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A Regular Guy [Paperback]

Mona Simpson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 15 1997 Vintage Contemporaries
Mona Simpson's first two novels, Anywhere But Here and The Lost Father, won her literary renown and a wide following. Now, in her third novel, the narrator Ann Atassi has been replaced by a third-person narrator recounting the adventures of young Jane di Natali, but the theme remains the same: the search for, and the attempt to understand, the absent father.

This time the father is a millionaire biotechnology magnate named Tom Owens.  Into Owens's charmed life comes Jane, born out of wedlock, raised in communes, and now dispatched into  his care by a mother who is no longer capable of providing it; Tom is far from ready for this responsibility. Fans of Simpson's previous novels will not be disappointed by this excursion into the cracked world of family relations.

"Simpson is an attentive observer and a fluent stylist, but it is the element of subtle surprise that draws us through these pages, the magnetism of an original mind that holds us fast."
--Booklist

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From Amazon

Mona Simpson's first two novels, Anywhere but Here and The Lost Father, won her literary renown and a wide following. Now, in her third novel, the narrator Ann Atassi has been replaced by a third-person narrator recounting the adventures of young Jane di Natali, but the theme remains the same: the search for, and the attempt to understand, the absent father. This time the father is a millionaire biotechnology magnate named Tom Owens--loosely based, perhaps, on Steven Jobs, Mona Simpson's half-brother and the founder of Apple Computers. Fans of Simpson's previous novels will not be disappointed by this excursion into the cracked world of family relations. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A daughter obsessed with an estranged father, the governing theme of Simpson's uneven last novel, The Lost Father, becomes in her latest a springboard for a luminous family saga about the overreaching ambitions of a boyish Silicon Valley tycoon and his vexed relationship with an illegitimate, adolescent daughter. Echoes of the Book of Genesis resonate throughout the novel, lending it an enchanting, allegorical air without overwhelming the uneasy, acutely observed family chemistry that is its focal point. Tom Owens, a brilliantly imagined hybrid of Bill Gates and Jay Gatsby, is a Harvard dropout whose Midas-like good luck has turned Genesis, the biotech firm he launched in his parents basement, into a Fortune 500 company. At 30, having long since written off his provincial high-school girlfriend, Mary, and their daughter, Jane, Owens has become an unabashed philanderer and an aspirant to political office. At the novel's outset, Mary, who gave birth to Jane in a rustic commune in Gray Star, Ore., and whose nomadic and flaky approach to mothering is a Simpson hallmark, teaches her 10-year-old daughter to drive and sends her over the Sierra mountains in a rusty truck to live with Owens in Alta. A fictitious North California university town, Alta is part of a paradisal landscape of rolling fruit orchards, flower and herb gardens and lush, suburban lawns. There, Moses-like, Jane is discovered asleep in the backyard of Owens's overgrown mansion by his friend Noah Kaskie, an academic scientist stricken at birth with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta and confined to a wheelchair. Reluctant to accept the half-feral, precocious Jane as his own, Owens summons Mary to Alta and surreptitiously installs them in a bungalow. Jane has inherited from Owens "a quality of beseechment so imperative that everywhere she and her mother lived, a small circle of people formed around them, each one believing it was her or his responsibility to help this one child on her way." As Owens gradually grants Jane a larger role in his life, she pulls together a dysfunctional, ad-hoc family of her own, including Owens's longtime girlfriend, Olivia, as well as Noah and Mary. In Simpson's creation myth, the fruit of the tree of knowledge is money. As Noah's genetic research is contrasted with the business of trademarking and selling proteins at Genesis, Owens comes into sharp focus as a Northern Pacific entrepreneurial everyman, speaking a language of callow boosterism ("New York's over, Noah... The center of the country's here, now") and unable to relate to his family and friends except through gifts and transactions carried out by an accountant. A centerpiece of the novel is his 30th-birthday party, a lavish Gatsbyan affair to which Jane and Mary aren't invited. When Exodus,Owens's bold new initiative at Genesis, fails, he is abruptly ousted by the company's new president. In the novel's bittersweet coda, however, it's clear that Owens's exile from Genesis and Jane's simultaneous rejection of her hippyish mother's mountain heritage are what allow them to come together as father and daughter. Ultimately it is Simpson's delicate grasp of family planning and misplanning, of legitimate versus illegitimate parenting and the machinations of creativity and selling-out that make this rich and winding story so mesmerizing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Mona Simpson Aug. 4 2003
Format:Paperback
After reading somewhat tepid reviews of this novel, I was expecting to be disappointed with it. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. First of all, it is beautifully written, with some enchanting and poetic turns of phrase throughout. Narratively, it is, at times, a little difficult to follow, and there isn't a tremendous amount of engaging narrative flow to the plot. But it is a wonderful character study and coming of age story.
I found the portrayal of the characters to be creative and original. I felt that I knew each of them very well by the end of the book. And contrary to other reviews, I cared about many of them. And there is a wide-eyed freshness to the book mostly through the eyes of Jane, who I saw as the main character of the book (it could be argued that it is Owens, her father).
There's a lot in this book, and the ride is at times bumpy. But it is consistently satisfying and better than most of the novels that are out there. If you are looking for a straightforward, no nonsense novel, this is not it. But if you want to stretch your mind a bit, the rewards are tremendous!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm... July 24 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this novel surprisingly hard to finish or to keep my interest in as I turned the pages. After Anywhere But Here, and her short stories, I kept looking at the cover to make sure it really was a Simpson book. None of the main characters pulled me in, and I never really got a feel for what this novel was about. The narration seemed clunky and uninspired - and much of it read like a first draft, the important parts having not been figured out and clarified yet. This had no energy to it, compared to her other work.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not a regular Mona Simpson novel. Feb. 19 2002
Format:Paperback
Mona Simpson's spare writing style was often confusing. I couldn't keep the characters straight and had to reread passages. I struggled about a third of the way through and finally gave up when my mind began to wander. There's too many good novels on my reading stack to waste time on this one. Too bad. I liked Anywhere But Here.
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