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A Stone Boat: A Novel Paperback – June 4, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Though he's a rising classical pianist recording his first CD, Harry is experiencing "the saddest period of my life." His mother is dying of cancer and she blames her illness on his homosexuality. "My mother wanted me to have a perfect life, more perfect even than hers," Harry, who's in his mid-20s, observes in his wish to be seen as both a good son and an independent man. What he's keeping secret from his mother, however, is that, inspired by his attraction to a female friend, he's becoming aware of his fundamental bisexuality. Solomon's prose is stylish, sometimes beautiful, but it suffers from a vagueness that hovers about the relationships it describes ("When something saddened me, she came and joined me in my pain," says Harry of his mother). The characters live in a world of upper-class homes and hotels in Paris, London and Manhattan, with weekends in country homes and maids and chauffeurs at their disposal, a backdrop of privilege that sometimes edges into preciousness ("I associate my mother's entire illness with cut flowers," Harry notes). Yet the contrast between the idyllic existence money can buy and the inexorable ugliness of death is poignantly obvious. Harry's struggle to cope with his parent's impending death is observed with passion and conviction. Solomon (The Ivory Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost), a senior writer for the New York Times Magazine, shows great promise in his fiction debut.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Love and death make dramatic entrances in this elegiac first novel by nonfiction writer Solomon (The Ivory Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, 1991) about a young concert pianist who plays for time while his mother is dying of cancer. First-person narrator Harry is under 30, gay, and always striving for perfection in his music, his sexual partners, and his aesthetic rhetoric, with which he tries heroically (and sometimes pretentiously) to wring beauty from the ordinary while visiting stylish locations in London, Paris, and Manhattan. He observes the textures of flowers, different foods, the surfaces of bodies. Harry also picks a fight with his bland lover Bernard and has three intense affairs, one with a longtime female friend, to escape his depression over his mother's terminal illness. Early in the novel, she blames her suffering on his homosexuality and tries to manipulate him into a more conventional life style: ``I know you think you're being honest or true to yourself or something, but what you have with Bernard can't be greater than that combination of love and children that you could have with Helen or someone.'' The mother, still in her 50s, does not want to die early, but she also doesn't want her last days to be horrific. When chemotherapy does not appear to have halted the cancer, she plans her date with death as carefully as if it were a wedding, attending a party the week before in a grand show of matriarchal dignity as she climbs a staircase unassisted. ``One step at a time, regal as the Queen of Sheba, my mother climbed that staircase. The long rope of pearls swung slightly as she walked, as though it were telling time,'' writes Solomon in one particularly poignant passage. An elegant and moving examination of a difficult subject. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Andrew Solomon writes some of the best prose I have ever read. And in doing so, he conveys the psychological struggles of his main character in a very compelling way. Doubtless the book is at least partially autobiographical, which reveals his intensely deep struggle with his homosexuality and the impending loss of his mother, who is dying of cancer. The book also offers Solomon's insight as a psychologist into the nuances of human behavior and emotion. For example, he shows the difference between sympathy and empathy, which are often confused as being the same. Harry breaks off his relationship with his lover in England because his lover had sympathy for what Harry was experiencing, but no empathy.
The book is not for everyone, I'm sure. It's not a highly charged adventure novel full of blood, guts, and sex. But it is a wonderful exposition that makes you think about the human condition and the struggles we all go through with some aspect of ourselves that we feel are condemned by society, and the losses of loved ones that we must inevitably experience.
Most recent customer reviews
`A portrait of a rich, effete sissy-boy.' That was my verdict on The Stone Boat when it first appeared two decades ago.Read more