Books by Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews was born and raised on New York’s Upper East Side‚ but left America for France in 1952 shortly after graduating from Harvard. He has written over a dozen books‚ including the novels Cigarettes‚ The Journalist‚ and Tlooth‚ along with collecte

THE SOLITARY TWIN by Harry Mathews
Released: March 27, 2018

"A smart, beguiling work elegantly written and with just the right leavening of sex—and violence."
Atmospheric study by the late avant-garde writer Mathews (My Life in the CIA, 2005, etc.), the first American member of the French Oulipo cooperative. Read full book review >
MY LIFE IN CIA by Harry Mathews
Released: May 9, 2005

"Did these things happen? Is Mathews really Jonathan Hemlock? This isn't much help in answering such questions, but it's a lot of fun."
Hang out with spies in distant Asian capitals, offend French communists, smoke ever so slightly expensive cigars, have no visible means of support—and the locals are likely to ask questions about a person. Read full book review >
THE HUMAN COUNTRY by Harry Mathews
Released: Sept. 25, 2002

"Hairpin turns on Piranesi paragraphs that often climb nowhere and twist the brain into taffy. Wonder full."
A sheaf of Mathews's artifacts from the past twenty years or so, perhaps only for connoisseurs of the gold-packed sentence, including early stories from Country Cooking (1980), midcareer stories from The American Experience (1984), plus ten fresh new pieces (Singular Pleasures, 1993). Read full book review >
'53 DAYS' by Georges Perec
Released: Sept. 30, 1999

—53 Days" ($23.95; Sept. 30, 272 pp.; 1-56792-088-8). Though mystery addicts may balk at its inconclusiveness, readers of every other persuasion will find much to delight them in this deft intellectual thriller left unfinished when Perec, arguably this century's most accomplished metafictionist and punster (such innovative texts as Life: A User's Manual,1987, and A Void,1995) died in 1982. The search for missing mystery writer Robert Serval, conducted by this story's narrator, a teacher "studying" Serval's uncompleted manuscript The Crypt, rapidly escalates into a voyage to remote (imaginary) territory and a series of droll parodies of literary ancestors (Agatha Christie is a prominent example). Even in its inchoate state (smoothed out by fellow "Oulipo" experimentalists Mathews and Roubaud), Perec's dazzling gamesmanship offers sophisticated pleasures reminiscent of, and often equal to, the legacies bequeathed to us by his masters Joyce and Nabokov. Read full book review >
THE JOURNALIST by Harry Mathews
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

There are no safe places for the disintegrating self, not even the private journal; that is what the unnamed ``journalist'' discovers in this teasing, lightly involving novel from Mathews (Singular Pleasures, 1993, etc.). Middle-aged, middle-class, he lives in a college town in an unidentified country. He has an unglamorous office job, a loving wife (Daisy), an equally loving mistress (Colette), and a lovable if enigmatic son in high school (Gert). Daisy and his doctor, worried about his mental state, suggest he keep a journal, and he starts his new project with zest, seeing it as a ``a hold on reality,'' a way of reconciling his two selves—the one that experiences life with the one that observes it. Soon enough, however, this journal, which he had envisioned as an instrument of control, turns into a tyrant that controls him. He becomes obsessed with the right way of classifying experience, and the margins sprout headings and subheadings like weeds. Meanwhile, his relationships are suffering. Daisy turns secretive, and his best friend, Paul, is avoiding him. Could they be having an affair? Why is Gert suddenly so friendly with Colette: More mischief? And why is there never enough time for his lonely task of keeping his journal and getting it right? He cuts back on sleep (his love life is already a thing of the past) and uses the office for his writing, until his boss forces him to take indefinite leave. ``I've lost them,'' he acknowledges, referring to all the people in his life, just before his final dissolution and hospitalization, when a new narrative voice supplies rather too pat explanations for all the puzzles. Not as bleak as it sounds. Mathews chronicles his diarist's dilemma with humor and gentle irony; his slide into the abyss occasions more bemusement than terror. Read full book review >
Released: May 7, 1993

The singular pleasures of Mathews's (Cigarettes, 1987, etc.) title are in fact only one pleasure, and that one is the—well, the pleasure of masturbation. Here are sixty-odd (publisher's count) tiny pieces, one or two almost a page long, most only a paragraph or just a few lines, describing various people—well, doing it. Those various people are very various, from kids to old fogies, of all sexes, nations, places, needs, and callings, some alone, some with like-minded company. Some of the vignettes are silly, some exotic, some satiric, some erotic, most poetic, some neutral, and some—a few—touchingly lovely. The point seems to be—well, let that be determined by those who choose to ponder it. The illustrations by Francesco Clemente aren't lubricous at all, but (usually) slight, charming, and as ephemeral as a—well, as, say, a falling leaf. Read full book review >