Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pg. 69: Jami Attenberg's "The Kept Man"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jami Attenberg's The Kept Man.

About the book, from the author's website:

There was the ambulance, and a lot of noise, and me and Martin in the hospital, paint on his face, paint on my knees, the two of us the weirdest people in the room, as usual, only this time I didn't have anyone to talk to but myself.

Six years ago, Jarvis Miller's husband, an artist whose career was poised to take off, fell into a coma. And ever since, she's been waiting. She has waited at his bedside, leaning against the nursing home's yellow walls and then waited a day for her depression to subside after every visit. She has waited for doctors and prescriptions, all the newest and best; for cars to take her home; for checks to sign; and most of all she has waited for her husband to wake up. But after six years of dwindling hope, living as a half-widow, and selling off pieces of her husband's artwork to pay for the machines that keep him alive, Jarvis has come to admit that she's waiting for her husband to die.

Then one spring day when her washing machine breaks down, Jarvis meets the members of the Kept Man Club: three handsome, interesting men, all married to readwinner wives, who meet once a week at a local laundromat. Their companionship opens her eyes to the possibilities of family, warmth, and friendship she's been missing, and they become her first new friends in six years. At the same time, her husband's best friend and his art dealer pressure Jarvis to gather the remainder of his work for a retrospective - a proposition that produces mixed feelings, since it's an honor usually reserved for the already dead. Sorting through a hidden box of photographs, she uncovers evidence of a shocking betrayal that calls into question her idealized vision of the past.

Among the early praise for The Kept Man:
"Short story writer Attenberg (Instant Love) successfully demonstrates her talent and experience in her debut novel.... An engaging and innovative first novel for all fiction collections."
--Library Journal (starred review)

"Written in a sparse style that puts Attenberg's background as a journalist to strong use, this funny, perceptive debut earns its hopeful if uncertain ending, giving wisdom to a sentiment as saccharine as one character's belief 'that we are the sum of all of the loves before us until we reach our one great love.'"
--Publishers Weekly

"...Written in relaxed yet fresh prose, Attenberg's debut is unabashedly emotional, refreshingly devoid of New York City cynicism and tenderly funny."
--People Magazine

"The book is rich in sensual details. Attenberg creates a physical world that's easy to enter, graced with money and full of handsome people, lovely clothes and idle time. Quick, intense sex scenes work within the weave of the larger plot. Against this landscape of privilege and indulgence, Attenberg draws a complicated, pensive emotional landscape best lived vicariously, through her lens of dreamy language."
--The Oregonian

"Her prose is vivid, specific, thoroughly considered, and easy to read.... Ms. Attenberg, via Jarvis, has a wise, wounded, and empathetic voice, and, more important, she is an able geographer of emotional landscapes."
--New York Sun

"Attenberg has a wonderful eye for detail: Her vivid descriptions of Williamsburg -- almost a character in itself -- are truly engaging. For all of her faults, and there are plenty, Jarvis is likable, with a surprising wit that tempers her bleak situation."
--Time Out NY

"She writes of longing and mourning with extraordinary heart. She muses on the Big Questions - euthanasia, faith, mortality - while taking time out to incorporate savagely funny lines: 'Judith was a cokehead, as well as a diabetic, a brilliant combination of death wish and death sentence.' A likable novel marked by a profundity of feeling."
Read an excerpt from The Kept Man and learn more about the author and her work at Jami Attenberg's website and her blog.

Watch the two short films inspired by The Kept Man: Man and No Use Crying.

Jami Attenberg is the author of the story collection Instant Love. She has written for Jane, Salon, Nylon, Print, the San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, and Time Out New York, and her fiction has appeared in Nerve, Pindeldyboz, Spork, and Bullfight Review.

The Page 69 Test: The Kept Man.

--Marshal Zeringue