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Ticknor: A Novel Paperback – March 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The rancorous, interminable friendship between a Great Man and his envious, self-pitying biographer drives this cleverly coiled narrative by Canadian author Heti (The Middle Stories). As Heti notes, she has based this slender, first-person work on American George Ticknor's mid-19th-century biography of historian William Hickling Prescott, but the lonely, querulous voice of her invented George is all her own. The book opens as George steps out on a rainy Boston night to answer a rare, longed for invitation to dinner at the illustrious Prescotts of Beacon Street; he and William Prescott were childhood friends. The loss of an eye during a boyhood frolic galvanized William, who resolved to always overcome adversity—and cheerfully so. He has subsequently gained fame and admiration from his historiography and sunny nature. George, by contrast, is poor, morose and covetous. What he does possess is a terrible guilt, never expressed to William, about his possible role in the mishap that changed William's life. Heti's narrative is as deliciously intimate and clue-riddled as a Poe story. (Apr.)
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“The rancorous, interminable friendship between a Great Man and his envious, self-pitying biographer drives this cleverly coiled narrative....As deliciously intimate and clue-riddled as a Poe story.” ―Publishers Weekly

Ticknor is one of this year's most enjoyable and formally impressive books.” ―The New York Sun

“Sheila Heti's touch is confident. She builds a memorable world inside the tiny space of Ticknor's anxious imagination, and we barely miss the air outside.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“A pungent and hilarious study of bitterness and promise unfulfilled.” ―Boldtype

“Heti paints a full and rich character:curmudgeonly, downright pathetic, but surprisingly fascinating.” ―Bookforum

“A par-ticularly satisfying puzzle: Heti's prose is the journey, and the destination.” ―The Village Voice

“Heti packs more life and literary pleasure into Ticknor than most authors do in novels three or four times its length.” ―David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (March 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426637
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,055,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sheila Heti is the author of seven books, including the critically acclaimed "How Should a Person Be?" and the New York Times Bestseller, "Women in Clothes" (edited with Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton). She is the former interviews editor at The Believer magazine, and has been published in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, n+1, The London Review of Books, and more. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages. She lives in Toronto.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Don't you hate people who are more successful than you are? Especially the ones who pretend they're your friends. George Ticknor, the narrator of Sheils Heti's super new novel, has a problem with his more successful chum, a boyhood pal called William Prescott who has grown into a one-man writing factory, while he, George, has remained a low level journalist and a fulltime milksop, just seething with secret resentments. The relationship between them is not unlike the one Nabokov sketched out in PALE FIRE between John Shade, the Olympian, above it all poet, and his neighbor Charles Kinbote, who comes to believe that the poem Shade spends his last days writing is "secretly" an allegory for Kinbote's own hidden past in Zembla.

Heti's novel has its Zemblan aspects, a fleecy, neurosis-ridden prose style used to expose Ticknor's pretensions. That's not to say he isn't sometimes genuinely lyrical. Prescott shares his name and profession with the real-life famous US historian of the American Renaissance period, while George Ticknor was the publisher of Hawthorne, Lowell, many in the same era. Sheila Heti has scrambled pieces of their identities to provide us with an increasingly modern story of guilt and forgiveness, for in her version, something happened way back when in the boyhood of the two main characters, something dark and nasty that resulted in Prescott's losing an eye, like the accident Robert Creeley suffered as a youth, but here there's a definite BAD SEED feeling to it.

Sheila Heti's not so good when describing George's lustful feelings for a woman who probably doesn't even know he's alive. Funny lapse in a writer otherwise so gifted. I just didn't buy that he was attracted to her. It seemed like Heti was trying a) either to humanize her boy or b) to make him more sociopathic and creepy or c) a mixture of both but I doubt any man has ever felt that way about any woman outside of a book so it just felt clunky.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ticknor is a very different experience vs. How Should A Person Be--but so brilliant. I like it as much as her other work, which means it gets my highest possible recommendation.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William Whyte on February 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The narrator walks along a Boston street thinking about his friend / rival, who he's going to dinner with. I thought the format of the monologue -- essentially the narrator interviewing himself, switching between "I" and "you" and changing his "I" story in the face of unsympathetic and well-informed questions from the "you" questioner -- had potential, but nothing about the actual content grabbed my interest. I gave up after 33 pages. At least it only cost me 1c...
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