Lucy and Todd

Archive for the ‘Reviews of Our Books’ Category

The Five Simple Machines

In Reviews of Our Books on April 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Nicholas Lezard’s Book of the Week in the Guardian!

Craig Raine on the radio last week came up with a phrase that captured nicely the common English reaction to a novel that is not rigidly conventional. “Why, that novel isn’t even wearing a suit!” (He was talking apropos Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.) Well, this novel isn’t wearing a suit. Actually, it’s not even a novel: it is six separate narratives, and they are certainly not wearing suits. They are, figuratively speaking, wearing loud Hawaiian shirts and holding improbably large cocktails and being incredibly indiscreet – and making you laugh until you wonder whether you can take much more.

By which I do not mean that there is anything tacky about them: the prose is tight, even when it looks colloquially sloppy. Todd McEwen can get you to laugh, simply by the quick spin he puts on someone’s turn of phrase. Here is one narrator describing how he introduced two senior clergymen to each other at a convention: “And this, I said, is Bishop Staunton. We’ve met, said my uncle, strangely, and they sneered at each other.” You may not find that in and of itself hilarious, but here’s the context: an ex‑girlfriend of the narrator’s, whom we already know to be a little odd, had left him 10 years earlier for this Bishop Staunton chap, on account of his having (a) the largest known collection of gnostic literature on the eastern seaboard of the US (“but how large does it have to be, I said, to be the largest known etc”), and (b) an improbably enormous penis (“proportionately as knobful ivory and stiff as the Staunton chess piece of the same name”).

Or how about something more conventionally, if that is the word, funny? On people in the BDSM “scene”: “There’s an entire race of people out there with dungeons in their garages. They publish very bad magazines about this – they are called Fake Dungeons Monthly and Stupid Looking Dungeons and Slobs in Rubber.”

So, the stories in this book about reminiscences of sex: relationships that went bad, or were ridiculous, or were mismatches – there’s one about a marriage that seems to be working, yet is still radically unsatisfactory.

The titles are “six so-called mechanical powers – the lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, screw and inclined plane”. The explanation for the confusion arising from the six mentioned here and the big red “5” on the front cover comes in an italicised form under the chapter headed “Wedge”: “It is well known that, strictly speaking, the wedge is only an application of the inclined plane. But.” And then we’re off: a story in which the girlfriend wears wedge shoes, her car looks like a wedge, and there are wedges driven between the characters.

McEwen is not afraid to alert us to any possible metaphorical or secondary applications of the terms he uses. You should see what he does with “Screw”. No, really, you should: McEwen knows what he is doing – this is his fifth novel, and I recommend the others, too. I gave a brief thumbs-up to McX: A Romance of the Dour 15 years or so ago, but this is much more chatty, fluid, and, once you accustom yourself to its varying rhythms, hilarious.

This is a rare kind of humour: it is not only a matter of verbal deftness – a word, or a comma, popping up unexpectedly – but of intelligence, lightly applied. Says a narrator admiring his girlfriend’s autumn outfit: “Wow, I thought, who has not seen thee oft amid thy store?” – which is sweet and charming to boot. Another character, whose girlfriend works in Wall Street and doesn’t understand her job (this one’s set in the 1980s, I’d say), chats up a different woman in a bar: “he listened to her describe her job and realised she didn’t understand it.” These stories manage to be unflaggingly funny, yet never wearisome: the tonal control is complete. And the deeper message is that laughter is a cure. I have the best job in the world because I can tell thousands of you at the same time about this book, instead of having to tell everyone individually.

(Nicholas Lezard, Guardian, April 2, 2013)

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

******

This beautifully produced little book is about sex.

It is not about sex in a way that puts it at any risk of being nominated for the ludicrous Bad Sex Award that acknowledges the clumsiness of some novelists when they feel the need to join their characters between the sheets. Nor is it anything to do with the sort of erotic fantasy that made 50 Shades Of Grey a Kindle hit. In fact, it takes time to ridicule people who find diversion in the paraphernalia of manacles, whips and chains and have fake dungeons in their garage instead of a car and a lawnmower.

Doubtless such folk would retort that McEwen’s way with sex is “vanilla”, but more of us might regard it as adult, realistic and recognisable (even when it is dealing with the juvenilia of real life) – and remark that vanilla is surely the gold standard for ice-cream. As much, if not rather more, to the point is that it is beautifully written and extremely funny. The conceit of these six narratives of sexual relationships is that they are titled after the six simple machines that demonstrate mechanical power – the lever, the wheel, the screw, the wedge, the pulley and the inclined plane. The discrepancy the more numerate reader will have picked up on between the title and the number of tales is explained (sort of) by the debatable distinction between the wedge and the inclined plane as a mechanical device. McEwen may not be 100% serious about this, but he is fastidious about the extended metaphor of the book.

