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American Studies

By Mark Merlis

Mark Merlis’ exceptional first novel. Dark humour, biting wit and dazzling prose infuse this story of desire and betrayal, history and healing.

Reeve thinks his life is over. His career is at a dead end, his face is a mess, and his landlord is evicting him from his aprartment because he made too much noise when a hustler beat him up. As he lies in his hospital bed, figuring our what to do next. he finds himself brooding about the parallel ruin of his old college mentor Tom Slater, a famous American literary scholar who was betrayed and driven to suicide during the McCarthy era.

Offering a welcome distraction is the patient in the next bed, a slient youth who arouses feelings Reeve vowed he would renounce, the dangerous longing for the sweetness and menace of straight men.

Never at a loss for the tellling of caustic aside, Reeve reconstructs the troubled worlds of Tom Slater and his own insouciant youth, and horny old age. American Studies is an ambitiously achieved sweep of twentieth-century experience, a novel which triumphantly succeeds as both tragedy and farce.