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Joseph McElroy's "Women and Men"
December 4, 2012 6:18 PM   Subscribe

[Joseph] McElroy's sense of original and authentic contemporaneity makes him the most important novelist now writing in America, the artist who has most consistently combined the mastering capabilities of systems perspectives and an art of excess. Women and Men is the capstone of his career and, I believe, the most significant American novel published since Gravity's Rainbow. - Tom LeClair

The novel is out of print with used paperback copies selling for $100. There is an e-text online, if you know where to look.

Additional material that could not be fitted into the novel was published earlier this year as Preparations for Search.

McElroy's other major novels include Lookout Cartridge - a techno-thriller of sorts that David Foster Wallace acknowledged as an influence on Infinite Jest - and the science fiction work Plus.

For a gentler introduction, there are his essays:

- "Thoughts about Consciousness while Cutting in the Brain"

- These two excerpts from a recently completed non-fiction book about water

- "9/11 Emerging" (previously)

- "Attractions Around Mount St. Helens"
posted by Egg Shen (18 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I took a class from Tom LeClair a decade ago. The man knows from Contemporary American Fiction. The class texts were Underworld by DeLillo, Mason & Dixon by Pynchon, Alias Grace by Atwood, and Beloved by Morrison. Heavy load for a ten-week class, but I loved every minute of it and it changed what I read.

Still never got through Gravity's Rainbow, though.
posted by OHSnap at 6:33 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


TMBG's "Women and Men."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


$99 in used condition on Amazon right now? My criminal mind wonders what kind of living I'd make as a paperback book pirate.
posted by surplus at 7:01 PM on December 4, 2012


I have Lookout Cartridge and got around 100 pages into it once, but didn't have the motivation at the time to keep plowing through it. I keep meaning to give it another shot.
posted by dfan at 7:32 PM on December 4, 2012


if you know where to look.
is this a case of "if you can't find it you're not worthy to read it?" why not just let on where it is to be found, perhaps with a link even?
posted by TMezz at 7:56 PM on December 4, 2012


why not just let on where it is to be found, perhaps with a link even?

Aside from site policy on links that infringe copyright, I don't wish to plant a public signpost that will draw unwanted attention to the site in question.

I am available by MeFi Mail.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:07 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really nice to see Joseph McElroy here - he's a fantastic writer who never gets as much attention as he deserves. Might be worth pointing out audio of a recent reading by him; his interviews with Michael Silverblatt at Bookworm also provide an easier way into his work (most recent one here; two older ones here and here).

Probably worth pointing out that the prices for Women & Men on Amazon are artificially inflated; it's not a particularly hard book to find in used book stores, either in the enormous hardcover or the slightly less enormous Dalkey Archive paperback. McElroy did get the rights to the book back, which is why it's uncharacteristically out of print for a Dalkey Archive book. But I think the people at Dzanc are putting out an electronic version sometime soon; they're also publishing Cannonball, a short novel that he's been doing readings from for a while.

(Maybe also worth linking to his site?)

If you're really interested in reading Women & Men, maybe a good place to start is by tracking down a copy of Ship Rock, an excerpt from the book (maybe 80 pages?) published separately.
posted by with hidden noise at 8:28 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


and the science fiction work Plus.

I think you mean "generically situated in the domain of science fiction".
posted by chortly at 9:59 PM on December 4, 2012


I've always loved the lyrics for the TMBG song "Women & Men" linked above - is it related to the book?
posted by freebird at 11:15 PM on December 4, 2012


That would be funny, if he had written the 1200 pages based on a 2 minute song.
posted by surplus at 12:54 AM on December 5, 2012


What got me through Gravity's Rainbow was that I read it while crossing the Sahara: Read pages were toilet paper, so I had to read at a steady pace to free up sheets for the day. The book got lighter as its pages were recycled, always a bonus with a heavy pack. All I remember, decades down the line, was the early scene with the map of the V2 bombings of London. Statistically every neighborhood had an equal chance of being hit, but poor neighborhoods got hit more often.

The odds of my reading Women & Men aren't good. I buy the stuff at the supermarket these days like everybody else.
posted by splat at 12:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I finished it because I wanted to see if there were any more stories about lightbulbs
posted by thelonius at 3:01 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really surprised that this is out of print. I thought part of the Dalkey Archive Press's mandate was to keep books like this in print. It's not going to far to say that I thought keeping Women and Men in print was the entire point of the Dalkey Archive.

I've still never read this book. I've got to get on that.
posted by OmieWise at 5:18 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That would be SUPER funny, if he had written the 1200 pages in 1987 based on a 2 minute song that was released in 1990.
posted by clavicle at 5:46 AM on December 5, 2012


if he had written the 1200 pages in 1987 based on a 2 minute song that was released in 1990

McElroy is into some next level shit. I wouldn't rule out the possibility.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:43 AM on December 5, 2012


Well, of course I knew the song came after the book.

And TMBG doing a 1:47 song about a 1200 page book? That would be easy for them.
posted by surplus at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2012


McElroy is a phenomenal writer. Lookout Cartridge has got to be the most cerebral, intricate book I've ever read. I really liked Smuggler's Bible too, but I never read Women and Men.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2012


I find it hard to take a critic seriously when they use phrases like "the most important novelist now writing in America" as it indicates a seriously blinkered view of both literature and America [sic].

(This is to say nothing about McElroy's worth as a writer, one way or the other.)
posted by jammy at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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