Pulley begins with the words: “Got to raise something heavy here.” By which time we are well in on the joke, as well as the ones about the actress and bishop and the narrator hoist by his own petard. Screw does not eschew the obvious, but it is also a stream of consciousness that embraces being screwed up and being screwed, in every sense, as well as the manufacture of the actual objects for fixings. Wedge clads the object of its affection in appropriate footwear even as it documents the dividing agents being forced into the relationship. Wheel proves highly informative about the mechanisms of early merry-go-rounds. The opening tale, Lever, plunges straight in, examining the physical and mental tumescence of a narrator fascinated by his own apparatus, and the very mechanics of fornication.

Perhaps that makes McEwen’s writing sound cold, when it is anything but. There is a palpable affection for his characters, even when they are plainly misguided, obsessive or barking (up the wrong tree). Names are important, and sometimes particularly in their absence (“girlfriend”) or their masking of a true identity. It is never just the description of carnal activity that is explicit – the appetite for self-deception can be every bit as seductive as the appetite for sex.

It is tempting to draw conclusions about the author’s own self-awareness in some of the clarity of the analysis in all this, but there is no hard evidence for that, really. I fancy, nonetheless, that there is more than an element of autobiography in the closing meditation on “inclination”.

Elsewhere, the voices of the stories and the sharp, concise portraits of the characters are as much of a delight and McEwen, as readers of any of his work will know, has a remarkable gift for the startlingly original and yet instantly comprehensible descriptive phrase. I have been squirrelling away some of these phrases for future use. I hope to use them to impress women. You’ll have guessed why.

(Keith Bruce, Herald, May 4, 2013)

====================

The Seven Deadly Sins, published by Union Books in November, 2012 (see “Woman’s Hour”, Radio 4, Nov. 28), contains an essay by Todd on SLOTH.

Here’s an extract:

‘Every day when I went off to school, my mother said, ‘Don’t doddle on the way home’. I didn’t know what doddling was, though in moral Sloth I promised not to. When I finally found out it was dawdling (I think I asked the ice cream man) I was filled with resentment that they thought me capable of it. I was a nervous kid and I really shot home every day to the safety of our arid house and television and my cat, who was rather good at relaxing and so was a comfort to me (are cats thought to be Slothful?).

Is worry Sloth? I suspect that it is.’

What reviewers said:

‘The border between sloth and laziness is wittily patrolled by Todd McEwen, who philosophises on fulfilling potential, and makes a rousing polemic on political idleness.’  (Anita Sethi, Observer)

‘The self-confessedly slothful Todd McEwen offers a quirky riff on the topic that includes a trip to the zoo, where he comes face to face with his animal counterpart, Choloepus hoffmanni. “Was there something admirable in this little chap, I thought, or at least some slap in the face for the Bible?” Well, sloths don’t put much energy into reproduction, typically managing only one offspring. They are too lazy to be gluttonous: Instead of searching for food, they wait for the wind to waft them across to the next tree. (“Surely this is the apogee of calmness, if not out-and-out Buddhism.”) It soon becomes clear that if universally applied, the sin of sloth could, with a minimal outlay of effort, disable the other deadly six, leaving a world of harmless couch potatoes. And there we have it, sinners: the problem of human morality solved.  (Elizabeth Lowry, Wall Street Journal)
******

And the Spanish translation of Todd’s first novel, Fisher’s Hornpipe, has just been published by Automatica Editorial to great acclaim. The title in Spain is Boston. It’s good in English too! One of the funniest things ever written.

