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Tony and Susan [Hardcover]

Austin Wright , Susan Wright
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

January 1993
Twenty-five years after their divorce, Edward, a struggling writer, gives the manuscript of his novel to Susan, trusting her to give an opinion. In three sittings, she reads it, immediately and intimately identifying with the main character, Tony. Soon, Susan is filled with a dark, passionate, inexplicable rage--and Edward's is an exquisite revenge.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this intriguing accomplished novel, the author of Camden's Eyes and several works of literary criticism combines a stark take on a film noir theme with a postmodern meditation on the act of reading. Susan Morrow is surprised to hear from her former husband Edward, who has written a novel entitled Nocturnal Animals , which he asks her to read. The main character in the novel is Tony Hastings, who, in a late-night drive with his family from Ohio en route to Maine takes a detour down a dark road into death, confused grief and vengeance. As Susan becomes involved in Tony's journey, she relives her past life with Edward and reviews her present one with her current husband, Arnold--both men she could never "read" the way she reads Tony. She finds herself asking two questions: how will Tony survive his trip's terrible events, and what sort of a man has Edward become? And because Edward is "real" and Tony is fictional, only her speculations about Tony will be answered to her satisfaction. Written in contrasting styles--Tony's account in sharp prose that ricochets in unexpected directions, Susan's musings in fluid passages of emotional and sensory perceptions--the novel's two stories mesh into a credible, suspenseful narrative. Wright infuses this excellent work with resonating observations about the reality of violence, where the loss of humanity is the price of revenge, and the "reality" of fiction and its place and power in day-to-day life. BOMC and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

By framing a crime story within a domestic novel, Wright, an English professor and author of three previous novels, dissolves the fragile civility that often conceals violence. He also scrutinizes the institution of marriage, considers the nature of memory, and documents the potential impact of one's choices, both large and small--all without sacrificing pace. At Edward Sheffield's request, Susan Morrow reads his first novel, Nocturnal Animals , in which an impulsive change of plan delivers Tony Hastings and his family into the hands of strangers who terrorize them. Passages from Sheffield's novel alternate between Susan's memories of Sheffield (her ex-husband), to details of her current marriage, to her speculations about the writer's and the reader's obligations. By counterpoising the eroding compromises of Susan's daily life with the sufferings of the Hastings family, Wright demonstrates that macho posturing, cruelty, and the refusal of individual responsibility infect both sexes and all classes. Highly recommended.
- Jane S. Baker man, Indiana State Univ., Terre Haute
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tony and Susan Aug. 14 2011
Format:Paperback
The most disappointing book I've ever read! I kept thinking 'Emperor's New Clothes' most of the time I was reading it. Fabulous, gripping beginning but it totally failed to live up the the promise of the first third of the book. One of those books that you keep reading, hoping it will 'get better' because you've invested time and emotion- but it totally lets you down. I finished it at 4 a.m. and wanted to drop it in the garbage.

Not one character you can like or identify with. Perhaps Quentin Tarantino could produce this as a movie- it has his surreal kind of unbelieveability.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IMAGINATIVELY CONCEIVED, BEAUTIFULLY RENDERED Aug. 10 2011
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The late Austin Wright gave readers a beautiful gift with Tony and Susan. He presented parallel stories, ushering us into two fictional worlds both of which are irresistibly compelling.

We first meet Susan Morrow who is surprised to hear from her first husband after 20 years - he has written a book, and would she like to read it? "Damn! But this book is good. How much he had learned about life and craft. He wanted to show her, let her read and see, judge for herself. " When they were married this had been a touchy subject; she was a harsh critic and he was a nascent writer.

She receives the manuscript shortly, but sets it aside for some three months. Susan is a worrier. In addition to household chores and looking after the children, she spends time in worry, not always certain what it is that keeps crossing her mind although Arnold, her husband, is often in those plaguing thoughts.

Nonetheless, at last she picks up Edward's manuscript titled Nocturnal Animals, and soon finds herself totally engrossed in the story of Tony Hastings. Married to Laura with one daughter, Helen, "He was a mathematics professor who took pride in reliability and good sense." They were traveling by car in northern Pennsylvania on their way to their summer cottage in Maine. On a lark they decide to drive all night rather than stopping to rest. Tony "was liberated by the irresponsibility of not having to hunt for a place to stay...."

That feeling of freedom was short lived as the Hastings family suddenly and irrevocably loses every shred of the safety and serenity they once enjoyed. At the same time as Susan continues her reading of Edward's manuscript she is forced to face the truth about herself, a truth she does not like at all.

So perfectly written, so imaginatively conceived Tony & Susan will stay with you long after reading the last page.

- Gail Cooke
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Will keep you reading, but hardly the claimed Lost Classic June 14 2010
By Ripple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Susan is reading a novel (Nocturnal Animals) about a man named Tony, written by her ex, Edward. The vast majority of the book comprises Nocturnal Animals .... and for me, here's the problem - it's not in fact a very good book. It has an explosive opening, where a 'good' family make a chance night-time encounter on a deserted highway with a bunch of bad guys who try to run them off the road. Immediately we are thrown into a violent thriller where the readers attention is maintained by the danger in which the characters are placed. What Tony and Susan adds to this is that in parallel with the traditional thriller featuring Tony, we have a more subtle thriller involving Susan as she reads the book. Edward is coming to visit and Susan works herself into a lather wondering if the violence in the book is a message to her, whose marriage to Edward ended after she was unfaithful to him.

