cover image Men and Apparitions

Men and Apparitions

Lynne Tillman. Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-59376-679-5

The latest from Tillman (American Genius, A Comedy) is a timely, if messy, exploration of modern masculinity, told from the perspective of Ezekiel Hooper Stark, a 30-something ethnographer and assistant professor who sifts through photographs to construct the narratives of family and strangers. Told in fragmented mini chapters, Zeke chronicles his own early life—absent, alcoholic father; rude older brother; semimute little sister—before pivoting to his turbulent, brief marriage to Maggie, a college sweetheart. While on a trip to London together, Zeke learns of Maggie’s love affair with his friend Curtis. The revelation sends him into a fugue state, and Zeke bounces around Europe, only to return to the United States a divorcé, pretending to be a number of different people under false names. He finds kinship in the story of his ancestor, socialite and photographer Clover Hooper Adams, and turns his attention to the study of what he calls the “New Man.” As always, Tillman is inventive in her approach to storytelling, inserting photos and allowing Zeke’s mind to wander. While there is much to admire, occasionally Zeke’s digressions impede narrative flow. The result is a novel full of fits and starts, equally charming and frustrating. (Mar.)