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A Changed Man: A Novel Paperback – February 28, 2006

3.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Prose (Blue Angel; The Lives of the Muses) tests assumptions about class, hatred and the possibility of change in her latest novel, a good-natured satire of liberal pieties, the radical right and the fund-raising world. The "changed man" of the title is Vincent Nolan, a 32-year-old tattooed ex-skinhead who appears one morning in the New York offices of World Brotherhood Watch, a foundation headed by Meyer Maslow, a Holocaust survivor. Vincent declares that he has had a personal conversion (never mind that it was triggered by a heavy dose of Ecstasy) and wants to work with the foundation to "save guys like me from becoming guys like me." Meyer takes Vincent on faith—and convinces Bonnie Kalen, the foundation's fund-raiser, to put Vincent up in the suburban home she shares with her two sons, Max, 12, and Danny, 16. Prose tears into this unusual premise with the piercing wit that has become her trademark. Vincent becomes a media darling of sorts, and everyone wants a piece of him: the liberal donors and the television talk shows; Meyer, a figurehead so celebrated that even his close friends kiss up to him; and maybe even divorced Bonnie, who finds herself drawn to Vincent's charms. In more hostile pursuit of Vincent is his cousin Raymond, a member of the Aryan Resistance Movement, from which Vincent stole a truck, drugs and cash. In these circumstances, can a man truly change? And what is change—not only for Vincent but for the other principals as well? Prose doesn't shy away from exposing the vanities and banalities behind the drive to do good. Fortunately, her characters are sturdy enough to bear the weight of the baggage she piles on them. Her lively skewering of a whole cross-section of society ensures that this tale hits comic high notes even as it probes serious issues.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

One sun-spangled afternoon at a rave, Vincent Nolan, a palooka who may be the most hapless neo-Nazi on record (he's thrummed up his politics so that his unsavory cousin, Ray, will let him crash on his couch), has a conversion experience: things go all glowy, he sees the error of his nefarious ways, and, soon afterward, he's ascending to the Manhattan offices of the World Brotherhood Watch, to offer his services to its founder, Meyer Maslow. Clearly, Maslow is based on Elie Wiesel, though Prose tries to forestall this assumption by giving Wiesel a cameo role elsewhere. Vince is taken home by Maslow's mousy assistant, a harassed single mother, who manages to overlook the Waffen-S.S. tattoo and fall for him, and, at a benefit at the Met Museum, he becomes a poster boy for the P.C. set. As a sendup, the book is quite fun, but too often Prose's writing falls victim to the very earnestness that she satirizes.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060560037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060560034
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,714,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There's a lot of good stuff in this book. You already know the plot by now if you've read the other reviews -- skinhead decides to change his life and walks into the foundation offices of a Holocaust survivor. It's an interesting premise, and Prose does, I think, a good job with some of her characters. I really bought Bonnie as a single mom, particularly her relationship with her kids. I also found Meyer to be a great character, very conflicted about his own motivations.

What I didn't find so compelling: the ending was pretty contrived, in a way that tried to be too meta- about being contrived. I also was not really clear about Vincent's motivations until pretty far into the book.

On the other hand, let's face it, I've read a lot of "summer reading" crap this year and it's miles better than that stuff. So it's worth a look.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first read the premise for this novel, I hardly thought it was creative, (I have seen American History X), but decided to give it a chance anyway. Prose's writing is so unbelievable that I could hardly finish the first few chapters. She has no knowledge of what a thirty-something male ex-skinhead might be thinking, and it shows. Her use of slang is awkward and difficult to read, as are the passages of Vincent "looks too much like McVeigh" Nolan checking out Bonnie's "ass." This novel is forced and it screams it. Read something else.
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Format: Hardcover
What if a skinhead shows up at a famed Holocaust survivor's office, not with a gun, but with contrition? What if said Holocaust survivor's prematurely dowdy, divorced assistant takes in the skinhead to hide him from the Aryan Resistance Movement he now says he wants to discredit? What if their story is told from close to each of their ambiguous human hearts? You have Francine Prose's new novel A CHANGED MAN, that's what.

