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Allan Stein Paperback – December 6, 1999

3.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Here are some facts: "Allan Daniel Stein was born November 7, 1895, in San Francisco, the only child of Michael and Sarah Stein. Mike, the older brother of Leo and Gertrude, sold a streetcar business in 1903 and moved with Sarah and Allan to Paris. Gertrude and Leo had preceded them." Here are some fictions: Three missing Picasso sketches may establish that Allan was the model for the painting Boy Leading a Horse. An initially unnamed narrator, fired from a teaching position for having sex with a 15-year-old student before he'd actually seduced the boy, assumes the identity of his close friend Herbert, a Seattle museum curator, and goes to Paris to look for the drawings. There, he becomes obsessed with Stéphane, another 15-year-old boy.

Like Nabokov's Lolita, Allan Stein depicts human sexuality in a way that is as captivating as it is disturbing. But the pedophiliac element--and its graphic manifestations--should not necessarily frighten readers away. Matthew Stadler's ornate, twisting sentences show strong sensitivity to place and setting, whether he's describing the streets of Paris, the French countryside, or a cluttered bar in Seattle. There's also a strong undercurrent of ironic humor, particularly in the exchanges between the narrator and the real Herbert and in the narrator's memories of adventures shared as a boy with his mother. Allan Stein is a book (and Matthew Stadler an author) one might be tempted to ignore as "difficult." In doing so, however, one would be overlooking a unique gem. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

...Stadler demonstrates that he is among the handful of first-rate young American novelists, one with a wide reach and a quirky, elegant pen. -- The New York Times Book Review, Edmund White --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (December 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136626
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,847,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph J. Hanssen on September 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this very funny, erotic and different novel. Matthew Stadler is probably one of the most gifted young novelists writing today. Even though his books are disturbing, they have a way of captivating you so that you can't wait to read the book right through. I lost some sleep over this one.
This is the story of a young teacher's journey to Paris to uncover the sad history of Gertrude Stein's troubled nephew Allan. The teacher travels to Paris under an assumed name, after being fired from his job because of a sex scandal. In Paris he becomes enchanted and obsessed with a 15 year old boy. Thus the story continues from there.... Forget the pedophiliac part of the story, this should not frighten you away from Matthew Stadler's excellent writing & descriptions of this time and place. His writing is so elegant at times its like reading a classic or it will be in time.
Whether he is shocking the reader, or enticing us with beautiful prose, Matthew Stadler, certainly know how to keep a reader's attention, and take you places you might not dare go alone. This is perhaps his best book yet.
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Format: Hardcover
Am I the only one who thinks this book is funny? The "eroticism" is utterly laughable. Isn't that the point? Isn't this Stadler's light-hearted version of "Lolita" from a gay perspective? The narrator is an immature overgrown teen himself. Obsessed with anatomy and sex in a way only an adolescent's mind can be. How can anyone take two page long descriptions of a fifteen-year-old soccer boy's body seriously? Its hyperbolic on purpose. And I'm a little tired of people complaining about this underage thing. The boy in the book is 15... not 8 or 7 or 5... and the narrator is hardly over 35. There are plenty of relationships, both gay and straight, where there are age differences of 15 or 20 years. I like this book. The style is arch, witty and satirically pretentious. I don't find the humor forced at all and I smiled a lot without a trace of wincing. Also, I returned from a trip to Paris last month and the French setting made the book all the more enjoyable and had me longing to return to check out all the places I missed
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Format: Hardcover
Matthew Stadler writes very well--sometimes heart-stoppingly well--and is bold both in experimenting with narratives and in again and again and again focusing on loving boys, an extremely fraught subject in contemporary America. I think that his first novel, Landscape:Memory, remains his most fully accomplished book (and, OK, it makes me more comfortable when the boylover is not an older man). Still, I like the ironical voice of the narrator in his desultory research on Gertrude Stein's nephew, his account of his friendship with a gay man of his own age in Seattle, and of his obsession with the son of the family with whom he's staying in Paris. The endings of all four of his novels seem forced to me, but I find the sensibility interesting and some of the sentences jewels. Anyone who believes that adolescent males lack any sexuality will be upset by the book. Others may still want to shake the narrator out of his complacencies and wonder if Mr. Stadler is in a rut -- even noting the different locales and eras represented in his oeuvre to date.
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Format: Hardcover
Stadler's book is a remarkable novel. His prose, of course, is incandescent and his sense of place as good as anyone writing today. The novel goes back and forth between the Steins' Paris at the turn of the century and late twentieth-century Paris. The novel--a story of obssession and erotic turmoil--begins and ends as a haunting testament to unfulfilled desire. My University class on gblt fiction read the book and found it funny, disturbing, terribly sad at times, and, as one student said, "Impossible to put down...I read it in one sitting." With each novel, Stadler's writing becomes more complex, elegant, and surprising. Allan Stein is his best book yet.
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By RSRS on September 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since I started reading about Ernest Hemingway's time in Paris, I've been intrigued with all the folks he knew, including Picasso, Gertude Stein, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This books adds to my little tidbits of knowledge about the period and the people through the appearance of Allan Stein, Gertude Stein's nephew. Actually he isn't an active character in the book, but the protagonist goes to Paris to find out more about him and discovers, among other things, that Allan was the model for Picasso's famous painting of the naked boy with a horse.

A major theme of this novel concerns the protagonist's sexual preference for young boys (around age 15 or so). There are a number of sex scenes, but they don't seem especially shocking or erotic. The protagonist doesn't emerge as an evil man, and the boys he has sex with don't seem particularly upset or damaged as a result of their experiences with him. That was a surprise for me, sort of like the bottom line being, "Oh, how could anyone resist such an incredibly attractive boy?" while the boys themselves seem more or less to chalk it up to experience. Much of the development of the protagonist's actions focuses on his fantasies about the physical and psychological characteristics of his "lovers." At one point, he ruminates that boys are special then they grow up into ordinary men.

The novel isn't littered with the protagonist's conquests, but a central theme is his attraction to boys. The writing is very well done, and leaves the reader not necessarily with a sense of outrage but instead with a thought-provoking look at one man's relationships (not just to boys) and his psychological makeup.
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