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I Look Divine [Paperback]

Christopher Coe
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

10 Oct 2013
Nicholas is beautiful, wealthy and hopelessly vain. With his older brother in tow, he jets from one glamorous scene to another: Rome, Madrid, Mexico. Wherever he goes, he seeks the admiration of other men, until one day - his beauty faded - he winds up dead, the victim of unknown circumstances. His brother is left to pick up and pieces and figure out how Nicholas came to his untimely end. "Laconic, subtle and full of lyrical effects - Coe is an icy and acute observer." (The New York Times Book Review) "I Look Divine is - a fascinating account of the relationship between brothers." (The Village Voice) About the Author: Christopher Coe was a writer, photographer and cabaret singer. He lived in Paris and New York City. Coe's first novel, I Look Divine, was published in 1987, his second, Such Times, in 1993. His style has been called "reminiscent of both Oscar Wilde's and Marcel Proust's late writings" (Publishers Weekly). In 1994, Christopher Coe died of AIDS.

Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: BRUNO GMUNDER VERLAG (10 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3867876304
  • ISBN-13: 978-3867876308
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,579,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A brother, defined by his flawed beauty 17 Aug 2014
David Leavitt, the celebrated American gay novelist, ends his perceptive introduction to this novella with the words: "'I Look Divine' (is) a novel of self-evident authenticity, through the radiant surface of which a dark core of suffering burns." In pointing this out, he puts his finger on the pulse of the novella.

It is a portrait of the narrator's beautiful brother Nicholas, who, with his high cheekbones and waist-length hair, with his exaggerated sense of his own desirability, shines through its pages, a tragi-comic hero. He is idle, funny, clever and theatrical, but also haunted by the ravages that time will inflict on his looks. This is not a fiction celebrating a godlike figure to be lusted after, it is a plangent study of the effects of time on beauty, of the contortions even the most desirable of us have to go through to get ourselves noticed (he is an expert at imitating different voices, in wearing masks, in presenting himself). At one point, Nicholas observes "...inner beauty is what counts, but outer beauty is what shows," sensing that while he trades on the latter, he lacks the former.

Nicholas is no dumb blond then, he is very self-aware. From childhood, he instinctively knows how to stand in doorways to frame himself, like a beautiful picture; he knows what angle of glance to employ for maximum effect; he knows how to manipulate his parents. Later, he learns the monetary value of his looks, how, as he ages, that value diminishes - diminishes to the point where, after the age of thirty, he's prepared to pay for sex.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 21 April 2010
If you are a fan of stylists such as Isherwood or Capote you will like this. It's one of the most perfectly written novella's I've ever read. Such a shame he died young without publishing more.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, often hilarious account of the tragedy of excess. 13 Sep 1998
By TOMANTH70@AOL.COM - Published on Amazon.com
"I Look Divine" is a eulogy of mixed feeling narrated by one man of many good qualities about his brilliant, beautiful and rich brother, Nicholas, whose gift and curse is that he possesses to too great an excess too many "good" qualities. Reading the book is like looking at a series of snapshots, a family album arranged as a narrative, and the marriage of writing and photography in the novel is absolutely successful. Many wrenchingly funny moments counterbalance, but do not distract from, the tragedy that is the life of a man who has too much. The gay sensibility of the novel is exquisite. Each sentence charms. This is the most tightly written book I have ever encountered.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a Classic 2 May 2014
By Michael Holland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Nicholas is dead. His older brother has come to start cleaning out his New York apartment, but everything around him holds memories of the dead man. Through this brother, who remains nameless throughout the story, we learn about Nicholas and his life.
From a very early age, Nicholas is aware of his extraordinary good looks, and the leeway it buys him. He quickly becomes accustomed to accepting favors from men, and even comes to see it as his due. Already well-to-do, he doesn’t see any need for his life to have any purpose other than to be the object of adoration. In short, he is a narcissist.

“I Look Divine” is considered by some to be a modern classic, and for once I have to agree. The writing is amazingly evocative, while being very easy to read. It’s writing that pulls off that seemingly impossible task of making a very unlikable person likable. Well, a little more likable than he should be. Nicholas is one of those characters with practically no redeeming values, yet you almost can’t help but like him on some level, and pity him as well. Yes, he is in love with himself, but he sees his value only in what other men are willing to give him to be with them. And when his looks begin to fade, as they inevitably must sooner or later, Nicholas seems to think his own value has faded to nil.

With the book having been published more than 25 years ago, it’s interesting to think how times have changed, or not. Men like Nicholas have always existed, but in the 1980s it was unlikely that you or I would know about them. Now, in the internet age, with Twitter and Facebook and Youtube, chances are we could name a dozen or more young men like Nicholas, who were famous, or thought they were, just for being pretty.

One of the things that struck me after I finished was how much I had started to think about the words the author chose. Early on, we’re told how Nicholas tended to favor certain words over others as part of his overall affectations. It seems like just one of his many eccentricities, but then you might realize that the words he chooses have some deeper meaning in the context. Coe makes you think about the words you’re reading in a very subtle way that I found quite fascinating.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A desultory life...except for mirror images 16 Jan 2014
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
David Leavitt, a brilliant author himself, wrote the Introduction to this wondrously touching little book by Christopher Coe, and in many ways his introductory remarks are equal to the novel. Leavitt probes the life and influence and style of Coe and manages to relate moments from this brief at times rambling, almost disconnected story bringing clarity to the reader about to embark on the too brief journey of I LOOK DIVINE.

A word about Christopher Coe: born in Pennsylvania in 1953 and raised in Portland, Oregon, Coe was a nascent American novelist who spent his adult years in New York City and Paris, making his living as a cabaret singer, a photographer and an author. I LOOK DIVINE, his first novel, was published in 1987 and his second novel SUCH TIMES in 1993 was `a paean to life written in the valley of the shadow of death'. Coe died of AIDS in 1994 at his home in Manhattan.

The spare but eloquent prose of Coe's book is related by the older brother of Nicholas, a self-absorbed, narcissistic young man who feels he has been exceptional from the moment of his birth - Caesarean section with enough consequences to always dramatize the beginnings of a life of self indulgent narcissism. In so many ways it is the universal story of seeking to be noticed, worshiped, adored and desired by other men. The book starts at its end with the brother picking up the remaining fragments of his now dead younger Nicholas, who as with all but Dorian Gray gradually passed into the realm of aging.

The magic of the book lies partly in its origin - the work of an artist who died far too young in a time when death gathered beautiful young men under the dark cape of the plague. The reader is left with the longing that this author could have written more. As Leavitt states in his Introduction, `I LOOK DIVNE is a novel of self-evident authenticity, through the radiant surface of which a dark core of suffering burns.' It is good to have this new version published again, courtesy Bruno Gmünder. Grady Harp, January 14
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Gem 15 April 2009
By Daddy Shawn - Published on Amazon.com
I never realized that this book would be "lost" so soon. Nor did I know that it is supposed to be homoerotic novel while reading it. Since I don't play for that team it didn't occur to me. I Look Divine by Christopher Coe is so much more than that. A hidden gem of a book that is well worth the trouble of finding a used copy. A great tale of one man's obsession with himself through his loving brother's eyes.
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of the relationship between 2 brothers. 23 Aug 1998
By Sally Lee (GarDeN5480@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
The book "I Look Divine" was very well-written and thought out. One would never expect a first time author to write like that. "I Look Divine" was the first book Christopher Coe has ever written. The words ran very smoothly and was very touching.
It was very shocking also, for what happened in the end. It is worth reading if one can open the heart and understand it. :)
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