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Praise for Mimi

In Reviews of Our Books on February 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Mimi is ringing with love and rage and hope. Ellmann’s best sentences are so springy and rhythmic, they make you think of a Slinky coursing down the sweet spot of a staircase, happy as Larry.’ (Susie Boyt, Independent)
‘…even as Mimi gaily batters the reader into submission, she does so with such charm, wit and ingenuity that it’s rarely less than a delight… There’s plenty to take issue with here, but you suspect that Ellmann wouldn’t have it otherwise. And can you think of another novel that includes paeans to quilts, Matisse and homemade jam? Worth celebrating.’ (Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail)
‘A wildly hilarious, modern film noir in fiction form, it’s the sort of novel you love or hate immediately. I loved every minute.’ (Viv Groskop, Sunday Telegraph)
‘A lively, sweet, funny tale of well-off Manhattanites in love … For all its satire and tricksy inter-textuality … this is simply a big happy book about loving women. Now that’s shocking.’ (Melissa Katsoulis, Times)
‘Neurotic, crazy, and fun, with a love story, too.’ (Vogue)
‘Funny, angry, sarcastic and utterly individual, Ellmann has been described as “one of modern literature’s most well-kept secrets”. ‘ (Alison Flood, Observer)
‘This breakneck fable of love and loss has an energy that captivates … A true original, a love story with lashings of horror and a whimsical tour de force. It might leave you exasperated or exhausted but will certainly make you think … Ellmann’s writing is fearless in its experimentation: a whistle-stop tour of the paraphernalia that litters all our minds. Oddments that most of us notice and discard are here burnished into literary devices … Mimi is at its best when Ellmann uses her innovative style and light touch to highlight society’s darkest truths’ (Alice Fishburn, Financial Times)
‘A lively ride … It is tempting to describe Ellmann as a quirky writer, but this book goes deeper. It is bolshy, life-affirming, feminist and energetic. It makes you long to chuck your job, gulp oysters and run naked through the surf. This is all wonderful.’ (Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times)

‘So much of the charm of Ellmann’s eccentric take on the world lies in the common ground it makes with the equally frustrated reader; who among us, after all, hasn’t vainly yearned to love and be loved?’ (Laura Miller, Guardian)

‘Ellmann had me eating out of her hand … 182 pages of chortling, misty-eyed delight … Delicious, delicate confection … Ellmann’s writing is richly imaginative.’ (Charlotte Moore, Spectator)

‘The rich layering of literary and artistic references adds depth to this portrait of shallow lives. In exuberant, exhilarating prose that carries a substantial cargo of humour and wit, this cutting social satire anatomises an era and, by focusing on a man who alters human bodies, offers an X-ray of the curious workings of the mind.’ (Anita Sethi, New Statesman)

‘Like Lucky Jim, Mimi is a comic novel that climaxes in a bravura public address which does not go according to plan … Not many people could write about a cloudless love affair with such aplomb.’ (Suzi Feay, Literary Review)
‘Mimi is the story of a New York plastic surgeon who dreads making public speeches and the woman who knows she can help him overcome his fears. A delightfully playful, upbeat, erotic and meaningful work.’ (Rosemary Goring, the Herald)
‘In what is surely an early contender for 2013’s Book of the Year, Lucy Ellmann once again turns the comic novel into a work of the highest art … Ellmann’s sharp, funny, clever Manhattan tale … If Mimi is about anything, it is about family, sisters and female power, all wrapped up in a fairy tale where every word works magic to show a superlative comic novel embodying tragedy and all the human emotions. It may be Ellmann’s finest novel yet.’ (Lesley McDowell, Herald)
‘Her extraordinary new novel … is, amongst many things, a love letter to New York.’ (Chitra Ramaswamy, Scotsman)
‘A gleefully weird novel full of mischief and meaning.’ (Malcolm Jack, the List)
‘It’s difficult to write objectively or reasonably about Mimi…such is my passion for it.’ (Emma Herdman, The Bookseller)
‘A modern love story that packs a punch. This is the ultimate love story of our age … The antithesis of all the clichéd romances of contemporary novels and films … A feminist text disguised as a page-turning novel … Fans of Caitlin Moran will find the Valentine’s Day chapter in particular a real distillation of feminism for our time, perfectly masquerading as a story that will have you laughing at every other page … Some beautiful and original writing. Mimi doesn’t just set out ideals, it also offers great advice and terrific phrases … Ellmann’s first book in six years is a triumph for feminism, and deserves to become a classic’ (Emma Herdman, Psychologies)
‘With its saucy take on the perpetually perplexing battle of the sexes, Ellmann’s zany, zestful contemporary romantic comedy pulses with sultry steaminess and titillating humor.’ (Booklist)
‘Lucy Ellmann returns with her characteristically zany, high-wire prose, crafting a narrative that is funny, thought-provoking, sexy, sweet, and ultimately hugely satisfying.’ (Barnes & Noble)

