How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood

Thomas Beller, Author . Norton $14.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-32683-3

Old cars, custom carpentry and chemistry sets are just some of the topics novelist Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist ) uses to explore his own emotional maturation. In spare, crisp language, his descriptions of items and tasks slowly become excavations of memories. The best sections of his book—which is largely assembled from pieces that first appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Elle —call to mind Raymond Carver in their clarity of language and subdued emotion. In one essay, Beller's fond recall of his 1977 Thunderbird morphs into a meditation on the difficulty of letting go of the romantic notions of youth. In another, a girlfriend's constant purchases of clothing for the author eventually become occasions for melancholy (the gifts began to feel like apologies). A third piece addresses the "paradoxical reality" of strip clubs: they're "one of the few remaining places men can go to not think about women." The only blot on this otherwise excellent book is the chapter in which Beller describes the end of a relationship between the cofounders of; its reportorial tone feels jarring and out-of-place. The rest of the book is thoughtful and controlled; overall, Beller has penned a fine collection of essays that will resonate with many. Agent, Mary Evans . (July)

Reviewed on: 05/16/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-393-33914-7
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