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Know Your Beholder: A Novel Hardcover – March 3, 2015
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"More often than any book I can easily recall, Rapp's novel had me laughing like a fool, embarrassing myself each time I unthinkingly brought it out in public. Perhaps more surprisingly, that humor felt entirely natural--born organically from the idiosyncrasies of the characters themselves rather than foisted on them... Rapp mostly dredges comedy from Francis' peculiar ways of seeing the world and from the mundanely weird people who populate it."―NPR
"Rapp's novel is surprisingly high-spirited, comic without diminishing the emotional depth of his motley crew. That''s largely thanks to Rapp's gift for figurative language."―Washington Post
"Rapp is such a skillful and evocative writer he can make magic out of the ordinary stuff of daily life... Know Your Beholder has a surprisingly satisfying finish on multiple levels.. It's nothing less than masterful."―Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Know Your Beholder is funny and sad, smart and moving, dark and hopeful. Adam Rapp writes with a lyrical acumen and wit that are not just impressive, but immensely engaging."―Jonathan Tropper, New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You and One Last Thing Before I Go
"Know Your Beholder is a message from the heart and from the beard, a message from the new weird America to every guy who's ever spent too much time in his bathrobe and every women who's ever considered what that guy would look like if he actually got himself together and shaved. Adam Rapp knows about laughing to keep from crying. He's a melancholy Lenny Bruce of the sentence and his imagination is never less than intense."―Hari Kunzru%2C author of the national bestseller The Impressionist
"Adam Rapp's Know Your Beholder is a wry, big-hearted novel that captures the contradictions of the American present--with its good intensions, self-deceptions, grand ambitions, and crippling fears."―David Bezmozgis%2C Giller Prize finalist and author of The Betrayers
"Adam Rapp is an exciting and fearless writer. From the dark places of the soul he mines equal parts pain and light. In Know Your Beholder, he has fully and unapologetically rendered each of his characters-men and women alike, both good actors and bad. This rueful and immensely entertaining novel is his best work yet, a transfixing study of the heart's resilience and the complicated beauty of living that provides the kind of consolation that only our greatest fictions can."―A. M. Homes%2C New York Times bestselling author of The Mistress's Daughter and May We Be Forgiven
"With Know Your Beholder, Adam Rapp has ascended into the upper ranks of American fiction. His narrator, Francis Falbo, is an unforgettable crooner of heartwreck and hilarity, and the narrative itself is woven of uncommon tenderness and beauty as the dreams of the past meet the ghosts in their present."
―William Giraldi%2C author of Hold the Dark and Busy Monsters
"Know Your Beholder is hilarious and deeply sad, often at the same time. Such an eerie beauty permeates this tale--with its haunting descriptions of houses, people, music, tornado storms, agoraphobic terror, lost children, lost minds--that when you finish you feel you've awakened from one of the narrator's strange, heartbreaking dreams, filled with a kind of inexplicable, overwhelming love."―Brad Watson%2C National Book Award finalist for The Heaven of Mercury
About the Author
An acclaimed filmmaker and playwright, Adam Rapp was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Red Light Winter and is the recipient of the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. In addition to his numerous plays, he is the author of the novel The Year of Endless Sorrows and several YA novels, including Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He lives in New York City.
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Francis Falbo is in his mid-30s, a former musician living in the small town of Pollard, Illinois. He's struggling quite a bit—he's still mourning over the end of his marriage (despite the fact that his wife has moved on and gotten remarried), the death of his mother, and the end of his band. Winter seems endless, he has been stranded in his apartment for a while now, and he's taken to growing a colossal beard and wearing the same bathrobe over and over. And even if he could leave the house, he's finding himself in the grips of a pretty debilitating case of agoraphobia.
"Is this approaching grace? I wonder. Or is the aggregate narrative of my life a series of small, ill-shaped rationalizations that mask an enormous failure? I probably won't know until I reach old age, if I'm that lucky."
The only thing Francis has going for him is that he has divided his childhood home into several apartments, and all are full, relegating him to a cozy apartment in the attic. His tenants are a motley crew—a former Olympic athlete; an artist with a curious portfolio; a former teacher with a heart as big as his enormous stomach; his ex-brother-in-law, a stoner trying to disengage from life; and a pair of former circus performers whose young daughter has gone missing, and they're not overly interested in helping the police try to find her. While Francis is struggling to overcome his own problems, he can't help but become immersed in everyone else's lives, which leads him to make some questionable decisions and occasionally act in unlandlord-like ways.
Francis pines for his ex-wife and wishes that they could get back together. He also misses his band, mourns the circumstances that led to its demise, and wishes he and his bandmates could reunite. But when both his ex-wife and an old friend return to his life in different ways, he realizes that life doesn't always give you what you want the way you want it. And he makes a surprising discovery about his mother, which deepens his feelings of loss for her, and makes him realize she was even more complicated than he ever knew.
"I'm convinced that part of leaving someone is carefully arranging the pain that will be left behind. Like gluing a broken dinner plate to the wall."
I really enjoyed this book tremendously. Even though it was a little zany in places, Rapp's storytelling ability made me chuckle, made me think, and even made me get emotional from time to time. Francis is a far more complex character than he appeared, and although I'll admit the constant descriptions of people's lack of hygiene made me a little queasy (I'm squeamish; what can I say), I found Know Your Beholder quite compelling and I needed to keep reading to see how Rapp would tie the story together.
Maybe it's because his brother is Anthony Rapp of Rent fame, but for some reason I kept picturing Adam Pascal (who played Roger in the original Broadway cast and the motion picture adaptation) as Francis. I think this would be a tremendously interesting movie, but regardless, it was a really enjoyable book.
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I deducted a point for the overuse of corduroy.Read more