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The Beauty of Men: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; First Edition edition (Jun. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688048579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688048570
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,041,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The boat ramp looks quite different depending on the time you go there-night or day-but because it's just a sandy clearing in the woods, it's always clean and beautiful; and because the lake it serves is in a remote part of Florida, far from both coasts, the place is seldom very crowded. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 July 1999
Format: Paperback
Holleran's central character,Lark is a gay man coming to terms with middle age,his mother's gradual decline in both physical and mental health and the loss of numerous friends through AIDS. Although the subject matter may sound a little depressing, it certainly isn't. Lark's character is beautifully realised by the author, and the novel is both moving and amusing in just the right quantities. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Holleran's style is literary but eminently readable and I finished the book in two days. Anyone looking for good quality fiction that truly reflects the gay community and its attitude to those in or approaching middle age should read this book. Superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Lark is in his late forties, a single gay man he left New York in the 1980s to care for his ailing mother in north Florida. In New York he had an active social life clubbing with his friends, but now twelve years since leaving most of his friends are gone, victims of AIDS, and in Florida has made few new friends other than a few men he meets at the boat ramp, a remote meeting place for gay men.

It is at the boat ramp the he meets Becker, a handsome younger man he falls in love with and with whom he becomes obsessed, but Becker seems not to be interested beyond their one night stand. Lack spends his time visiting in turn his nursing home bound mother, the gym and the boat ramp, all the while looking out for that illusive man who will love and stay with him, ever hoping that Becker will be that man.

This is a rather forlorn story of a lonely man, convinced at his age he is no longer attractive, unable to find what he wants in life. He ponders his past and the loss and suffering of his friends, and wonders how it is he has escaped the scourge that has taken them, and fears he will lose his mother to old age soon. while this is without question beautifully and extremely well written, I did not find it an easy read. It took a while to get involved with the story, and I found it often depressing, a sad indictment of the way gay men treat each other, especially when they start to age. It has it touches of humour, but I found often I could not laugh for the humour is derived from the sadness of the situation.

