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Seven Types of Ambiguity


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About the Author

Elliot Perlmanis the acclaimed author of a collection of short stories and two novels,Three Dollars, the film adaptation of which was released in 2005, andSeven Types of Ambiguity, which was a 'New York Times Notable Book' and a national bestseller in France, where it was described 'one of the best novels of recent years, a complete success'(Le Monde). A barrister, he lived in New York for many years and currently lives in Melbourne.


By copping the title of William Empson's classic of literary criticism, Australian writer Perlman (Three Dollars) sets a high bar for himself, but he justifies his theft with a relentlessly driven story, told from seven perspectives, about the effects of the brief abduction of six-year-old Sam Geraghty by Simon Heywood, his mother Anna's ex-boyfriend. Charismatic, unemployed Simon is still obsessed with Anna nine years after their breakup-to the dismay of his present lover, Angelique, a prostitute. Anna's stockbroker husband, Joe, is one of Angelique's regulars, which feeds Simon's flame. When Angelique turns Simon in to the cops, he claims he had permission to pick Sam up; his fate hinges on whether Anna will back up his lie. Most of the perspectives are linked to Simon's shrink, Alex Klima, who writes to Anna and counsels Simon, Angelique and Joe's co-worker, Dennis. The most successful voices belong to Joe, who's spent his career on the edge of panic, and Dennis, whose bitter rants provide a corrective to Klima's unctuous psychological omniscience. Perlman, a lawyer, aims for a literary legal novel-think Grisham by way of Franzen-and the ambition is admirable though the product somewhat uneven. Simon's obsessions, his self-righteousness and his psychological blackmail, give him a perhaps unintended creepiness, and the novel, as big and juicy as it is, may not offer sufficient closure. Agent, Sarah Chalfant. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"'Elliot Perlman is a master storyteller.' Observer"

The half-hearted kidnapping of young Sam Geraghty sets in motion this intricately plotted first novel about a small group of Australians in crisis. Ten years after being dumped, Simon Heywood is still obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Anna Geraghty and has kidnapped her son to "save" him from his parents' loveless marriage. Call girl Angelique, who lives with Simon, services Anna's shallow stockbroker husband, Joe, and his frustrated business partner, Dennis Mitchell. Joe and Dennis's relationship implodes after a big medical contract falls through, and after a breakdown, Dennis begins to see psychiatrist Alex Klima, who is friends with Simon. And so on. There's much to digest in this overstuffed novel, with sidebars devoted to discussions of prostitution, the Australian legal process, prison life, managed care, and even the art of counting cards in blackjack. Add to that the sheer selfishness and self-righteous attitude of the majority of the characters, and you could imagine an unreadable mess. But despite its long-windedness and dangerous flirtation with clich? (e.g., the successful father who spoils his child but doesn't understand him), the novel works, and, for many readers, it will work in spades. The Australian-born Perlman reaches for the brass ring, and he successfully shapes this heady material into an all-too-rare literary page-turner. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/04.]-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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