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Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Washington Square Press.) Paperback – October 1, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Judith Rossner [1935–2005] was an American novelist, most famous for the bestseller, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1975). A lifelong New Yorker, her books centered around the themes of urban alienation and gender relations.
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Product Details

  • Series: Washington Square Press.
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671019015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671019013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,780,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
This was a disturbing book in many ways--not because of the subjectmatter or the storytelling, but because it reaches out to anyone who reads it, forcing them to confront their darker, hidden sides. As the story begins, Theresa Dunn is a 10-year-old child who comes from a large Irish Catholic family and frequently gets overlooked. The degree to which her parents pay her little attention while lavishing affection on her older sister, Katherine, is shocking, because Theresa's spine curvature could have been corrected immediately had they noticed. This, of course, adds to Theresa's self-loathing and her feeling that she is insignificant. The operation is a success, but Theresa is not quite the same. Katherine gets emotional and tells Theresa that she looked like she "came back from the dead". Theresa also has a slight limp to show for it, a constant reminder of her unimportance. From this point on, anyone who makes a reference to Theresa's limp, however casual, is basically striking Theresa in her most vulnerable place. Her failure to come to terms with her self-loathing eventually will lead to far more trouble in the future.
Theresa is still very much the good Catholic girl, however, and she still loves children. Her decision to become an elementary school teacher allows her to temporarily step into the role of "Mother" (nurturer) and "Father" (educator), to be simultaneously the parents she wished she had. It is during her college years that she meets Martin Engle, a sardonic English professor who will have a profound effect on her already shaky self-image. Martin is married, but he is still very much adored by his female students, and he does nothing to overtly discourage them.
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Format: Paperback
Judith Rossner, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Washington Square Press, 1975)

Looking for Mr. Goodbar was an unconscionably shocking novel when it appeared in 1975. It was still shocking when Richard Brooks turned it into a devastating film featuring rising stars Richard Gere, Tom Berenger, and William Atherton as the three most important men in Diane Keaton's life. Now, here we are thirty years later. The scene Rossner set isn't shocking. But in some ways, her treatment of it is, and this is why Looking for Mr. Goodbar is still in print, three decades after its original release.

Theresa Dunn, we learn on the first page, is dead. She was killed by a guy she picked up in a bar a few hours beforehand (leading to Rex Reed's famous, and utterly inaccurate, statement "this is the story of what happens to Theresa in bars."). We go from police report to said guy's statement, which is equal parts amusing and chilling. Then the rest of the novel's three hundred ninety pages gives us Theresa's story as it leads up to her murder.

Despite Reed's tantalizing review, Theresa Dunn is not the kind of barhopper one might find in a bad seventies softcore movie. In fact, she spends not much time at all in bars themselves. (Mr. Goodbar, the name of the bar where she picks up the guy who kills her, is only mentioned by name twice in Theresa's portion of the story, if I recall correctly.) The novel actually focuses on Theresa's relationships, and how they contribute to the novel's outcome-- first with one of her college professors, and then conflicting, simultaneous relationships with two men, the macho and aggressive Tony and calm, staid James, as Theresa tries to figure out who she really is and what she wants from life.
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Format: Paperback
Judith Rossner's warning in her novel to take a flashlight when we visit the darkest corners of sexual experimentation is forever relevant. "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (the title not a character but a pick-up bar) gives us a Catholic teacher of deaf children who, after dark, takes on a truly dark character and sets out on the bar scene looking for sex and, maybe if she's lucky, love. But the search for both is strewn with broken hearts, disappointments and dangers, as Theresa finds out too late. Rossner's main character comes across as a basically desperate human scarred by years of indifferent parents, a sister who was preferred in childhood over her and a low self-image caused by a curved spine (although later corrected by surgery). In seeking approval, validation, redemption and love, Theresa ventures forth into the darkness and risks of anonymous sex and, of course, not finding in the darkness what she seeks. The accomplishment of "Goodbar" is Rossner's uncanny ability to focus on and then bare the desperation that fuels any person's search for love or whatever it's called. All too often, the searchers who wander too far into the blackness meet the same final fate that Theresa does, and Rossner's descriptive talents of that fate spare no one. Hers is a cautionary tale that, if we must, don't go too far into the night without a light on in the brain. Without it, we may never get a second chance. The book was later turned into a theatrical film with Diane Keaton turning in a tremendous performance. Both the film and book warrant attention and respect of the dangers of the night.
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