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The Hair of Harold Roux Paperback – Feb 10 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University Press Of New England; New edition edition (Feb. 10 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087451701X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874517019
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.1 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,184,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Thomas Williams has written a brilliant book that everyone should read--The Hair of Harold Roux. It is probably the finest of all Williams' novels. Written as a novel-within-a-novel, both stores involve the reader. It's one of my favorite books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
our adventures, after a time, are mostly fantasies Nov. 27 2007
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Hair of Harold Roux is a lost classic. I had to recall it from the Library Annex. The last time my copy was in reading hands was 1983. William's novel explores both misspent youth and middle age in this novel about a novelist which could have easily descended into the uninteresting or banal. But Williams pulls it off, partly through the vibrant portraits of the virginal Mary and the randy Naomi, in the novel-within-a-novel. Here, ugly characterizations of women and minorities may be one reason for the relative obscurity of this work. But there is no authorial commitment to these views: it is a work of fantasy within a work of fantasy and safe from endorsement. All in all, the novel illustrates how time can reduce men and women as mirrors reflecting their memories.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Everyman June 30 2011
By Paul G. Gigas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Hair of Harold Roux, a book by Thomas Williams, is the most consistently interesting book I have ever read. It puts forth first and foremost characters who are so alive and surprising they never lose their interest. They vibrate whether crude or kindly through their times. Just as you think you have met a character whose reality can be matched by no other along comes another one human and real beyond imagination. Thomas Williams has the classic skill of brevity and simplicity. His style is the style of his characters whose speech lives. Williams is a master of living language. He has committed the cardinal sin of twentieth century writers: he has touched ordinary life and lived to write honestly about it. His naturalism is a beautiful blend of joy and suffering. In simple language, which he imbues with the fountain of imagination, his everyman, Aaron Benham (Allard Benson), proceeds through the tangle of his naturalistic universe whether on a motorcyle or within the vehicle of his dark nostalgia. There's nothing out there quite like it. Humility and serenity blend exquisitely with poetic anguish. There is much that I could say, for it is one of my favorite books. In a sorry time when literature has become blind and black and careless of understanding this book and other of Thomas Williams' books become like a warm campfire in a dark and terrible woods. The joy in his books reminds me of the Joy that used to be such as in Beethoven's monument (I'm serious), and the anguish haunting the shadows of his characters is the anguish of war, dismemberment, rage, failure, loneliness, loss. When I open this book, I know I can open it at any time and any page, I think to myself--yes, finally.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A novel about a man writing a novel in which a character writes a novel which has a character who has also written a novel. June 27 2011
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this supremely literary and very exciting National Book Award winner from 1975, newly reprinted, Thomas Williams, an almost forgotten author, creates a novel about fiction writing and its relationship to the "immensities" with which every human being must contend during his lifetime. In presenting his story, Williams creates, first, Aaron Benham, a professor at a small New England college in the 1970s. Benham is writing a novel entitled The Hair of Harold Roux, in which the "thinly disguised" hero is twenty-one year-old Allard Benson, a college student on the G. I. Bill just after the close of World War II. Allard is fascinated by Mary Tolliver, a naïve freshman and devout Catholic whom he hopes to seduce. Harold Roux, an extremely sensitive romantic, is also studying on the G. I. Bill, but he must deal with the mockery and bullying of cruder, crueler students. Harold lost his hair during the war and wears a terrible toupee which he believes makes him more attractive to women. He is writing a love story called Glitter and Gold, in which a main character is also writing a novel.

While Prof. Aaron Benson is writing his story set in the well-described 1940s, he is living his own life in the 1970s, just before the end of the Vietnam War. College departments are pushing the "publish or perish" requirement for tenure and have made the life of at least one of Aaron's friends a misery, while also exerting pressure on Aaron himself. His need to write his novel has created some problems in his marriage, and he often invents personal fantasies about what he has missed with regard to other women. It is the sometimes frightening stories he creates for his children, ages six and eight, that reveal his fascination with the dramatic effects of fiction. Cuddling with them on the couch as he spins his stories, he literally "feels the story with their reality," an event so full of emotion that "he loses his voice."

As he creates Allard's novel, Thomas Williams writes some of the best and most excitingly sensuous descriptions ever. Both Aaron Benham and Allard Benson describe the freedom of flying down the road on their vintage motorcycles, Aaron indicating that only then does he "feel the symmetry of having made something out of chaos" simply by arriving home safely. When Allard Benson meets Mary Tolliver's father, he notes that the yellow-brown skin on Mr. Tolliver's face "hung as though draped over his head and tacked here and there, at the corners of his eyes and where his ears were attached to his head." When Allard visits a friend at a miniature village, he rides on a hand-crafted railway with a 1/6 scale locomotive. Sporting "three brass lanterns on its front end...the engine seemed to peer straight ahead with the powerful yet slightly moronic, clownish intensity of a cyclops."

Constantly playing with fiction vs. reality, fiction as part of reality, fiction as an alternative to reality, and the special fictions one creates for love, Williams creates a powerful, dramatic novel, filled with events which keep the reader constantly involved with his characters. It is only when sordid reality destroys all the fictions that someone has created in order to cope with everyday life, that one recognizes just how important it is to keep going by creating newer but more realistic fictions. Mary Whipple
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Best Novel and Author I'd Never Heard Of Jan. 25 2012
By M. Carroll - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomas Williams wrote his National Book Award winning novel The Hair of Harold Roux decades ago, yet it remains a richly fascinating and relevant work of literature today.

There are stories within stories, 5 in all, woven together to create a ponderous exploration of life's struggles and mysteries. From the opening sentence - Aaron Benham sits at his desk hearing the wrong voices. - to the touching afterword written by his daughter, this book was captivating. There were so many intricate details to absorb, words and ideas to ponder, character motivations to analyze, fictions versus realities to discern, symbols of warm fires and the chill of absolute zero, twists of fate and luck, all written by a master. I took pages of notes as I read, not so much to help me write a review as to help me remember the unique and meaningful prose.

I was often reminded of the rich detail and style of John Irving, and was not surprised to learn he was a former student and friend of Williams. Thomas Williams never achieved Irving's commercial success in his lifetime, but based on this work, he should have. This is a highly recommended, well written novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A treasure re-discovered July 25 2011
By Sergio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
[this review is of the Bloomsbury USA 2011 reprint]

A book that certainly deserves to be back in print. With a deft hand, Thomas Williams gives us a story of a writer giving us a story; weaving story on story until the reader is happily lost in the layers. In these pages is childhood, youth, coming-of-age, adulthood, responsibility, recklessness, struggles to keep things from changing, struggles to move on, and struggles to make the world live up to our dreams. If I started to describe the stories, I'd never stop writing. William's is a master craftsman and this work left me with that rare but delicious sense of coming out of a dream that, for me, marks the best of fiction. Thank you Bloomsbury for bringing this back, and for giving us the brilliant afterword by WIliams' daughter, author Ann Joslin Williams.

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