My hopes were raised by the cover quotation from no lesser writer than Saul Bellow who describes Tony and Susan as being "marvellously written". In parts it is but equally, in parts we get "When that young Susan on Edward's bed saw Arnold Morrow's alarming penis suddenly come into view with swollen purpose, she heard a gong in her head. She heard another soon after, when she decided to let it in" which to my mind puts it in the running for that bad sex writing award that gets dished out every year.

Ultimately, it's not a bad book. Certainly interesting in parts, particularly in its deeper considerations of how we read books and, in part what books mean to their writers. But does it warrant the praise heaped on it by the publishers who have republished it after the initial failure of the book to make any headway describing it as "the most astounding lost masterpiece of American fiction since Revolutionary Road"? That's a big claim, and one that it doesn't, for me, deliver on.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A good idea Sept. 16 2009
By sid1gen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY READ THIS BOOK.
A good idea gone to pot. The novel-within-a-novel hook is welcome, but very badly done. Tony is so unlikeable as to be revolting, whereas Susan is flat as a pancake in spite of Wright's efforts to give her depth with her infidelities, her less-than-perfect marriages, her domesticity buying off her idealism. Tony is a Coward with Capital C, and I liked that originality about a main character at the beginning: he really can't protect his wife and daughters from the thugs who abduct them; he's physically weak; he can't fight; he's more afraid of what will happen to him than of the suffering of his loved ones. But Tony continues on this vein after the brutality of the double crimes. From then on, it's always Tony's pain, the crime done to Tony, his loss. The men who raped and murdered his wife and daughter have hurt "him" more than they have hurt the two women. In fact, Laura and Helen are props referred to as 'mannequins' on several occasions. Wright provides a Tony POV at all times while inside Tony's novel, and since Tony's story is the novel Nocturnal Animals, we could blame its 'author' Edward Sheffield for creating flatness all around. (This would be Wright 'intentionally' writing poorly so as to reflect Edward's flaws as a writer.) But since Edward is part of Susan's story, and Susan's story is as bland as a Denny's meal, who can we blame but Wright?

The novel starts OK and picks up speed when three thugs accost a family of three (Laura, Helen, and Tony) in a rural road on the East Coast. The interruptions in the action are to wedge in Susan's story, since Susan is reading the novel where awful things happen to Laura and Helen. This interruptions would be welcome, or at least justified, if something were to happen in Susan's world. No. Nothing happens. Susan's battle is that of suburban, upper middle class domesticity: few orgasms, growing kids, husband sleeping around. Next to real crimes and tragedies, it's nothing. And there is nothing else, either. There is no dark secret in Susan's or Edward's past. There is no shattering of lives because of reading a mediocre novel of crime and sort-of revenge, as the blurbs and the ecstatic reviews promised. Nothing. Nada. This novel stands exclusively on the strength of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 40 year-old woman and her 16 or 17 year-old daughter. Their suffering doesn't matter to Wright, since it doesn't matter to Tony. They are there like the dead bodies in cop shows, at the beginning, and then the interesting part is to catch the murderer. In this 'novel-within-a-novel' the interesting part dies soon and never revives, mostly because the character Tony is such a despicable little nothing surrounded within and without his own story by sorry characters with no redeeming qualities. Even such a situation would be tolerable in literature: a novel about little nothings. But Wright writes so badly, it hurts. He manages to make a story of crime and punishment into one of crime and meaninglessness, peppered throughout with flourishes of disorientation to show the readers Tony's disoriented perspective. Nice touch, but in this book, a waste.

This novel promised much but began to disintegrate with each page. If the author has hidden clues to which I am blind, I would appreciate pointers.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony and Susan and Susan and Arnold May 16 2010
By Foggy Tewsday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Susan is married to Arnold, but she used to be married to Edward. Edward had dreams of becoming a writer. One day, Susan unexpectedly receives a package from her first husband containing the manuscript of a novel he has written entitled `Nocturnal Animals'. As she reads the novel, she begins to take stock of her life, notably her life with Edward and the failure of that marriage, and her life with Arnold and her fears that he is embarking on an affair with a colleague.

Tony is the lead character in the novel Edward has written. As Susan reads the novel, we read along with her: `Tony and Susan' is a story within a story.

Austin Wright's novel, originally published in 1993 and reissued in 2010 to critical acclaim in the UK, successfully welds its thriller component, `Nocturnal Animals', with Susan's reaction to it to form an impressive and unusual work.

`Nocturnal Animals' is an engaging thriller in its own right. Tony Hastings, a mathematics professor, is driving late at night with his wife and daughter on their way to their holiday home. Their car is forced off the road by some thugs who abduct the female passengers.

Susan's reading elicits various responses as she attempts to categorize the story and second guess the plot based on her knowledge of her ex-husband. But more than that, `Tony and Susan' puts the concept of a novel as a piece of media to the fore. Every reader's interpretation of fictional writing is different. The story that plays out in one's mind, the characters and the setting are visualized uniquely by each reader. Susan's dissection of `Nocturnal Animals' and the way she relates it to her own life, by way of the author's relationship with her and her reactions to the lead character's actions, give a fascinating insight into the way we relate to fiction.

My only gripes, and these are quite minor given how enjoyable this novel is, are that both strands begin to pall a little towards the end of the book. I felt that there could have been a little more editing here and there. However, as a whole, this is a superbly written novel and is highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Depths Nov. 1 2008
By Paul Ellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The first 100 pages or so go as fast as any novel I have ever read. There's more horror in those pages than in the Heart of Darkness. Then things slow down and get psychologically very interesting. Then the whole book becomes a literary criticism puzzle. This book is frightening, deep, and fun. Quite an amazing feat.
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