Vincent Nolan is the repentant skinhead, a good-looking (despite the tattoos) young man in his early thirties, fresh from camping on his cousin Ray's couch. Meyer Maslow, the celebrated, aging activist who directs a non-profit aimed at freeing dissidents and righting wrongs all over the world, has been expecting someone like him, all the more reason for Bonnie, his adoring assistant, to marvel at his prescience. Bonnie has channeled her feelings of rejection from the breakup of her marriage into intense belief in the rightness of Maslow's mission.

When Meyer suggests that Vincent stay with her --- after all, he can't go back to his neo-Nazi cousin's couch, can he? --- she agrees with only a shiver of concern for her two young teenaged sons. Vincent talks a good game, and Bonnie wants to trust him, but she's a worrier by nature. She doesn't need the aggravation and feels guilty about it. And by that time, the reader knows that Vincent's duffel contains more in the way of dirty laundry than simply clothes: it also has a hefty supply of Vicodin, and $1,500 of drug money taken from Ray and his buddies.

There are two main sources of tension in this accomplished novel by the prolific Ms. Prose. One comes from wondering whether Vincent really is a changed man, and Vincent, it seems, is as much in suspense as we are.
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Format: Hardcover
I sold the book the weekend afte my book club discussed it. It was horrible. I have never read a book where I couldn't identify or believe the narrator. But, that is what happened here. The "insight" that the narrator provided on the characters was trite and did nothing to help me like or even care about them. What I thought would be an insightful book about a "changed man" was a poorly written, unbelievable romance story with unlikeable characters.
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Format: Paperback
In "A Changed Man" Prose succeeds in doing what every writer hopes in how she takes you into a foreign place and gives you a glimpse of life from another viewpoint. Her book is at once both optimistic and pessimistic: she shows a neonazi who seems to change for the better and a world known Holocaust survivor who has made a tidy living off of his fame who seems to care little for those closest to him.

I can't quite put my finger on it but her writing is kind of `in a hurry.' Not stripped and raw like a Hemmingway novel but more jerky and always moving, like you're always running. The technique works well, though, to keep the story moving, and to keep you in the middle of the confusion surrounding the protagonist. And confusion is in the middle of most of the story: confusion about motive, about relationships, and about telling yourself the truth. In the end, like a made for TV movie, the confusion falls away and everyone finds their place in the world. It's a bit formulaic but works. Ironically I don't really think anyone in the book `changed.' Certainly not the protagonist. His foray into the Aryan Nation was mostly a trade for breakfast and a place to sleep. None of the other characters change, either, except that they all seemed to come a bit more to grips with their innate wants.

Still, it's an excellent read that I really enjoyed.
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Format: Audio CD
This review is from the unabridged audio version read by Eric Conger.

Since reading Ms. Prose's masterful Reading Like a Writer several years ago, I've been on the lookout for one of her novels; A CHANGED MAN fell into my lap unexpectedly, and I bought it based purely on recognition of the author's name. It is the story of a young man who has drifted into a cultural lifestyle (Neo-Nazism) that he has no great ideological attachment to, and has adopted more as a way of gaining room and board than anything else. Intimidated by the retribution his fellow skinheads may visit on him should he leave the fold, he seeks asylum with an international human rights aid organization, headed by a Holocaust survivor. In return for their shelter, he promises that he can help them to "save guys like me from becoming guys like me".

That's Vincent Nolan's pitch, made more in the way of a plea bargain than with any real conviction behind it, though over the course of the novel he comes to see things differently; or at least I think he does. It's difficult to understand exactly how Vincent changes. He is one of those fellows who exist by letting others take care him - just charming, pitiable or vulnerable enough that other people's parental instincts kick in. If Vincent does change, it may be better termed 'growing up'.

A CHANGED MAN isn't a bad novel - it's slightly comic, sometimes slyly so, though it isn't dangerous enough to make any pointed statements. It seems more like a gentle chiding than a pin-sticking. If the theme behind the novel is tolerance toward the 'other', then it basically treads water; there's no risk.
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