‘This must be one of the most enjoyable novels ever. I laughed out loud, I re-read pages, I admired the richness, the playfulness and the touching warmth. Mimi is a rare read – an intelligent romantic comedy, artistic and sophisticated. The novel makes a claim for the most overlooked and undervalued pleasures of life – women’s minds, women’s bodies and most of all women’s company. But it does this with an eloquence and a cheekiness that is a joy to experience. There are only two things now needed to complete the perfection: a literary prize as hefty as its heroine and Mimi – The Movie.’  (Leila Aboulela, Amazon)

‘YES! I’m throwing all my woolly winter berets in the air for Mimi! Only Lucy at her best is able, somehow, to rap on in a manner that binds together Bugs Bunny and Wagner, Haydn and hunchbacks…’ (Barbara Trapido)

‘I am bowled over by Mimi.. Most of all, it is wonderful about love.’ (Susannah Clapp)
‘I am not much on humor — i.e., satirically energized  always talented frontal assaults on social irritants and abuses and the like. I accept the genre but have often thought it narrow for the novel, though as we know, the novel arises in part from it, from social critique, and thus from some of the motives of satire. Anyway I was delighted and even moved by the inventive targets and voice of your book and the language … &  many many moments of curious surprise that are not satirical at all — when H “wanders into the bathroom.” … The fiction of it all is delicious and the first real destruction of Canterbury in literature that I know of.’ (Joseph McElroy)
‘There is a fire in this book but that’s not what makes it incendiary. There are doctors in this book but that’s not what makes it healing. There is a glorious love story at the centre of this novel but that’s not why there should be a copy under every woman’s pillow. There is sex (good!) and violence (bad!) depicted as they should be, but that’s not why men should read this book just before bedtime. This is a roaring beast of a text which prods us and shakes us out of our media-induced TORPOR of fake modernity (or modernist fakery?). It takes us on an emotional adventure of epic proportions and then invites us to take arms against a sea of terrorists…’ (Suzy Romer)

Sloth

In Reviews of Our Books on December 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Anita Sethi wrote in the Observer about Todd’s essay in The Seven Deadly Sins (Union Books, ed. Rosalind Porter, pub. November, 2012):

‘The border between sloth and laziness is wittily patrolled by Todd McEwen, who philosophises on fulfilling potential, and makes a rousing polemic on political idleness.’

Reviews of LUCY ELLMANN

In Reviews of Our Books on February 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

SWEET DESSERTS

[Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize]

Sweet Desserts was widely praised, but outright rapture would have been more appropriate. The book starts out as an enchantment and ends as a bad dream, without ceasing to be funny.
Clive James   Observer

A triumph … there isn’t a sentimental evasion or a dull bit of writing in the book … Lucy Ellmann is an original.
Judy Cooke   Guardian

Lucy Ellmann does write a lovely novel. She knits the inner and outer worlds together with a natural grace: a kind of conversational elegance. An enviable skill, and an enchanting, enchanted book.
Fay Weldon

…Ms. Ellmann demonstrates that she is not merely a clever collage maker, but a gifted writer capable of exploring the tragedies as well as the absurdities of family life.
Michiko Kakutani   New York Times

Droll, drastically honest, deeply moving—the real thing.
Craig Raine

VARYING DEGREES OF HOPELESSNESS

Imagine Anita Brookner on acid, and you’ll get a vague idea of the delicacy, charm and sheer dottiness of Lucy Ellmann’s Varying Degrees of Hopelessness … This is a novel like nothing else; an irresistible cocktail of satire, slapstick and tenderness.
Kate Saunders   Cosmopolitan

A liberating and richly inventive farce.
Jonathan Coe   Guardian

Funny and furious … her merry little novel is a vehicle for disgust … Lucy Ellmann is clever and very angry.
Victoria Glendinning   The Times

Perhaps it takes such a hybrid to revivify the English novel … There is a kind of magic in the realism of Lucy Ellmann.
Victoria Radin   New Statesman

A beautiful thing.
Nick Hornby   Sunday Times 

MAN OR MANGO?

