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Winslow in Love Hardcover – February 15, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It would be hard to imagine two more unlikely people to end up being in love with each other than Winslow and Erika, but they are, indeed, in some kind of love in Kevin Canty's Winslow in Love. Winslow is a poet whose life isn't working: his wife, June Leaf, is floating away from him; he hasn't written anything worthwhile for more than a year; he drinks and smokes too much; is fat and out of shape; depressed, morose--basically, a mess. Then, like a deus ex machina, deliverance of a sort appears. Winslow is offered a position teaching creative writing for a semester at a Montana University. (Canty teaches creative writing at the University of Montana.) Winslow is broke, stuck, and doesn't have a better idea, so he accepts the offer.

He and June drive to Montana together, but she leaves almost immediately, never to be heard from again. Winslow meets his students, all poet wannabes, and zeroes in on a pin-thin, tattooed girl half his age named Erika. She is bright, confrontational, and damaged. She drops into his office for Johnny Walker in a paper cup and Winslow quickly realizes that she is at least as troubled as he is. One of the other faculty members tells him that they are all worried about her: she is clearly starving herself to death and an alcoholic in the bargain. A perfect companion for Winslow in his current dark night of the soul.

In the hands of some novelists this would be just another dysfunctional relationship based on booze. Kevin Canty makes it gut-wrenchingly real, like the best of the blues, which Winslow loves and Erika can't stand. During a semester break, they take off in Winslow's Lincoln Town Car, the last relic of a past life and go south. Canty is a master at showing us the landscape, exterior and interior. Whether he is rhapsodizing about fly fishing--and these are the best lines about that since A River Runs Through It--or describing a hangover, a regret, a lost opportunity, he brings the moment to life: its beauty, ridiculousness, and poignancy. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

For Richard Winslow, a depressed, alcoholic poet suffering from writer's block and the waning tolerance of his wife, June Leaf, a semester-long visiting poet gig at a Montana college promises, if nothing else, $25,000 in the bank. June drops him off in the beautiful, frozen hell that's Athens, Mont., in January; shortly thereafter, she leaves him for good. But in his first poetry class, Winslow meets Erika Jones, a talented, pierced and tattooed 20-year-old poet who is slowly starving and drinking herself to death. Though more than two decades separate them, Erika and Winslow begin to cautiously connect: student-teacher conferences over cups of Johnny Walker lead to verbal and physical sparring matches as each of them mistrustfully tries to care for the other. Their courtship culminates in a rambling road trip across America, ending in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it finally becomes clear to them that much more than friendship is at stake. Grim but moving evocations of the dark bars in "poisoned town[s]" preserve a rainy-day-despondency, though Canty (Nine Below Zero, etc.) offers glimmers of light as Richard and Erika lean toward life and intimacy. Though the final chapters leave readers suspended between a foreshadowed but deeply saddening death and an optimistic if sudden conclusion, Canty's novel is a powerful story of the way that hope can transform even the bleakest of lives.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1st edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385513661
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Winslow in Love opens with a picture of a failing poet in the throes of alcohol, fatigue and depression. While working his way through a college teaching job he fell into for a semester (and with the threat of unemployment and poverty looming), Winslow meets a female student who exhibits a sort of depression-by-numbers portrait of a young liberal arts creative writing major. The two change each other's lives through a hazy series of drunken arguments and quiet moments in motels along the highway throughout Montana, Utah and Arizona. In the end, I was certainly left with a gray cloud hanging over my head for a few days. And certainly the ability to evoke emotion-- of any kind-- is one of my criteria for good prose.

Canty is a beautiful and concise writer who can bring out some amazing dialogue from his characters. In one scene, Winslow and his soon to be ex-wife are meeting the dean of the college he is about to teach at:
"'We live in a commercial world,' said Walrath, "It's the only denominator we have anymore, success and money. The only way of keeping track. Once upon a time you could be virtuous, or daring or great. You could even keep score using poetry--look at Keats, never had a nickel, died a happy man, more or less. Now it's all money.'"

As graceful as Canty is, I couldn't help remembering the praise other authors heaped on this book on the back jacket. The word "Cliché" popped up twice, both times assuring readers that this book was not clichéd. However, this might be the thousandth book that started out with the failing artist with alcohol problem having their lives changed by (the middle-aged male ego fantasy of) the troubled woman falling in love with them. Sound familiar?
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Format: Hardcover
This is an absorbing novel. My being a Canty fan, incidentally, may make me more, not less, credible. That's because, for me, Canty has a higher and higher bar to clear with each successive work. I thought "Nine Below Zero" was a very strong novel, and I think "Winslow In Love" is similarly compelling. I wish Canty would write books every two weeks, like Joyce Carol Oates. Then again, if he did, maybe his characters wouldn't stick in your head after you finish his work. I still think about Winlsow from time to time, weeks since I've finished the novel. Of course, that may just mean it's time to check myself into the hospital to have my meds tweaked again? Read this book. It's powerful.
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Format: Paperback
This is quite the novel, bordering on brilliant at times.

Winslow is a down and out, unemployed, alcoholic poet who gets a substitute teaching position as a sabbatical replacement at a Montana college. Shortly after arriving there from Oregon, his wife packs her bags and leaves him.

In and out of his alcoholic stupor, he becomes obsessed with a female graduate student who is emaciated and has multiple piercings. They begin an affair but the relationship is difficult for both of them because they each have so much baggage and Winslow is much older than she is. Because of these things, it is often difficult for them to connect.

Through a series of tragic and life-affirming events their relationship ends but Winslow is forever within her circle and we are led to believe that she is saved from herself.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the latest book (both in terms of publishing and in order that I've read) that I've added to my "book club", that is to say, my favorite books--books that I think everyone should own, or at least read at least once. This is a very poetical book. Canty's prose is a lyrical prose. It's a melancholy book that has a certain hopeful hopelessness to it. It's the story of an over-the-hill, overweight poet who is past his artistic prime who gets a teaching position in an out of the way school. His marriage is over as is his career. He has lost his talent and his life to alcoholism. While at this school he meets a troubled young student. These two people are drawn to each other and in each other find each other's salvation, of a sorts. It's a haunting story, one that ranks with any of the finest pieces of literature written. This is a book that you simply must read. And the cover art fits the story wonderfully.
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