Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Asymmetry: A Novel Paperback – October 16, 2018
|New from||Used from|
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Praise for Asymmetry
“Asymmetry is extraordinary, and the timing of its publication seems almost like a feat of civics. . . .Halliday’s prose is so strange and startingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. . . . It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. . . . Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction.” —Alice Gregory, The New York Times Book Review
"Masterly...As you uncover the points of congruence, so too do you uncover Halliday’s beautiful argument about the pleasure and obligations of fiction...It feels as if the issues she has raised — both explicitly and with the book’s canny structure — have sown seeds that fiction will harvest for years to come." —"The New Vanguard," The New York Times Book Review
"Exquisite...For us, the ride is in surrendering to falling down rabbit holes to unknown places. The moment “Asymmetry” reaches its perfect ending, it’s all the reader can do to return to the beginning in awe, to discover how Halliday upturned the story again and again." —The Washington Post
“A scorchingly intelligent first novel. . . a clever comedy of manners set in Manhattan as well as a slowly unspooling tragedy about an Iraqi-American family, which poses deep questions about free will, fate and freedom, the all-powerful accident of one’s birth and how life is alchemized into fiction. . . . [Asymmetry] will make you a better reader, a more active noticer. It hones your senses.” —Parul Seghal, The New York Times
"A brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"It’s hard to deny, by the novel’s end, that Alice/Halliday has pulled off this stunt of transcendence. As with a gymnast who’s just stuck a perfect routine, your impulse is to ask her, what’s next?" —Christian Lorentzen, New York Magazine
"Lisa Halliday’s debut novel, Asymmetry, begins with a lopsided affair–a perfect vehicle for a story of inexperience and advantage . . . Alice and Amar may be naive, but Halliday is knowing–about isolation, dissatisfaction and the pain of being human." —Time Magazine
"Asymmetry is a debut burnished to a maximum shine by technical prowess, but it offers readers more than just a clever structure: a familiar world gone familiarly mad." —The New Republic
"In its subtle and sophisticated fable of literary ambition, and the forms it can take for a young woman writer, Asymmetry is a “masterpiece” in the original sense of the word—a piece of work that an apprentice produces to show that she has mastered her trade. . . . Much more rarely do we hear this story from the young woman’s point of view. What’s so powerful and interesting about Asymmetry is that Halliday does not exactly undo that silencing; rather, she enacts it, and then explodes it." —The Atlantic
"An interesting meditation on creativity, empathy, and the anxiety of influence. . . Asymmetry is a guidebook to being bigger than ourselves." —NPR
"Lisa Halliday’s striking debut is certainly – as the title implies – a sharp examination of the unequal power dynamic between men and women, innocence and experience, fame and aspiration. . . . asking a dizzying number of questions, many to thrilling effect. That it leaves the reader wondering is a mark of its success." —The Guardian (UK)
"In her stunning debut novel, Lisa Halliday places three storylines in close proximity, leading to fascinating contrasts. After reading only a few sentences of her intelligent prose (and that dialogue!), you’ll be itching for her next novel, whenever it should come." —Refinery29
"A beautiful debut novel . . . Halliday deftly and subtly intersects the two disparate stories, resulting in a deep rumination on the relation of art to life and death." —Booklist (starred review)
"It's not only Halliday's ingenious structure but her urgent depictions of post-9/11 anger and Islamophobia that makes Asymmetry such a vital read." —INTERVIEW (Spring Preview)
“Two seemingly unrelated novellas form one delicately joined whole in this observant debut....A singularly conceived graft of one narrative upon another; what grows out of these conjoined stories is a beautiful reflection of life and art.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Deftly combining two stories that are distinctive in style and content, Whiting Award-winner Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry is a stellar piece of writing and a bold debut." —Shelf Awareness
“Lisa Halliday’s debut novel starts like a story you’ve heard, only to become a book unlike any you’ve read. The initial mystery is how its pieces fit together; the lasting one is how she pulled the whole thing off. Deft, funny, and humane, Asymmetry is a profoundly necessary political novel about the place for art in an unjust world.” —Chad Harbach, author of The Art Of Fielding