Hilarious … razor-sharp wit. Ellmann transcends the novel form—she’s in a class of her own.
Cosmopolitan

An anarchic lament of such scope and intensity that it has an almost vertiginous quality… It also boasts dazzling jokes … brilliant.
Susie Boyt   Independent

Fabulously funny … caus(ing) bouts of loud and real laughter to go off inside you like fireworks … an unforgettable read.
Book of the Month, Irish Tatler

To read it is bliss … turning its pages brings little palpitations of pleasure and moments of happy surrender to an artful and uninhibited tale of human desperation.
Patricia Deevy   Image

Bold, wayward, fantastical … so anarchic, and so finely balanced … reminds one of Sterne, or Montaigne.
Jane Shilling  The Times

Furious wit, sly compassion and originality … the sheer verve of her imagination … leaves the reader with … giddy wonder.
Jennifer Duncan   Now Magazine 

A true poet … Ellmann is a bright and shining talent.
Meredith Phillips   Austin Chronicle

DOT IN THE UNIVERSE

Lucy Ellmann’s delightfully dotty novel is a fantastical flight across life, death and the universe… Reading Ellmann is to be taken on a subversive adventure by a bad-tempered fairy. Rarely has there been such a mischievous affirmation of the meaninglessness of existence.
Lisa Allardice   The Telegraph

…it’s fun, it’s rich, it’s funny. It’s the kind of novel you don’t want to read alone, in silence, which is infuriating for any poor soul who wanders into the room only to be grabbed and read the good bits. And it’s all kind of poetic, as if over the years Ellmann had acquired a real, lyrical confidence, a fearless rhythm of her own.
Julie Myerson   Guardian

One of the funniest, most mordant and perfectly formed books I’ve read.                                                                                                                                                         Ali Smith

If you can picture Larry David as a ditsy, suicidal blonde living in England and collecting tea cozies, then you have a pretty good idea of Dot Butser, the heroine of Lucy Ellmann’s batty and highly amusing screed of a novel.
Michiko Kakutani   New York Times

Ellmann is better than just clever. She is a genuinely (if sneakily) humane novelist.
Claire Dederer   New York Times

DOCTORS & NURSES

…A CAPITAL case of comic genius.
Michael Bywater   Independent

In her scabrously funny Doctors and Nurses, Lucy Ellmann takes Jane Eyre, transposes it to a modern-day doctor’s surgery, spikes its drink, and does something unspeakable to its sleeping form.
Sam Leith   Telegraph

…it’s somehow hard not to be optimistic in the hands of a writer so angry and intelligent … Doctors and Nurses is a novel bracingly alive, making more polite books seem cadaverous by comparison.
Patrick Ness    The Guardian

I begin to suspect she may be some sort of genius.
Victoria Lane    Telegraph

Reviews of TODD McEWEN

In Reviews of Our Books on February 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

FISHER’S HORNPIPE

El demento supremo! Todd McEwen not only has a black belt in comedy, he can turn a phrase on two wheels and blow diamond dust out of the exhaust pipe.
Tom Robbins

Todd McEwen has a voice like no other. Something like Thoreau on laughing gas.
Dan Cryer  Newsday

The impossible has happened! Someone has made Yankees funny.
Rita Mae Brown

McEwen leaves you breathless …pitilessly funny … McEwen is a social satirist, with a constitutional dislike for trendiness and a deadly ear for cant.
Adam Gussow  Saturday Review

It kept me laughing—actually writhing—more consistently than anything I’ve ever read, seen, or heard.
Grey City Journal

McX

…a helter-skelter, scattershot novel, wisecracking and menacing from the first word to the last; a cosmic comic strip of desperation, anguish and desolation. … It’s hilarious. It’s like Saul Bellow, Groucho Marx, Harry Lauder and Bill Shankley brawling it out in a room full of funhouse mirrors. It’s the first great novel of the Nineties.
Jon Wilde  Blitz

A fondly splenetic lament over Scotland …the language is passionate, moving, even lyrical…wildly funny at times. But it’s also bitterly sad—lament as much as satire. “McX” is a … masterpiece.
James Idema  The Chicago Tribune

… a wickedly funny book … that nimbly threads its way through the cold granite of Scotland, which is as much a state of mind as it is a country. … There are echoes of Joyce, of Flann O’Brien, and above all, the giggling Beckett. … McEwen easily fits right in with these writers who found humor in the banal, in the grime of existence, and who elevated it to greatness. … It is a wild, tumbling freefall of black humor, of emotions untethered and of ultimate redemption.
Tiernan Henry  Duluth News-Tribune

A brilliantly inventive and savagely funny satirical novel about low life in contemporary Scotland … The language is playfully funny, the satire cruel and wounding. It’s a novel … James Joyce or Dylan Thomas would have adored: verbally brilliant, witty, brutally accurate.
Robert Carver  The New Statesman

…the most inventive and funny novel I have read this year. The effect is almost as if Joyce had rewritten a Road Runner cartoon.
Richard Rayner  The Sunday Telegraph

