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The Kept Man by [Attenberg, Jami]
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The Kept Man Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this lugubrious first novel from Brooklynite Attenberg (Instant Love), Jarvis Miller is a young, pretty half-widow in the Williamsburg neighborhood. For six years, her brilliant painter husband, Martin Miller, has lain in a coma in a nursing home, while Jarvis rarely leaves the apartment for more than her once-a-week visit to see him. With frequent musings such as Waiting for Martin to wake up is a different kind of waiting than waiting for him to die, Jarvis slowly takes steps to go on with her life, and in the process, begins to suspect that her picture-perfect marriage may have been something else entirely. She finds little solace in Alice, Martin's glossy, possessive art dealer, or in Davis, Martin's louche artist friend. What helps the most is a serendipitous friendship with three married men she meets in a Laundromat, The Kept Men Club; the three are financially supported by their wives just as Jarvis, former party girl, was supported first by Martin, and now by his legacy. Attenberg gets the Williamsburg cityscape correct but builds almost zero tension with Jarvis's depressive brooding over Martin, his continued hold on her and the decisions she faces. Not for a moment in this airless dirge does Jarvis or her marriage feel credible. (Jan.)
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Review

"Written in relaxed yet fresh prose, Attenberg's debut is unabashedly emotional, refreshingly devoid of New York City cynicism, and tenderly funny." -- "People" "Told with wit and verve...The Kept Man is a challenge to apathy-it's a novel about remaining constructive in the face of personal change." -- "Interview" "Attenberg knows how to tell a story that's both socially relevant and a fun read." -"Venuszine" "Attenberg gets gallery-land down cold; she also writes of longing and mourning with extraordinary heart...A likable novel marked by a profundity of feeling." -- "Kirkus Reviews"

aAttenberg has an admirable sense of fun...Displays a keen ear for dialogue and a half-cynical, half-affectionate tone that makes even the most venal characters likable.a
a"San Francisco Chronicle"
aTold with wit and verve.a
a"Interview"
aOne finds a great deal to admire here... Ms. Attenberg [is] an able geographer of emotional landscapes.a
a"New York Sun"

?Attenberg has an admirable sense of fun...Displays a keen ear for dialogue and a half-cynical, half-affectionate tone that makes even the most venal characters likable.?
?"San Francisco Chronicle"

?Told with wit and verve.?
?"Interview"

?One finds a great deal to admire here... Ms. Attenberg [is] an able geographer of emotional landscapes.?
?"New York Sun"


Product Details

  • File Size: 510 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (December 27, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 27, 2007
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0011UGMW8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,960 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Attenberg's first novel makes a sharp right turn between each of its three parts. The book opens with Jarvis Miller enduring life as a "half-widow," her husband on life support for all of six years, his fame (and value) as a painter increasing with every coma-induced minute. Then, unexpectedly, a long-disguised secret is revealed in a second storyline that is vaguely reminiscent of Penelope Lively's "The Photograph" (although it should be said immediately that Attenberg's characters have more, well, character, and "The Kept Man" is the better novel for it). The plot veers yet again, as the drama draws further inspiration from yesterday's headlines--particularly, and most obviously, the Terri Schiavo story.

For most of the book, what could have been a maudlin Lifetime TV movie instead resembles a sharp-witted indie feature film (I can easily imagine Parker Posey in the lead role). Attenberg ramps things up with a gram or two of the diluted "Diet Coke" you might find in the backroom of a seedy Brooklyn bar, and the author's offbeat, modish humor straddles an uneasy balance between irreverent and compassionate. "I was never the party guest they anticipated . . . because my husband was in a coma. My antics were not even interesting in a performance-art kind of way, no Courtney Love hugging the punk hippies around the candle-strewn memorials, and then a year later bouncing back to flash her designer-clad augmented breasts at anyone who would look." Even the droll melancholy of Jarvis's moods evokes the Williamsburg faux-hipster scene.

Yet, for all its scenester cred, "The Kept Man" stays true to its central concern: the impossible choices presented to its heroine.
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Format: Hardcover
I've heard Jami Attenberg read a number of times; from the stuff she's already published, things she's working on, and stand-alone pieces, I could tell that this is the sort of person who takes her writing very seriously and does it well.

It was easy to put myself in her hands as I read "The Kept Man," and I trusted her writer's voice to take us where we needed to go. She wasn't afraid to make her protagonist someone who could be unlikable, and do stupid things; just like a real person. Jarvis is a difficult person, but that stands to reason, because she was married to a great, eccentric artist who was no angel himself. They fit together because of who they were and who they weren't.

Attenberg does a great job in merging the character's internal journey with the changes in her real landscape: the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn changing from artistic to gentrified over the course of weeks, months, and seasons. You can almost smell New York, and the specific identity of that particular Brooklyn neighborhood and the people in it. (Hipsters...and the people who got there before them).

The supporting characters are also well-drawn, from the nurses at the long-term care center where Jarvis's husband rests in a coma to Missy, the car service driver who becomes the best friend Jarvis has, the book feels real and true, and soemtimes that means it's not pretty. But it's good.
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Format: Hardcover
THE KEPT MAN is a beautiful book about love and loss, and how people find themselves stuck and immobile. Attenberg nails modern day Brooklyn, the concept of the proxy urban family, and the art world, and sucks you right in with her stunning prose. Her narrator is compelling and wonderfully flawed and complex, and I read late into the night, unable to put the book down. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
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Format: Kindle Edition
In reading other reviews, I see that readers disagree on the believability of the main character. To those that find her unbelievable, I say "lucky you," as you have never found yourself in the painfully sweet position of loving someone so much that they become the center of your world and you lose yourself to that relationship. This character, Jarvis, was already broken and afloat with no anchor and struggling to find meaning in her life when she met Martin. He saw her as beautiful and lovable, and she began to see herself through his eyes. And her life with him became all about him, about being his wife, HIS wife. She who had never trusted anyone other than her mother, trusted Martin and their relationship, and gave into that trust and let the relationship become her identify without noticing. She, who prided herself on being different, being edgy, being off center, became totally centered in the relationship, and then poof - it disappeared. I've been there and done that, and was walking around in shock for a couple of years, going through the motions of being alive and well, but sleepwalking through life. So I found the story riveting and believable and identified with Jarvis as she begins to grasp the notion that she must save herself by giving up the glorious self identify she had loved being Martin's wife. When you are blown out of your life and have to start over with no idea how to do it, it is going to be slow going and painful. Jarvis had spent six years hanging on, loving Martin, wishing so much for her former life to return, but knowing it never would. Her loneliness was palpable, and she put all of her effort into hiding that on the rare occasions when she left her apartment.Read more ›
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