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From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant: A Novel Hardcover – January 5, 2012
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“Delicious . . . A left-handed love letter to America.” —Daniel Asa Rose, The New York Times Book Review
“Lively . . . Hilarious . . . [A] whirligig of a book [that] draws some striking parallels between the way we mythologize stars and the way we look at terrorists. . . . From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant slices through these tropes, using Boy’s pure improbability as the skewering blade.” —John Freeman, Boston Globe
“In this funny debut, flashy Filipino fashion designer Boy Hernandez sees his American dream become a nightmare when he’s ensnared in a terrorist plot and shipped to Guantanamo. Gilvarry nails the couture scene, but Boy’s rough journey from Manolo to Gitmo is no joke.” —Andrew Abrahams, People
“It’s rare for a novel to tread so fearlessly into the political and yet to emerge so deeply funny and humane. Gilvarry is a young talent on the rise. Watch him gallop through the mess we’ve made of our civilization with style and panache.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan
“The deepest intelligence is poetic, incisive and inordinately funny. Heads up, folks. Alex Gilvarry just walked through the door.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Zoli
“Like 30 Rock at its most gleefully savage . . . [This] cocktail of themes—immigrant on the make, post-9/11 burlesque, sybaritic send-up of fashion and hipster Brooklyn—goes down smoothly because Gilvarry writes with authority, if often with tongue firmly in cheek . . . It’s not false praise to say that From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant anticipates our reality.” —Jacob Silverman, The Daily Beast
“From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is sharply written and wryly witty, touching on the sensitivities and paranoia of post-9/11 America. . . . Combining a Kafkaesque hero with a captivating “coming to New York” story, Gilvarry’s debut is a timely and touching triumph.” —Stephanie Turza, Booklist
“One of the best celebrations and condemnations of American fear and ambition since Bellow's Augie March was doing the celebrating and condemning.” —Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England
“Gracefully tackles politically charged subject matter . . . with wit and compassion . . . An engaging victim of uncertain times, [here’s] a protagonist who will appeal to readers of all political persuasions.” —Publishers Weekly
“This is a sly, witty novel. You'll be quoting lines from it to your friends.” —David Bezmozgis, author of The Free World
“Finally, a young American novelist who has the guts to confront the absurdity of the last decade. Gilvarry has given us a sly, hilarious, and wickedly insightful book about living in the United States (or trying to live in the U.S.) in the aftermath of September 11th. Fashion, terrorism, New York and Guantanamo Bay: in the hands of Gilvarry, hilarity ensues. A brilliant debut.” —Michael Hastings, author of “The Runaway General” (Rolling Stone) and The Operators
“Original, smart, and incisive . . . Part manifesto, part immigrant love story, part satire, part tragedy . . . [and] eminently readable.” —Roxane Gay, The Rumpus
“A smart, funny novel with political undertones that will also be particularly enjoyable for those with an interest in fashion . . . [Gilvarry’s] style and dark humor are subtle and witty . . . The events that unfold are equally disturbing and entertaining.” —Shaunna E. Hunter, Library Journal
“A talented writer and observer . . . [Gilvarry] skillfully captures the frenetic world of striving designers.” —Kirkus
“Captivating . . . evocative.” —Vogue.com
“Such a blast… Quick, witty and hilarious.” —Meredith Turits, Glamour.com
“Deadly serious, laugh-out-loud funny…A sparkling onion of a book.” —Carlo Wolff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A unique satire of the topsy-turvy times immediately following the September 11th attacks . . . . which cleverly entwines the seemingly disparate fictional worlds [of] politics and fashion.” —The Economist’s Prospero blog
“A fabulous and poignant read….Gilvarry’s prose is both conversational and confessional, hitting all the right notes in this bittersweet rendering of the American Dream gone tragically awry.” —Nicole, Linus's Blanket
“Alternately amusing and chilling. The author showcases his gift for comedic writing, while simultaneously allowing the serious themes of the story to surface and take root.” —Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“A poignant reminder of what contemporary fiction ought to be. You will laugh, but you’ll do so nervously, sitting at the edge of your seat.” —Ana Grouverman, The Rumpus
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The memoir follows Boy's fledgling career as he begins to gain traction in New York, but also as he recounts his suspicions about the pathological liar who is the primary investor in his clothing line. On the brink of breaking out, Boy's investor is arrested for a terrorist plot (He didn't suspect THAT!) and before he can say, "I love the USA," Boy is shipped off to Guantanamo. It is while imprisoned and interrogated there that the memoir was born.
As noted above, this is a premise ripe for satire. The first part of the novel, however, while slightly absurd, was mostly a surprisingly straight and engaging tale of a struggling fashion designer. I kept wondering, where's the biting political satire? I was disappointed.
What I hungered for came late in the novel (mostly in the memoir's afterword, written by one of the fictional characters), but when Gilvarry finally let loose with both barrels, he did so effectively and eloquently. The reader is left with a powerful message about justice, freedom, and their loss in post 9/11 America, ringing in his or her ears.
Score one for the debut novelist.
L/C Ratio: 40/60
(This means I estimate the author devoted 40% of his effort to creating a literary work of art and 60% of his effort to creating a commercial bestseller.)
30% - Life of a detainee
25% - NYC fashion industry
20% - Humor
20% - Relationships
5% - Politics
I don't typically consider suspected terrorists to be a source of comedy. Then again, nothing about Gilvarry's debut novel is very typical - and that's what makes it so refreshing. The flashback approach is well-crafted, while his characters and their dialogue creep up to the edge of over-the-top ridiculousness without crossing the line.
Knowing a chunk of the plot revolved around the fashion industry (a sector I am totally oblivious to) made me think twice about picking up Non-Enemy Combatant. But given that Zoolander is my favorite film of all time, it seemed wrong to pass on this novel. Despite the relatively lackluster closing chapters, Gilvarry's debut stands out as a bright spot in a pretty dull year for fiction so far.
I traced her ivory legs from her hemline to her flats, where an out‑of‑place L.L. Bean backpack with the initials T.W.M. rested against her ankle. I would find out later that the initials belonged to one Todd Wayne Mercer, an ex‑boyfriend. He took her virginity; she took his backpack. Fair is fair.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book that brings up controversial topics while keeping the mood light. Doesn't get too heavy, but has deep research, understanding, and speech to it.Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
A smart and engaging book. A Filipino immigrant to the US, fully in love with the American dream and determined to take advantage of all that the US has to offer, is ensnared into... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jonathan Robbins
I would love to read this book but will not ever pay that much for an e-book. Ridiculous for a first or fiftieth novel!Published on March 27, 2014 by Axel Becket
I was totally engrossed with the plight of the hero, and his subsequent imprisonment at Quantamo. The writing is fluid, and the humor portrayed by the writer is superb. Read morePublished on June 16, 2013 by sirod
I picked this up after being seduced from the review comments in the beginning, but felt it was highly doubtful that I would enjoy a novel centered on a woman's clothing designer... Read morePublished on February 8, 2013 by Fred Forbes
This novel, about an aspiring designer who comes to New York from Manila, is both very enjoyable as a tale of the fashion world, and an enraging political challenge to the... Read morePublished on May 31, 2012 by Ken C.