“Wow. Asymmetry is a rare book in the sense that it is always shocking to read something this good and polished and fully formed, a novel that impossibly seems to be everything at once: transgressive and intimate and expansive, torn from today’s headlines, signifier of the strange moment we now occupy. Somehow this book, this author has all but exploded into the world, fully formed. Lisa Halliday is an amazing writer. Just open this thing, start at the beginning.” —Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children and Alice & Oliver
“Amazing. Ms. Halliday has a unique ability to make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. I’m struggling to think of a novel that has had a similar effect on me. Asymmetry is funny, sad, deeply humane, and clearly the product of bold intelligence at work.” —Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
"Asymmetry is a novel of deceptive lightness and a sort of melancholy joy. Lisa Halliday writes with tender laugh-aloud wit, but under her formidable, reckoning gaze a world of compelling characters emerges. She steps onto the literary stage with the energy of a debut novelist and the confidence of a mature writer." —Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose and Future Home of the Living God
"Lisa Halliday’s singular and beautifully-written novel is impossible to put down, and to pin down. It shifts before our eyes from the tale of a literary-world, May-December love affair to the first-person account of an Iraqi-American economist detained at Heathrow Airport. She treats these characters with such integrity and respect they seem corporeal. Nothing, we realize, is as it seems, and it’s deeply affecting to discover not only how Halliday’s narratives resolve but how they connect to one another. She has written a bold, elegant examination of the dynamics of love, power, ambition, and the ways we try to find our place in the world, whether at 25 or 75. Her crisply crafted sentences exude the inviting quiet of an assured artist – all this while posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself." —The Whiting Foundation
About the Author
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Written by Lisa Halliday, it is actually three novellas, the first two of which have nothing in common and the third of which is a somewhat lame attempt to unite the first two.
The first story, "Folly," is a May-December romance between Alice and Ezra that some critics say is a roman a clef about Halliday's own affair with Philip Roth with lots of allusions to "Alice in Wonderland." The second story, "Madness," is about Amar, a young American man of Iraqi heritage, who is detained for several days at Heathrow Airport based (presumably) on ethnic profiling. The story flashes back and forth between the airport nightmare and his life story until then. The third story is a radio interview with Ezra, and in the answer to one of the many questions he is asked, he unites the first two stories. Sort of.
"Asymmetry" is high-brow literary fiction at its snobbiest and most pretentious, and I was totally underwhelmed.
Top international reviews
The first section, "Folly", is the story of Alice, a twenty-five year-old editorial assistant who embarks upon an affair with a famous novelist, Ezra Blazer, who is four decades her senior. The asymmetry is obvious: he's world-renowned while she's completely unknown; he's lavishly wealthy while she's just about getting by. He tells her what to wear, where to buy it, and gives her the money to do so. He tells her what to read. She sees him when he wants her, and he sings "The Party's Over..........." when he wants her to go home. However, what could, especially in the welcome and long-overdue era of #MeToo, have come across as a dirty old man exploiting a naive and vulnerable girl is, in fact, nothing of the kind. A genuine and mutual tenderness develops between them: as Ezra's multiple ailments, neuroticisms and age take their toll, he becomes increasingly dependent upon Alice and the asymmetry begins to right itself to the point of reversal. In a hospital ward, where he had been rushed by ambulance, Alice has a vision of herself as Ezra's future full-time carer, and knows this isn't what she wants.
The second story, "Madness", is the tale of Amar Jaafari, an Iraqi-American detained at Heathrow Airport on a stopover between Los Angeles and Istanbul. It is 2008, British and American troops are in Iraq, and Amar arouses suspicion. Though he's not accused of anything and treated with courtesy and sympathy, the nervousness of the authorities is as understandable as Amar's frustrations. While detained, he reflects upon his life, his family, his nationality (being Iraqi and American, he's simultaneously both and neither, if that makes sense) and the war and its consequences. As Amar reflects upon the American occupation, many new perspectives which were, I must admit, new to me reveal themselves and make it clear that Halliday has done her research diligently: putting herself inside the thoughts and feelings of Iraqi Muslims is a daring undertaking for a white American, and Halliday has obviously given it a great deal of thought. Whether she's pulled it off....... well, I'm not qualified to judge, but I will say that, to me, it rings true.
