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The Men's Club: An Expanded Edition Paperback – June 1, 2000

3.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Chekhov and Kafka, after consulting Chaucer, might have collaborated on The Men's Club. It is excellent.” ―John Leonard, The New York Times

“Leonard Michaels's stories stand alongside those of his best Jewish contemporaries--Grace Paley and Philip Roth. Like theirs, Michaels's vernacular achieves the level of song.” ―Mona Simpson, The New York Times

“Leonard Michaels was an original; everything he wrote, like it or not, came alive. His prose moved at a fast clip and paid readers the compliment of assuming they could match his mental velocity, with a concise, pungent and pyrotechnic style that tolerated no flab.” ―Philip Lopate, The Nation

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Leonard Michaels (1933–2003) was the author of five collections of stories and essays—Going Places, I Would Have Saved Them If I Could, Shuffle, A Girl with a Monkey, and To Feel These Things—as well as two novels, Sylvia and The Men’s Club. All of his fiction will be reissued as FSG Classics.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mercury House; Exp Sub edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1562790390
  • ISBN-13: 978-1562790394
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,314,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Originally published in 1981, the Men's Club is set in the Bay Area during the late 70s. A psychologist named Kramer gathers a small group of men in their mid-to-late thirties together to discuss guy stuff. The club starts out, writes Michaels, "trying to recapture high-school days. Locker-room fun. Wet naked boys snapping towels at each other's genitals." There's some drinking and pot smoking before the men migrate into more dangerous territory-a refrigerator stocked full of food for tomorrow's luncheon - a woman's group hosted by Kramer's wife.
Mixed in with the bacchanalia are men talking about themselves. These aren't men talking about sports or power tools, but strange, sometimes sad, stories about their relationships with women - sometimes their wives -- who they've connected with, but are still trying to process. Michaels does a satisfying job tying up the story with a cohesive ending and the writing is terse and engaging.
Also, it's not an especially dated book, because men haven't evolved much in the last 20 years.
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Format: Hardcover
Seven men, some acquainted and some strangers, meet one night to begin a club. This won't be a working man's club named for a large four-legged mammal or a toney businessman's city athletics and dinner club; instead it's a club dreamt up by a psychotherapist, modeled on the women's consciousness raising groups of the 1970s. Without an agenda, the men immediately focus on one subject -- women. They tell stories of bafflement, need, love, abuse, and marriage. They listen and they argue. They eat and drink and smoke and fight and break things. Their stories are outrageous and they sound true. Most of all, these men pay serious attention to one another. Michaels's masterful prose brings each man to life with gestures and dialogue and unforgettable stories. This is a small novel, but it brings important news from the gender wars. Women should read it, because it is both amusing and horrifying. These are characters you can hate and love just as if you knew them. In fact, you do know them. They are your brother, father, son, husband, lover, or friend.
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Format: Paperback
Recently I heard a New Yorker fiction podcast of Leonard Michael's short story, "Cryptology" and it made me want to read more of his work. I picked up "The Men's Club" at a used bookstore and found it bracingly dated. It captured the baby boomers in their first flush of adulthood and full of the seventies psychobabble.

Six men come to Kramer's house for the first meeting of the "Men's Club." The entire novel takes place over the span of an evening and the early morning. The men vent about women troubles as they become increasingly stoned, drunk or more accurately, primal. The novel is about stripping away civilization's veneer to get at the base core of men. The irony is that here they are celebrating an advancement in human development - the therapy group - they end up figuratively sitting around a cave fire competing for the alpha male position.

I say bracingly dated because the language while no longer pure, resonates with us today in its ridiculous avoidance of real life in favor of self absorption. My only quibble is that the novel feels like a stunt and the characters don't completely come alive outside their context of their usefulness as mouthpieces. Still the language, energy and satire keeps the work alive even as the characters in the book are now in their retirement years.
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Format: Paperback
If you loved that Cassavettes movie Husbands, you may like this book though. In fact, I bet Michaels was a big fan of Cassavettes and that movie in particular. I thought that there was some good writing in this book, but it was too self-indulgent and kind of childish in attitude. I much preferred his earlier novel Sylvia. But I can see how The Men's Club was a huge influence on lots of macho writers who came later.
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Format: Paperback
Women take a beating in this 1970s novel about a group of bay area professional men who get together for an evening to tell their life stories, mostly about their sex lives and feelings about women. Girl friends and wives are all pretty much the bad guys here. THE MEN'S CLUB, published in 1978, is full of the touchy-feely Esalen kinda stuff that was so very much in vogue in that era. The men of the book are 'reacting' to the feminist movement of the times, but they don't come across looking very good. The slim novel reads like a story you might have read in Playboy thirty years ago. It has not aged well. Truth is I grew bored with it quickly, skimmed the middle, read the bloody ending (BAD wife clobbers drunken husband with a skillet). Felt mostly disgust - with the book and with myself for wasting my time on it. Fortunately I'd found it at a sidewalk sale for only a quarter. I usually hate to throw away books, but this one - into the trash with nary a twinge of conscience.
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