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X20: A Novel of "Not" Smoking Hardcover – October 6, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (October 6, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559703997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559703994
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,842,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At 30, Gregory Simpson, son of a tobacconist and member of the smokers-only Suicide Club, decides to kick the habit. The incentives are all there, beginning with the prospect of living longer than his dead cigarette f(r)iend, Theo. On the other hand, what is he to do with his hands, his anger, and 104-year-old Walter, who keeps knocking over his ashtrays? Worse, how will the Company--which has financed his addiction and monitored his surprisingly good health--react? Writing a memoir (in which nicotine and smoke have the largest part) might quell Gregory's craving, keep his hands occupied, and put off mortality: "I have a vague but insistent memory of Miss Bryant in English Composition teaching us that the narrator can never die. That if the narrator died at the end of the story, then how could he possibly tell it?" He hopes she's right. On the other hand, someone asks him, "If you took up writing to give up smoking, how are you going to give up writing?"

This playful first novel is full of elegant observations about the rituals of tobacco and of another equally important addiction: love. For Gregory, foreign films have hopelessly intertwined sex and smoke. His first girlfriend takes him to a series "where a sign in the toilet said No Smoking Rauchen Verboten Ne Pas Fumer Non Fumare while the screen filled with unrepentant images of the twentieth century's most proficient smokers.... I saw nobody die of lung cancer, not on screen. Nobody even coughed or had a sore throat, except perhaps Marlene Dietrich."

Intercutting present woes and nicotine nostalgia, Richard Beard has fashioned a hyperimaginative and moving novel of obsession. Louis MacNeice famously remarked of Auden, "Everything he touches turns to cigarettes," and the same can be said for most of X20's characters, down to Bananas the cat. Bananas's desire is so great that he ends up with his own tobacco pouch, which he carries with him from living room to laboratory: "It was a long time since he'd been satisfied with the delicate inhalation of ambient air above ashtrays."

From Library Journal

Gregory Simpson is trying to quit smoking. Every time he feels the urge to smoke, he takes pen in hand and writes something instead. His story is told in fits and starts, without regard to chronology or geography. This creates a jittery series of vignettes from which the reader must piece together how Gregory started smoking and what made him stop. A series of characters including members of the Suicide Smokers Club, the LUNG antismoking activists, and a tobacco-addicted dog and cat populate Gregory's writing. The ghost of his friend Theo, recently dead of lung cancer, finally convinces Gregory that there is life after cigarettes. Published to coincide with the annual Great American Smokeout on November 20, 1997, this first novel is difficult but entertaining reading.?Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "urbaer" on October 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
More than a book about smoking, Beard's character finds himself addicted to memories, lust, love and companionship. Living in a world he can't really get into, but can't give up.
The book is written in the style of a man trying to give up smoking, writing entries to keep his hands busy and the length of the entries as well as thier content, show the withdraw. The main characters life unravels through these entries as well which give it a nice touch. At times witty, at times rather morbid, this book is a great read. Though I don't like this edition's cover art... cough, cough...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By milhousetv@mailcity.com on April 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
An author's first novel will set the tone of his career. Therefore, the career of Richard Beard is one that I shall be following. In "X20", Beard involves the reader with a host of characters. He has shown the ability to give depth to his subjects, and allow them to grow throughout the novel.
This book does seem to start off with a noticeable lack of focus. The author tells the story from a several different points in time, jumping back and forth between periods in his life. Hearing the story from the start and the finish concurrently can be a little overwhelming at first, but that is soon remedied. By the end of the book, I was wishing that there were more cigarettes in a pack. This is a very worthy read for smokers and non-smokers alike.
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Format: Paperback
This is a cleverly written book, WITHOUT Beard trying to outsmart the reader. For example note the names of the characters. Great. This was so readable, I too could not put it down. This book I swear, energized me. I felt better for reading it. What better thing can you say.
Adrian
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Format: Hardcover
loved this book- best book i've read in quite awhile. one of those books for which you try to SLOW DOWN your reading in order to put off the inevitable end. highly highly recommend. i'm back today trawling for anything else he may have written since this one... :)
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