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Mailman [Paperback]

Robert J Lennon
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 2004
"A phantasmagoria of American paranoia and self-loathing in the person of a deranged but somehow good-hearted middle-aged mail carrier in steep decline, the book hums with a kind of chipper angst," writes Jonathan Lethem in the "Los Angeles Times Book Review." "Mailman" tells the blackly comic story of Albert Lippincott. Albert is Nestor, New York's mailman extraordinaire aggressively cheerful, obsessively efficient. But he also has a few things to hide: his habit of reading other people's mail, a nervous breakdown, and a sexually ambiguous entanglement with his sister. Now his supervisors are on to his letter-hoarding compulsion, and there's a throbbing pain under his right arm. Things are closing in on Albert, who will soon be forced to confront, once and for all, his life's failures. Funny and moving, driven by a wild, compulsive interior voice, "Mailman" is a unique creation, a deeply original American novel. Already optioned to the movies, this astonishing and kinetically charged tale was one of the most exuberantly praised novels of 2003."

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

From one perspective, mail can be seen as merely the humble ebb and flow of letters, bills and advertisements. From another perspective, it is the cosmic principle of life itself: "Every datum is addressed with the name of its beloved: the pheromone finds its receptor, the dog roots out its bone, the sentence seeks the period at its end: and it is all mail." Lennon's protagonist, Mailman, aka Albert Lippincott, oscillates between this postal version of the sublime and the ridiculous. The novel unfolds from June 2, 2000, when someone on Albert's mail route, Jared Sprain, in Nestor, N.Y., commits suicide. On that night, Albert is caught by one of Jared's neighbors delivering a letter to Jared's box. The neighbor thinks there is something irregular about Albert's activities, and she is right: his dirty secret is that he reads, copies and sometimes doesn't deliver his mail. She apparently reports him, for Albert is suddenly taken in by Post Office inspectors for interrogation. After he is released pending further investigation, he skips town, heading vaguely for his retired parents' place in Florida. Lennon (The Funnies, etc.) lays out Albert's life in big blocks of introspections and reminiscences. Albert harbors a semiconscious sexual longing for his sister, Gillian, who is an actress; retains violent memories of his mother, a slutty singer, and more pathetic memories of his father, a chemist. Albert is sensitive to odors, subject to mental dissonance, angry, and feels alternately trapped and comforted by his routines. He's both Everyman and Nobody. As with one of Chuck Close's blown-up photo-realistic portraits, we feel both confronted and fascinated by Albert's sheer materiality. This is an intermittently brilliant text-with long, maddeningly tedious patches-and will surely be much noted this fall.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Albert Lippincott--Mailman--is an odd choice for an everyman character. A loner who reads the mail before delivering it, he's obsessive, depressive, and sexually confused. He struggles with the women in his life and fights with the cats they leave behind. The narrative begins with a letter delivered too late to a suicide and a woman who reports Mailman to the dreaded postal inspectors. As external events precipitate internal crisis, Mailman scrutinizes his past, searching for meaning in a world that tolerates him at best. Lennon performs a book-long balancing act, slowly letting us into this complex character's interior life. And Mailman is a complex character: Is he misunderstood or is he a liar? Is he persecuted or justly punished? Is the lump under his arm a bruise or a tumor? Did he really try to bite out a professor's eyeball? But because his neuroses are rooted in hopes and fears we all understand, this mumbling, lurching oddball, this guy we'd all walk past on the street, becomes someone we know and care about--and maybe recognize in the mirror. Lennon's fourth novel is emotionally engrossing and intellectually stimulating, full of humor, pathos, and surprises. To choose only one word: magnificent. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Juvenile and clueless Feb. 12 2004
I used up three hours of my after-work free time to finish this novel tonight, and I'm thinking about sending Mr. Lennon an invoice for my efforts. Not only is the second half of this book ridiculous and completly unformed, it is unimaginative and lazy. An excerpt from one of the last pages:
"Every particle, every force, every emotion; every thought, every object, every impulse, has its destination. Every datum is addressed with the name of its beloved: the pheromone finds its receptor, the dog roots out its bone....