I did enjoy the book, mainly because of the sheer beauty of the writing, but I found it somewhat morbid in tone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Russell on 3 Mar. 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found this novel sad, melancholy and repetitive. It was expertly constructed but it gave a forlorn picture of ageing gays! Why do they always have to lust after much younger men? They have memories surely? Do they invite danger at every corner? I prefer the author's short stories - 'September ...",
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By A. Bosch on 21 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoy Andrew Holleran's novels. This copy was to replace another I left behind in the states.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 32 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An important book but a vexing one 16 Aug. 1999
By Frank ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
The first time I read this book, I was moved enough to read it through in one sitting. Re-reading it two years later, I am conflicted about it. It is incredibly well-written, has many crucial observations to make about gay life in the late twentieth century (as Holleran always has), and has a distinctive, authoritative voice. Yet, the same things that will make some readers love this book will make others want to hurl it through a window. The protagonist is unsympathetic, whiny, pretentious, dolorous, self-pitying and even at times self-hating in the extreme, and repetitious (parts of the book feel inadequately edited; you will read certain details in one chapter only to run across them in almost exactly the same guise a chapter later, which appears to be a case of a novel having been cobbled together from what could have more successfully stood as a novella or a group of vignettes). The author tacks on the usual disclaimer about no resemblance between the story being told and events in real life, but an essay he has included in a more recent anthology is a transparent re-write of the same story he tells here, down to the details of dialogue he exchanges with the object of his obsession. Thus, any protest that this is fiction is almost irrelevant. But what the book does do, even if it is not truly a work of fiction, is cast a discerning light on the way a number of men in Holleran's generation, the set of urban gay white men who came of age in the late seventies, view life now that they are no longer the kings of the mountain. The sentimental, often self-indulgent tone of this vantage point will be resonant to some, but to others, particularly those who did not participate in the grand guignol of "Dancer from the Dance," it will grate, and it will sound like a serious case of sour grapes. The essayistic exposition that the narrative breaks into does not help matters. Again, it feels as though parts of this book could have been edited out, parts could have been more successfully trimmed to a novella, and parts could have been more useful as essays. Nonetheless, a lot of what the book says, even if it could be better told, rings shockingly true, and is stark witness to the way gay life continues to be, even at this late date, a life of lies, secrets, and despair for many who live it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Oh, so sad; yet frighteningly genuine. 19 Feb. 2000
By Douglas Hammerich - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a post-epidemic work, some might find this book either irrelevant or a curiosity from another age. It is most emphatically neither. While many younger gay readers will possibly fail to grasp the pathos of the subject's life, a very large part of that life has been painfully lived down to the last detail by those of us gay men above the age of 50. Indeed it became so painfully real in places, that I was tempted to put it down; however Holleran's crystalline insights and observations drew me further and further into the story to the extent that quitting it became immpossible. For these insights/observations and his delightful command of the language, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Hauntingly beautiful. 18 Nov. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
To read Andrew Holleran's books is to want to know who he is and why he writes. Are his works autobiographical? With other novels I'm not interested necessarily in the writer's own life. Why is it, then, that this reader wonders and why is it important? In The Beauty of Men, with its hauntingly beautiful prose, Holleran writes what life has become for Lark, the main character, living in Florida in the 1990s. With sickness and death all around him, he seeks sanctuary for his grief, while worrying about aging and his success or failure as a homosexual. Holleran,in this and his other works, effectively draws the reader into the dream of his writing and story. By the end of the book, you feel as though you've just read a long letter from a friend you haven't heard from in a long time, describing what life's been like over the past few years. I think it's this intimacy that Holleran creates in all of his books which is the key to the question. As in Dancer from the Dance, you want to learn more about the novelist. If you haven't read Holleran's other novels, I would recommend reading them in order before reading The Beauty of Men. Holleran may just be at a point where critics talk about his oeuvre, though I hope this novel isn't his last.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Holleran's latest is another great book 14 Dec. 1998
By Samuel V. Stevens IV - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Holleran usually chooses an elegiac tone for his writing, and this novel is no exception. Lark, living in exile in Florida, visits his elderly, infirm mother almost daily in her nursing home, brings her home on occasional weekends, and mourns for the lost, fast-lane life of 1970s New York and his friends from that time, most of whom have died since he moved to this small, rural town. Lark also pursues an unrequited, somewhat imaginary relationship with Becker, a man some 15 years younger whom Lark picked up once at a local boat ramp. Some critics have accused this novel of employing self-pity and pathos--Lark does have a rather negative self-image and he persists in mooning over Becker when most would have written off that affair with disgust--but the writing is gorgeous. Holleran is peerless (among the gliterati, anyway) with his evocations of time and place. One can smell northern Florida's pine forests and hear the wind through the branches just as one can smell the unpleasantly antiseptic nursing home and hear its senile chatter. Holleran's wit veers toward the sarcastic, but he's often dead-on hilarious, as in the chapter entitled "Il Paradisio," where Lark ventures into a bathhouse. I recommend this book for anyone who likes tight, concise yet lush writing--and doesn't expect a political manifesto in a novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Depressing? Or on target? 18 Aug. 2000
By John A. Koehler - Published on
Format: Paperback
All the reader reviews posted here have merit, those which point to the hypnotic prose, those which register aggravation for the author's angst. The truth, from this reader's perspective, is best summarized from all these viewpoints.
I was spellbound as others were, by the vivid descriptions Holleran so effortlessly plants in my brain like living pictures, giving me an almost virtual access to experiences and memories as if they were entirely my own rather than only partly shared. These left an emotional residue still present after finishing the book, all so deeply felt due to the author's writing skill. I could not help but develop some sympathy for Lark, despite my desire to see him break free of bathos and remorse. Perhaps Holleran/Lark should not be taken at face value, but understood for the lesson Lark gives us: no need to resign to some perceived Fate, to sit, pine for and desire the unattainable while anonymously perched near the boat ramp. Instead, with awareness for the depression and resignation self-pity can bring, one should seek to return to life through some other interest, give life meaning through some other pursuit, and love will find you despite the losses. Learn from the lessons of the past rather than brood on them. That for me is Holleran's intention, the value of this book. For if we resign as Lark does, we end up with nothing but unrequited desire, daydreams, immobility.
The fate all gay men eventually must face is the tyranny of youth, the loss of sexual prowess. We cannot go back, we cannot renew. But we can press on, without fear or regret. Holleran reminds us to do just that.
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