Mammals Paperback – Feb 9 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Mérot, in his first English translation, is romantic and dark, with a weakness for the well-turned paradox ("Psychoanalysis teaches you one vital lesson: it teaches you that seeing a psychoanalyst is pointless...") and the surrealistic metaphor (coming into Poland in the winter, the protagonist sees "snow with white vodka claws"). Mérot's novel centers on an overeducated, underemployed 40-something man known as "the uncle," for his role as the black sheep of a model family. The story line strings together the uncle's life in episodes involving alcoholism (eight pints per evening and counting), marriage (unsuccessful), cohabitation (with a woman reminiscent of his childhood fantasy, Cruella de Ville), odd jobs (in various contemptable venues, including "Walt Disney College"), and the sadness of ending up at 40 with a small apartment and a large belly. While the protagonist is a man, Mérot's novel invokes the most bitter of chick lit, capturing the pessimism characteristic of the unlucky-in-love working-gal heroine: "The more mediocre the times, the greater the disappointment." Though it takes some missteps, Mérot's American debut should please casual fiction readers and Francophiles alike. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The Uncle is Merot's subject, and that's a scientific term, since Merot presents the Uncle as modern European Everyman to be studied under a microscope and reported on dispassionately, though with all attendant horror and humor. Seamlessly alternating between distanced third-person and more intimate second-person narration, Merot describes his early-middle-age subject's chosen profession--drinking, not because he is alone but because he wants to be alone--as the exhibitionism of an "accomplished martyr," whose habitat, described in detail, is the bar, to which he goes because, like other alcoholics, he feels terrible but is certain that others there feel worse. Three-to-seven-bar nights and days at an unfulfilling teaching job occupy most of his 24-hour cycles of exhausted ennui. He also sees a psychiatrist who incants about beaches until he lulls himself, not the Uncle, to sleep. Absurdist humor illumines this existential "river of urban adventures" in drinking, loving, and living that all amount to "the same magnificent bullshit" in a great age of mediocrity. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Every model family should have a fuck-up: a family without a fuck-up is not truly a family, because it lacks an element that challenges it, thereby reinforcing its legitimacy. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
You can read the synopsis and get a glimpse of the writing itself even without my help. I won't bother with that. I would recommend this book though. Some other books I grouped Mammals with on my bookshelf are: A Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley; The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery; and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.