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Horned Man Hardcover – Apr 25 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (April 25 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393003361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393003369
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.1 x 21.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 372 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,592,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Penzler Pick, April 2002: Already a sensation in his native England, this first novel by expatriate James Lasdun is one of the most disturbing and compelling books you are likely to read this year.

The protagonist, Lawrence Miller, is himself an expat teaching gender studies at a small college located just outside New York City. He is a member of the sexual harassment committee which meets on a regular basis to walk that fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous of political correctness.

Miller's well-ordered life starts to disintegrate one day when he takes a book from the shelf in his office to find that the bookmark has been moved several pages although, as far as he knows, nobody has visited his office. An easily explained lapse of memory perhaps, but Miller decides he will discuss it with the therapist he has been seeing in Manhattan since his wife left him. He is shocked as he approaches her office to see the therapist walking towards him, but she turns off towards Central Park before he can speak to her and he then loses sight of her. When he arrives at her office, however, she is waiting for him as usual and assures him that she has not left her office; in fact, she is always with another patient before Miller's appointment.

So begins the disorientation of Lawrence Miller. He has his little obsessions, of course--he won't pick up the messages on his answering machine, for instance, in order to convince himself that while he was out his wife tried to call him. Still in love with her, he hopes that she will call and want to return to him. But this is just a game he plays, part of his very human nature. He is in no way the sort of man who is paranoid or imagines conspiracies, but the unexplained incidents seem to be increasing.

Miller tries to rationalize what is happening, but he can't help thinking, nor can we, that he has become the target of somebody who wishes him harm. And when a series of murders takes place, Miller begins to suspect that he is being set up to take the blame for these murders by a devious and diabolical mind.

Lawrence Miller struggles to loosen the hold his pursuers have on him, but the more he struggles the more he appears to be drowning. Try to sleep after reading his terrifying story. --Otto Penzler