But what does any of this have to do with Ezra Blazer and his young lover, Alice Dodge? Nothing whatsoever. Or does it?
The third and final section is a transcript of Ezra Blazer's appearance on "Desert Island Discs" from 2011. Though the "interviewer" is not named, listeners will know that Kirsty Young presented the programme then, as now, and Halliday captures her voice and its inflections perfectly. I can't - it would be far too much of a spoiler, and horribly crass and irresponsible - reveal too much about what is said, beyond relating that the link between the first and second stories is made clear. Oh, and the brilliance of how it's done is quite jaw-dropping.
I'd guessed, and guessed correctly, but was by no means sure I was right until it was confirmed. This is what I really like about Lisa Halliday: she doesn't spoonfeed her readers, a certain amount of knowledge, of reading, of thought and empathy, is required to fully benefit from all this novel has to offer. As is, I can say with something approaching certainty, a re-reading: to find the clues, the threads, the allusions I know I've missed, and to relish again the quality of the writing.
I'll finish with a little background information. When I learned that Ezra Blazer was based on Philip Roth, and that Halliday had had a relationship with him in her twenties (from SueKich's review, which was the first one posted and convinced me to buy the book), it became important to me to find out - as Roth has been a favourite writer for my entire adult life - what Roth himself thought of it. I can report that not only have Roth and Halliday remained friends, but also that he has read the novel and wholeheartedly approves, and this pleases me immensely.
At 41, Halliday is a relative latecomer to writing novels, but she arrives as if to the manner born. My brief research also revealed she's already working on her second, and I can't wait to read it. She's the real deal.
"Asymmetry" is a disorientating novel of three uneven parts that does not offer order or answers... Or does it? As the title suggests it is about life's asymmetries: in relationships, money and wealth and age. The book is less than 300 pages long, and made of 3 novellas, the middle one not connected to the story of the first and last one. Or so it seems. And even if you grasp the invisible and subtly introduced link, I doubt you will be so impressed. I did not feel an emotional connection to this book – I spent too little time with the characters. Really, as soon as I started to enjoy reading about Alice (the heroine of the first novella) and her somewhat doomed love affair with an older Pulitzer Prize winning author, that part of the book finished.
The middle novella (again, just over 100 pages long) seems totally unrelated to the first part of the book and is the most interesting, in my opinion – a day in life (and life in a day) of an Iraqi-American traveller stuck at the Heathrow border control. The third is an interview, given some years after the love affair with Alice, with her aging lover. Blink it and you'll miss it "hint" to the middle of the book.
Truth be told, I didn’t get the connection. I googled the book and the New Yorker explained to me what that was about. Was I impressed? Not really.
Sadly, a disappointment. Even though I did enjoy the way Lisa Halliday writes.
And last but not least. I really do not appreciate reading about baseball. Like, not at all. I doubt if readers outside the U.S. do.
A stunning review of the book by a respected newspaper drew me to this work. I have subsequently read other reviews which are also ebullient in praise for it, but I must be missing something because although I thought each story was well written and the first two, interesting as novellas (the third was as dull as someones recounted remembered dream) I did not find the whole the sum of its parts. The allegedly 'clever' technicality of the writing exercise seemed to me to be self-indulgent and something of the emperor's new clothes. The stories were gently interesting if somewhat unfinished, and as a whole, the book just didn't offer anything to me. I am unsure what I am missing.....
Another issue touched on is the current kerfuffle over cultural appropriation. Does a young American woman have the right to put herself in the persona of a young Iranian-American man? What can be learned from that cross-cultural process?
It is altogether stunning and clever. Told in three sections by three characters, each with a unique and authentic voice, Asymmetry dives into who we are, how we relate to each other, the authenticity of memory, power imbalances, and more.
I can't stop thinking about it.