Is that enough for you? Is this a college sophomore at work (or a precocious 8th grader)? If you have hours of free time on your hands, be my guest and wallow in the cliche-laden world of Mailman. Be amazed by the shallow depth of everyday metaphors! Reel at the implied incest! Step back in horror at ghastly parent-child confrontations (hope you don't mind a stock masturbation sequence)! And I thought Franzen's "The Corrections" was the last word in strident familial dysfunction.
Lennon's "The Funnies" was a sweet, comic portrait of a dysfunctional family that at least contained a measure of entertainment value. Because of that book, I couldn't have had higher hopes for Mailman. I hate to say it about the output of any serious writer, but this is just garbage. Good for a laugh, but only if you have the time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and extremely readable Nov. 5 2003
With much literary fiction, I find myself skimming, but not at all with MAILMAN -- it holds the reader's attention by being filled with beauty, emotions and reminscence, and still moving at a steady suspenseful pace. I felt myself reading and enjoying every word.
Albert Lippincott is a man whose longings we feel, whose past we are intrigued by, and yet, to the customers whose mail he delivers, he is simply an anonymous Mailman. When he starts to read their mail, in one case slowing its delivery and possibly affecting a life -- and when a witness then complains about it -- we know trouble may be nigh. But there is so much more to MAILMAN.
I took this on a trip to Vermont with me and finished it at home in my cozy apartment. I thank Mr. Lennon for providing me good reading, and I'm not one who has a lot of patience with most literary fiction.
This is a clever and enjoyable book from an extremely talented young author. After having read this and the more lighthearted (but equally well-written) THE FUNNIES, I can't wait to see more from him!
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I happened to have happened upon this book because of the title. You see, I...am...a...Mailman! Seriously! Thats what I do to make money to feed and shelter my family. I read the other reviews here and decided to get the book - and oh boy! am I not disappointed! This guy Lennon (John Lennon at that!) can write, boy can he! As I've been reading I keep realizing that this novel is what it feels like to be me, a human being with constant inner dialogue and reminincing going on. Plot? I don't know nor do I care whether there's a plot to this story. The main character ("Mailman"!) is my hero, a fully-alive all-American (yes!) in the year 2000. He is wonderfully real, and I wonder how Lennon, who is only 32 or 33, does it. I am deeply impressed with his wisdom and writing ability. Incredible attention to detail, yet the story never bogs down in it. It moves right along, and I hope it never ends. Reading a novel like this is like being in love - rare and wonderful.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Grading Papers Feb. 28 2004
By A Customer
My definition of a good movie is one during which I never wonder what time it is.

My definition of a good read is pretty similar. This one had me howling late at night when I started it. I kept expecting it to hook me, to addict me, to make me sacrifice the rest of my life to get back to it. But it never did.
I didn't enjoy the flashback sequences. I wanted him to get on with the present. I was interested enough to read it halfway through, but in the end, and of course I'm allowed to be selfish here, I didn't like Mr. Lippincott. It wasn't exactly that he was weird. He was unlikeable and uninteresting because of it. I should like or understand the hero, I think. And I didn't. Lennon is a good writer for sure. But I'd be mad if I paid money to read this one.
And that's the truth (Edith Ann raspberry).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blown away...and then some. Oct. 25 2003
I generally read average to above-average books. This is not of my choosing, but considering the law of averages by keeping oneself current with reliable book critique, what one should probably expect to encounter. After being stuck in a pattern of digesting these sub-par novels back to back, I was blown away by Lennon's masterpiece. Here is the perfect allegory of life as art. Albert Lippincot (the mailman) is a flawed but unimitable hero. His deep musings and ruminitions contradict his physical place in life, until you begin to connect the dots in his narrative diatribe which, as an example, remind one how Jerry Sinefeld might ponder the essence of tooth paste whilst brushing his teeth. Humorous, captivating, BRILLIANT!
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