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Kissing in Manhattan Hardcover – June 5, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

David Schickler's debut seems at first to be a lot of fun: a gaggle of young Manhattanites with fancy jobs and fine educations chase each other around town, falling in love or not. In a series of linked stories, Schickler gives us a perverted heiress; a bumbling schoolteacher whose teenage student proposes marriage to him; a bad comic who finds his métier in off-off-Broadway theater. The writing is cool and a bit willfully naive: "Rally McWilliams was profoundly lonely," begins the title story. "She wanted to believe that she had a soul mate, a future spouse gestating somewhere in Nepal or the Australian Outback. But in Manhattan, where Rally lived, all she found were guys."

The mood turns dark, however, with the introduction of Patrick, a thirtysomething Wall Street trader who collects women and spends his evenings tying them up in his room. In short order the book's easy comedy is torqued into something more dramatic by Patrick's descent into violence. That Schickler doesn't play to his strengths is not necessarily a bad thing: one admires a writer who reaches beyond facility to something more difficult. But the transition from lighthearted sexual ronde to dirty realism is a bit bumpy. On the other hand, the novel's picture of a dark, desire-ridden Manhattan is an attractively seductive slice of escapism. The linked-stories format gives rise to a feeling of multiplicity, which is just the right tone for a book about a city crowded with pleasures. Describing James, a love-struck young accountant, Schickler writes: "His mind tonight was on the fine and the illicit pleasures of the planet, on their merits and dispersement. Some people cut daisies, thought James. Some visit Wales, or choose cocaine, or dig latrines for the poor and the weak." Everyone, it seems, is after something different. But it's desire itself that interests the author of Kissing in Manhattan. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Like figures in a strange, spiky, urban frieze, the characters of Schickler's striking debut novel-in-stories pose, strut and cross paths in a darkly romantic, surreal Manhattan. Their geographic ground zero is the Preemption, a Gothic apartment building equipped with an ageless doorman and a venerable 19th-century elevator. On the premises, a devoted wife bathes her timid husband nightly, a headstrong Princeton-bound high school girl proposes marriage to her English teacher, and a perfume heiress humbles a cruel lawyer. Elsewhere, at a few select haunts, a failed comedian earns celebrity status as an angry mouse in a stage play, a smart feminist is seduced by a muscle-car-driving chauvinist named Checkers, and a travel writer searches for the particular something that makes people wonderful. At the dangerous center of the eclectic cast is Patrick Rigg, a 33-year-old stockbroker who unleashes pent-up childhood rage by recruiting a devoted harem of young women and making them fall in love with their own bodies. Rigg brings most of the characters together for the Millennial Solstice Debauchery Spree, a 10-day bacchanal headquartered in the Preemption. But celebration gives way to terror when Rigg discovers that his favorite woman none other than the travel writer, Rally McWilliams has fallen for Rigg's roommate, introvert accountant James Branch. Narrated in a deliberately artless (and occasionally just plain flat) deadpan, the narrative draws its strength from the puzzle-like maze of its intersecting plots and its menagerie of characters with Dickensian names and modern sensibilities. Schickler is a fabulist for the 21st century, a skewed Scheherazade. Though there are thin spots in the web he weaves, his imagination and passion promise much. First serial to the New Yorker.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press; First Edition edition (June 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385335660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385335669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,247,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Fowler on January 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I don't know how I stumbled upon this book or what particulary about it interested me, but I'm glad I bought it.
This quick read is comprised of several short stories, all revolving around different people living in Manhattan. At first, the stories appear unrelated aside from a few establishments in Manhattan being mentioned in each. The stories all seem to end very abruptly too, leaving you wanting more. This is not to say that the story wasn't good, however I felt a lack of closure to each one.
This continued until I got into the 4th or 5th story. By that time, I started seeing a pattern to these stories, and slowly it was as though each short story turned into a chapter in a novel. I was hooked.
I don't want to give away too much about the book because it really is a fascinating read. I'll tell you however that you can expect each story to deal with love, life, and sex, however bizarre.
I'd never heard of David Schickler before reading this book, however I'm now eagerly awaiting his next.
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Format: Hardcover
Normally, I'm not a fan of short story collections (my own lunacy) or writers that are hailed by the so-called "hip" media (In this case I think it was Esquire). The whole David Eggers is finest writer we have train passed me by. Nevertheless, I bought Schickler's book--it sounded intriguing, was a first novel about young people and romance--or so I thought.
The reviewers here all have differing and interesting thoughts. I'm probably not going to have many original insights at this point, but I wanted to endorse this astounding work of fiction.
The first sign of how much I liked this is that is that I'm nervous that this will become a movie. I can see the the James-Rally-Patrick triangle becoming a film--and them casting Christian Bale in some absurd (patrick's word)attempt to capture the zeitgeist--yikes. The essence of this book is in Schickler's voice, his deceptively simple writing. The detail, the rich voice, the subletity of the writing.
The stories are all gently connected and it is fun to see small details and characters appearing again and again. The weakest story, by far, is the first one. Checkers and Donna. However, we are introduced to some themes and characters who will come up again. Several reviewers have touched on the weakness of the female characters--and while I don't even come close to agreeing with that assessment--Checkers and Donna might make you squirm. However, the rest of the book just traps you. I felt like a young James hiding in his dumb waiter and drowning out the rest of the world as I was propelled deeper into the story.
There is a change of pace--from comic to darkly comic to dark to light again. However, it works, if you are willing to go with Schickler. The magic is there--actual magic perhaps.
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Format: Hardcover
It's intriguing to read all of these reviews after reading this novel-in-stories -- what I found to be an assured, mythic, and entirely breathtaking performance. I came to the book with no knowledge of what it contained, and came away from it absolutely surprised. This is the kind of book that you can't read expecting it to describe contemporary life in New York. Instead, the author creates his own Manhattan, and imbues it with a mysterious magic that brings to mind fabulists such as Stephen Millhauser (an author who has also mythologized New York to similar effect in "Martin Dressler") If you're not willing to imagine this New New York with David Schickler, then don't read this book. If you're willing to be dazzled and delighted, then leave your skepticism at the door and simply enjoy the depth of the characters, situations, and the lovely writing. The only reason that I give this book four stars is that it is definitely a young book -- not tentative, but ambitious enough that Schickler gives us a broad view of his world without as much depth as I would have liked. Then again, maybe he wants us to imagine that for ourselves.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought "The Smoker" was the most harrowing study of addiction I've read since "Naked Lunch." I felt it inside me where I live, crawling around like some sort of small animal with horny spikes or scales or sharp protruberances of some kind. It was quite a story to make me feel that way! Honestly, I usually look at that Debut Fiction issue of the New Yorker and just say, "Hey Pidge [my beloved budgie], some more liner for your cage." Pidge usually just says, "Cheep-cheep!" in that wise, birdlike way. But in the case of Schickler I just had to read "The Smoker" over and over, wishin all along that the guy would up with a book of stories like that. And so he did. The work is urbane, witty, superficial, thoroughly professional; sort of like something Tobias Wolff might do if he were to wake up with a vicious hangover in a postindustrial loft district. I hope Schickler can come up with more like this because, boy, he sure has a lifelong paying customer in me. I do like that sort of stylish, yet rueful; smart, yet willing to learn; cynical, yet able to see the wonder of things kind of style that Schickler puts across like nobody else. Really, "The Smoker" changed my outlook on things. Gosh, what a gift.
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