Cale Hand, The Strand Bookstore

The Morels is always entertaining.”
The Wall Street Journal

"Ambitious, sincere....An eloquent treatise on the rights of artists to exploit their personal histories—and why they do so, and at what cost."
 —Publishers Weekly

"Hacker is a fine writer....The air of talent lingers on this debut."
 —Kirkus

"Hacker moves well beyond the realm of esoteric matters like truth and art and into the darker arena of human relationships and nurture vs. nature with prose that cuts through the intellectual meat to the bone, revealing the humanity of all involved, as deeply flawed as they might be."
—The Gilmore Guide to Books

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Customer Reviews

A unique read I highly recommend!
Wilhelmina Zeitgeist
He does, but what he does is so trite, repugnant, witless and unbelievable, the action throws you right out of the novel.
Richard LeComte
It is a self-referential novel of "exquisitely rendered scenes, well-observed prose."
TChris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On more than one occasion since signing on to Amazon Vine, I've had severe doubts about the "target newsletter" that supposedly focuses on items that parallel my expressed interests, but often offers for review such items as diapers or other family-oriented items; after all, I'm a retired person, and my youngest grandchild is 14. I've emphasized in more than one review I've written, as well as in personal communications to the program, where my specific reading interests lie. This month my choices were so limited that I ended up requesting Christopher Hacker's novel with a shrug and a sigh.

Well, I was fooled. This book is an amazing excursion into what I consider to be extremely risky but highly relevant territory. I can't call it a "nail biter", but it definitely picked up momentum. The narrative style is unusual to say the least - but the "real relevance" of the stylistic innovation isn't revealed until the last page.

The narrator, Chris, who is an integral part of the story, is part of a threesome of free-lance film makers who decide to do a documentary of the "real life" of the title character, Arthur Morel, after his supposedly autobiographical novel destroys his family and has him facing arrest on charges of child abuse. This book, as well as the back story and subsequent tragedy that results from its publication, are intricately developed from the perspective of this narrator. It is through the efforts to produce this documentary, as well, that the full intricacy of the plot unfolds, as Chris' life overlaps with the Morel family.

The real essence of this story is, of course, the revulsion that has surfaced in the past 30 years or so around the issue of sexual exploitation of children - specifically boy children.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Morels", a debut novel by Christopher Hacker, is one of those novels that can be described as better respected than loved. The story - a story within a story - is the tale of how a bunch of bad decisions have affected the lives of at least three generations of one family - the Morels - and those of people tangentially connected with them.

Arthur Morel, a musical prodigy, only child of divorced parents has walked through life in seeming non-connection with the realities we all have to deal with. After a particularly beautiful musical recital, the teenaged Arthur has performed an on-stage act of defilement that has stunned and revolted his audience. The years pass, Arthur has met, married a young woman called Penelope, and fathered a son, Will, with her. Penelope supports the family as a pastry chef while Arthur continues to "dabble" with life. He publishes a well-received novel and is in the process of finishing his second novel, called "The Morels", when Christopher Hacker's book begins. The story Hacker tells is narrated by a young man - himself adrift in movie making - who had known Arthur as the young defiler and now moves back into Arthur's life. He acts as teller of Arthur's story and its major interpreter.

"Interpreted" because there are a lot of actions which need to be interpreted to both those affected by the actions and those merely standing-by, observing. Are a man's possible incestuous thoughts always acted on - or can they merely remain, safely, thoughts? Where do lies and truth-telling become hopelessly meshed until neither is recognisable? In a broad way, Hacker's book is a bit like "The Dinner", by Herman Koch, another book where families and lies are tossed together and the truth never quite emerges.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Morels might be summarized as a book by Christopher Hacker about a writer named Arthur Morel who writes a book titled The Morels. Yet that summary, while accurate, does not do justice to Hacker's stimulating novel. The Morels is actually two absorbing novels merged into a successful whole. Alternating between philosophy and storytelling, the first half of The Morels is an examination of art: the purpose of art; the meaning of applause; whether the creation of literature should be driven by readers' demands; the difference between literature (solitary in its performance and reception) and most other art (experienced communally and offering immediate feedback to the artist); the extent to which the act of writing literature can be blended with artistic performance. The second half is an examination of an artist. It tells the riveting story of a writer who becomes lost in the blurry gap between the real and fictional worlds he inhabits. What is the difference, Hacker asks, between reality and its artistic representation?

In his desire to create an emotional impact that his audience will experience honestly, Arthur Morel, an accomplished but socially inept student of the violin, does something shocking during a performance. His friend Chris (the novel's narrator), playing the cello in the orchestra, does not see Arthur again for fourteen years. While Arthur seems to have fallen into an ordinary domestic life, complete with wife (Penelope) and child (Will) in Queens, he's also authored a best-selling book -- a fortunate development since, according to Penelope, he's otherwise "barely employable." Chris, a struggling filmmaker who feels adrift and craves guidance, renews his friendship with Arthur with the hope that Arthur will become his mentor.
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