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Mammals [Paperback]

Pierre Merot

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Book Description

Feb. 9 2006
One of the most internationally noteworthy titles in recent years, Mammals is a witty anatomization of modern life, recalling the wry surrealism of Chuck Palahniuk. It tells the story of one particularly hapless forty-year-old Parisian, impeccably educated but seemingly unemployable, wending his way through the meaninglessness of modern life.

Caustic, comic, unflinchingly honest, Mammals is a cruel but beautiful tale of love, solitude, alcoholism, family life and unemployment. These memoirs of a glorious loser recount the life of Uncle, an unhappy bachelor. Uncle is a drunk; he is sarcastic; he works and fails in several professions--a new-media corporation during the dot.com boom; a defence ministry museum run by a lecherous ex-quartermaster--until he winds up a teacher in a secondary school. He tries out therapist after therapist and can’t figure out who is the butt of the joke. He has nephews who make him nervous. In fact, almost everything about family life makes him nervous--especially now that he’s forced to live at home again. To cope with this, Uncle coins proverbs about how to live with lowered expectations, and attempts to create a bestiary of his pathologically neurotic parents (the “mammals” of the title).

Riding a handbasket merrily to hell, Mammals is a portrait of modern society's Everyman. It is establishes Pierre Merot as an extraordinary and delightful voice of international stature.

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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.

From Booklist

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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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely disjointed May 18 2009
By FauxFurBezoar - Published on Amazon.com
Recommended. As with a lot of good modern literature, "Mammals" aims to drag you into full view of the disjointed nature of modern man, case represented by "the uncle". Contrary to the previous reviewer I think this is the book's merit. The uncle's very sarcastic nature appealed to my literary tastes. I first read this book in 2003, at age 23. I liked it ever since. I don't particularly like writing reviews but I had to defend this novel in the light of the other review.
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.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Huh? Aug. 26 2006
By Andrew Fairley - Published on Amazon.com
I picked this one up because Niall Griffiths (my fav author) wrote a blurb for it. Now maybe it's because I'm not in my 40s, and maybe it's because of the translation, but I just don't get it. There were only a couple times I thought it was particularly funny, and the narration was continually disjoint and weird. It's awkward when someone refers to themself in the third person once, and in this case throughout the book the narrator refers to himself as "the uncle." I just didn't get it.

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