From Publishers Weekly

A lonely, eccentric New York academic discovers his office is also home to a deranged squatter in this startling, brilliantly mysterious debut novel by poet and short story writer Lasdun. Alerted by misplaced bookmarks, deleted computer files and a dirty bed sheet under his desk, Brit Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at Arthur Clay College, becomes convinced that a stranger is camping out nightly in his office. Though preoccupied by his wife's recent decampment and his membership on the college's sexual harassment committee, Lawrence fixates on the illustrious Professor Trumilcik, an Eastern European womanizer and ex-board member, who went mad on campus one afternoon and never returned. Could he be the uninvited guest? The shocking news that several area women have been found brutally beaten to death heightens Lawrence's hysteria. Erratic behavior ruins a date with Elaine, the school attorney, and confuses his relationship with his therapist. When a heavy metal pipe falls out of his briefcase, Lawrence has to wonder: could this be the weapon used in the killings? As reality slips and slides, Lawrence, in full paranoia mode, comes to believe that Trumilcik is framing him for the murders. References to the works of Kafka and to mystical pharmacology add depth and insight, though a few key tense moments are squelched by lengthy exposition of the protagonist's compulsivethought processes. Introspective readers with a taste for the bizarre will appreciate Lasdun's eerily elusiveconclusion, but those seeking definitive closure will be left scratching their heads. Rights sold in France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the U.K.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
One afternoon earlier this winter, in a moment of idle curiosity, I took a book from the shelf in my office and began reading it where it fell open on a piece of compressed tissue that had evidently been used as a bookmark. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
I think that this book is considerably overrated by the reviewers. I read it complete in about four hours. The initial setup is good, and some of the flashbacks are engrossing -- more engrossing, in fact, than the main narrative line of the story. There is also a fine description of political- correctness-induced paranoia and continual self-monitoring for unconscious violations; that issue would have been a better subject for the whole story, but it becomes less and less relevant as the story progresses.
I believe that fully a third of the text, consisting of repetitive ruminations and descriptions of his mood, could have been omitted without loss, indeed it would have improved the pacing of the story. The book is told entirely from the narrator's physical viewpoint. None of the other characters have depth or dimension to them -- they are there simply as plot devices.
The flavor of the narrative is consciously Kafkaesque (helpfully pointed out by a subplot involving a stage production of a Kafka story). It could have used a healthy dose of Dostoyevsky, that is, the story would have been much more dimensional if the narrator had any awareness or conscious purpose in his conduct.
Other novels of academia that I would recommend: The Blue Angel, by Francis Prose, is a better satire of academia's infestation by political correctness and resulting paranoia. For a hilarious account of academic personalities and politics, nothing tops Richard Russo's Straight Man. For the mind of the criminal -- see Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov, who was, after all, a student.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this fantastic novel, it should come as no surprise that James Lasdun won a Best Screenplay prize at Sundance some years ago, for "The Horned Man" (HM) is cinematic if nothing else. The only surprise is that it hasn't - to the best of my knowledge - been optioned for film but if and when that happens, there is no one better to direct the movie than David Lynch, the master of celluloid surrealism.
It is hard to tell if Lawrence Miller is living or hallucinating his nightmare existence. After all, he may not be the most reliable of narrators. He is plagued by self-doubt, the result of an emotionally scarring incident involving his step-sister recalled most colourfully and in great style by Lasdun. His wife has left him and he is seeing a shrink. But we take what we read at face value. Then strange things begin to happen and Lawrence thinks he's losing his mind or there's somebody - a disembodied soul perhaps - occupying his office at night or worse spying on him all the time he's working from a little space under his desk. Lasdun cranks up the spook factor by revealing that the previous (day) occupant of his room died under mysterious circumstances and some of her belongings are still left in the room.
Lasdun then plants evidence suggesting that our invisible stalker may be a shadowy Bulgarian playwright figure whom we never get to meet. From then on, HM starts to pan out like familiar episodes from "Twin Peaks". No, there are no dwarfs but Lawrence starts mistaking a strange exotic woman for the shrink he is seeing, getting drawn almost against his will into a totally unreal relationship with a woman attorney, dressing up in his dead ex-colleague's clothes to follow a lead in his investigations, and trading physical blows with a faceless violent presence.
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Format: Paperback
Lawrence Miller is a professor of Gender Studies at a small New York college. Except for his recent separation from his wife life seemed fairly normal for professor Miller. Then the book mark in his book seems to have moved from one place to another. A coin vanishes from his office and he mistakes another woman for his therapist. Strange things happen in this novel, and the reader is never sure whether the tale is fixed in an objective reality or rather the subjective reality of Dr. Miller. Someone seems to be inhabiting his office at night. Certainly the pile of excrement found on his desk one day would seem to indicate that. Did his new woman friend have an accident on a trip or was she murdered in her home? Why did Miller steal his neighbor's glass eye? And what is the relevance of a strange key that pops up in his campus mail box?
Told in the first person the story is indeed puzzling, and the increased information provided as the story develops simply increases our head scratching perplexity. Is our narrator the rather reserved man that he appears to be our is he a dangerous schizophrenic? Order degenerates into disorder. Can we expect a tidy resolution from such confusion? Well, that is the big question.
Author Lasdun keeps the reader in several layers of suspense, in this rather surreal novel. Don't let my terms of "surreal", "disorder" and "subjective reality" scare you away. This is an accessible novel that uniquely explores the mind of its narrator.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Lawrence Miller is a professor of Gender Studies at a small New York college. Except for his recent separation from his wife life seemed fairly normal for professor Miller. Then the book mark in his book seems to have moved from one place to another. A coin vanishes from his office and he mistakes another woman for his therapist. Strange things happen in this novel, and the reader is never sure whether the tale is fixed in an objective reality or rather the subjective reality of Dr. Miller. Someone seems to be inhabiting his office at night. Certainly the pile of excrement found on his desk one day would seem to indicate that. Did his new woman friend have an accident on a trip or was she murdered in her home? Why did Miller steal his neighbor's glass eye? And what is the relevance of a strange key that pops up in his campus mail box?
Told in the first person the story is indeed puzzling, and the increased information provided as the story develops simply increases our head scratching perplexity. Is our narrator the rather reserved man that he appears to be our is he a dangerous schizophrenic? Order degenerates into disorder. Can we expect a tidy resolution from such confusion? Well, that is the big question.
Author Lasdun keeps the reader in several layers of suspense, in this rather surreal novel. Don't let my terms of "surreal", "disorder" and "subjective reality" scare you away. This is an accessible novel that uniquely explores the mind of its narrator.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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