…one of the few real writers around.
Lucy Ellmann  The Guardian

…a first-rate satire of the Scottish scene; simultaneously hilarious, savage, accurate and…affectionate. … I couldn’t stop laughing. The man has a brilliant sense of comedy… “McX” is in a class with and spiritually akin to Hugh MacDiarmid’s great poem, “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle”. “McX” is probably the best depiction of the modern Scottish character yet written.
Edward S. Margerum  The Los Angeles Times

Todd McEwen’s first novel revealed how horrible Boston is. His second, McX, tells us how depressing it is to be Scottish. McEwen…has also travelled in the Soviet Union and Holland, so it may be that we can expect future bulletins on the forlorn condition of the Russian soul and the tedium of being Dutch. If so, I shall be among his readers, for the theme of Caledonian gloom can rarely have been treated with such wit and casual brilliance as here. …a brilliant fantasia on Scottish themes, part-diatribe, part-farce, part-romantic elegy. All these different registers are handled with the same poetic and unself-conscious acuity. …a minor miracle of compressed observation… It is…ironic…that it should have taken an outsider to provide such a graphic and pawky portrait of  the Scots mentality.
John Kemp  Literary Review

ARITHMETIC

Nature may have lain about Wordsworth in his infancy but Joe Lake’s surroundings are about as natural as processed cheese… McEwen’s portrayal of the avuncular Walt [Disney] as merely a front for a faceless and grasping conglomerate throws the American dream into sharp relief …a handful of belly-laughs lurking in his skillfully-paced prose. Arithmetic…is a fascinating addition to the canon [of novels about childhood].                          The Scotsman

Arithmetic is a quirky cry from smalltown America. Joe’s eclectic child’s mind is constantly skipping from topic to topic, from the transcendent beauties of Favourite Teacher to the evils of arithmetic, to the vast oppressiveness of the solar system. Dryly whimsical … and engaging read.                                          Joanna Griffiths  Observer

…underneath the energetic one-liners and light-hearted treatment, there is the sense of a more mature psychology at work; one that invents brightly lit, cartoonish scenarios in order to show how scary real life really is. Arithmetic = Joe’s “crappy feelings”, but it also adds up to McEwen’s mastery of the comic novel about childhood.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Independent on Sunday

Todd McEwen portrays a young boy growing up in a bullish America, where technology is believed to be the philosopher’s stone. He adopts the child’s-eye view superbly, shifting the scenes quickly and fluidly in imitation of Joe’s roving mind. Arithmetic is itself like the cartoons it celebrates: bright, colourful, always charming, and often very funny.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Times Literary Supplement

…this short but charming novel…create[s] a fluent impression of childhood consciousness. Writing from a child’s perspective is notoriously difficult…but the effect is convincing. More than this, the novel is extremely funny … exquisite.                                                                                                                                       Sunday Times

WHO SLEEPS WITH KATZ

Thank the many gods of Manhattan for Todd McEwen, whose magnificent fourth novel, Who Sleeps with Katz, is a belligerently witty, dazzling and oddly touching homage to New York … He plays with language with evident joy and the result is a book as refreshing as a dry martini on a hot New York night.
Anna Carey   The Irish Times

Who Sleeps with Katz is just about the best thing I’ve read all year.
Ed Park  The Village Voice

Only page three and already you’re blown away… If fiction lives or dies on ‘the voice’, then this one’s immortal… A heart-breaking, funny, sadness-tinged journey into a life lived, a life expiring, the meaning of life. Phenomenal.
Uncut

Some passages of this book I read ten times, and then called people and read again, aloud. Who Sleeps with Katz cries out for a world in which a man might live his life with nobility and self-respect. Its complaints are against the powers that would degrade us: Seattle, television, girls named Debbie. It is a celebration of that by which we are elevated: martinis, the city, waiters. And it is a meditation on that which would do both: tobacco.
Max Watman   The New York Sun

… one of the funniest things I’ve read. He offers ferocious wit, a stream of magnificent sentences, something to savour on every page, and a blissful knowledge of what really matters in life … Who could ask for more?
Josh Lacey   The Guardian

What we are dealing with here is a classic. … Who Sleeps with Katz is not only one of the great New York novels, it’s also one of the few novels that can be reasonably called ‘Joycean’. … McEwen has every faith that words can catch things as evanescent as smoke. And maybe that evanescence is why Who Sleeps with Katz has more of a sense of mortality than nearly any novel I’ve read in recent years. … It’s as great and sad a love song as the city has ever inspired.
Charles Taylor   Salon