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We are the Picture People. I name us Picture People because most special and obvious about the species is, our kind lives on and for pictures, lives as and for images, our species takes pictures, makes pix, thinks in pix. What is behind the human drive to create, remake, and keep images from and of everything? What does it mean that we now live in a -glut of images?- Men a We are the Picture People. I name us Picture People because most special and obvious about the species is, our kind lives on and for pictures, lives as and for images, our species takes pictures, makes pix, thinks in pix. What is behind the human drive to create, remake, and keep images from and of everything? What does it mean that we now live in a -glut of images?- Men and Apparitions takes on a central question of our era through the wild musings and eventful life of Ezekiel Hooper Stark, cultural anthropologist, ethnographer, specialist in family photographs. As Ezekiel progresses from a child obsessed with his family's photo albums to young and passionate researcher to a man devastated by betrayal in love, his academic fascinations determine and reflect his course, touching on such various subjects as discarded images, pet pictures, spirit mediums, the tragic life of his long-dead cousin the semi-famous socialite Clover Adams, and the nature of contemporary masculinity. Kaleidoscopic and encyclopedic, madcap and wry, this book showcases Lynne Tillman not only as a brilliantly original novelist but as one of our most prominent thinkers on culture and visual culture today.


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We are the Picture People. I name us Picture People because most special and obvious about the species is, our kind lives on and for pictures, lives as and for images, our species takes pictures, makes pix, thinks in pix. What is behind the human drive to create, remake, and keep images from and of everything? What does it mean that we now live in a -glut of images?- Men a We are the Picture People. I name us Picture People because most special and obvious about the species is, our kind lives on and for pictures, lives as and for images, our species takes pictures, makes pix, thinks in pix. What is behind the human drive to create, remake, and keep images from and of everything? What does it mean that we now live in a -glut of images?- Men and Apparitions takes on a central question of our era through the wild musings and eventful life of Ezekiel Hooper Stark, cultural anthropologist, ethnographer, specialist in family photographs. As Ezekiel progresses from a child obsessed with his family's photo albums to young and passionate researcher to a man devastated by betrayal in love, his academic fascinations determine and reflect his course, touching on such various subjects as discarded images, pet pictures, spirit mediums, the tragic life of his long-dead cousin the semi-famous socialite Clover Adams, and the nature of contemporary masculinity. Kaleidoscopic and encyclopedic, madcap and wry, this book showcases Lynne Tillman not only as a brilliantly original novelist but as one of our most prominent thinkers on culture and visual culture today.

30 review for Men and Apparitions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adina

    Shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2021 I tried and it's not for me. A jury found it worthy so it does have its qualities but I could not read more than 40 pages. Below I added one positive and one negative review. They might prove helpful if you are considering this book. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2021 I tried and it's not for me. A jury found it worthy so it does have its qualities but I could not read more than 40 pages. Below I added one positive and one negative review. They might prove helpful if you are considering this book. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2020 My final book from a very impressive longlist was also my least favourite of the ten. Not that it is a bad book, just that I lacked interest in the narrator and much of the subject matter - on the whole I would rather leave most social sciences to the experts. It also uses one of my PET hates - random capitalisation. It is redeemed a little by the history, particularly the parts about Clover Hooper Adams.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    So, ethnography, first is an activity; second, it’s exploration and interpretation. Third, writing and writing narratives. Now shortlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize – which is perhaps unfortunate as I aim to read all the books longlisted for that prize (not least as I have been involved with it as a past judge and one year a sponsor of the prize fund) and, while this is a book which I am su So, ethnography, first is an activity; second, it’s exploration and interpretation. Third, writing and writing narratives. Now shortlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness Prize – which is perhaps unfortunate as I aim to read all the books longlisted for that prize (not least as I have been involved with it as a past judge and one year a sponsor of the prize fund) and, while this is a book which I am sure will appeal to many readers, it very much did not appeal to me. If I had picked up the book in a bookstore and read pretty well any page I think I would have quickly put it back down – and unfortunately that is how I felt every time I picked it up when reading for the longlist. Hopefully though this review will pull in the other more appreciative readers this book deserves as its clearly a work of great intelligence and deep cultural insight – just one whose outer packaging I could not break through. It is published in the UK by Peninsula Press and small press formed by three booksellers in 2017 which published its first full length fiction in 2020 (including this book). The set up of the book is that it is first party narrated by Ezekiel (“Zeke”) Hooper Stark – an academic ethnographer whose areas of study include: family photographs and the stories they tell of a family and our culture; the changing role of imagery; and new men and how they have adapted to a post-feminist world. The book is set up as a series of short chapter essays which explore each of these topics but on which the other research topic is Zeke himself and his wider family (including: an alcoholic and distant corporate lawyer father; an androgynously born, surgically male, later cross-dressing Great Uncle Ezekiel; an effectively mute Little Sister; a passive spinster - but influential on him - Aunt Clarissa; and a yard-based praying mantis – or more likely a series of such insects - which he christens Mr Petey and adopts as a childhood pet and confidant). There is some plot development involving a suicide and a betrayal towards the end of the book. Many of the essays are based around family photos – both those from his research and those from his own family. There are some interesting ideas here on the role and evolution of portrait photography and how it has both followed and lead societal changes. The text itself came across to me as a mix of: very arty “theory”; rather colloquial type musings (there is way too many “Ha”s and “Kidding”s and far too much RANDOM CAPITALISATION); pop cultural references which were almost entirely lost on me (this was a classic type of book which I felt needed an English-English translation for me really to repeat it). A couple of examples of the first two type which I think give a good sense for the book [my thesis director] is partial to Stuart Hall’s theory of articulation, in which cultural formations are an articulated ensemble, linked, joined, not modeled on an organic living body with an “eternal shape”. This theory bypasses or eliminates the question of authenticity or in-authenticity. And I’m an oxymoron, moron ox, dumb pun. Who cares. Theoretical border crossings, shifting fields of inquiry, morph into self-made mind wars. I renounced and claimed and accepted and denied what I once held dear. Total hedonism, total boredom. OK, pathetic, not cool. To be honest I struggled with one page of the text in these styles – so 300 was a trial. The last 70 or so pages of the book is a piece of Zeke’s research – his field study into new men “MEN IN QUOTES” – frequently referred to in the main text. Cleverly this is actually a piece of research that the author has said she “did on her characters’s behalf” – based on actual interviews she carried out with her men friends – the study itself says that this is a self-selected, non-cross section and it is perhaps telling of why I struggled with the book (or that my earlier struggles had by then rather squashed my interest) that I could not identify at all with anything said in this section (or remember any of it as I write this review). Not for me. For an example of how to write much more concise essay fiction I would suggest instead another RoC longlisted book “A Musical Offering”.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    This is a tricky book to review. Part of me agrees with the first part of a sentence in a review in The Spectator which says ”Prepare for mansplaining littered with tedious verbal tics…” and part of me agrees more with the second half of the same sentence which says ”…which is oddly compelling to read.” Ezekiel (‘Zeke’) Stark is an ethnographer who specialises in family photos. What we read is a fairly unfiltered version of what goes through his mind (in fact, there’s an indication later in the b This is a tricky book to review. Part of me agrees with the first part of a sentence in a review in The Spectator which says ”Prepare for mansplaining littered with tedious verbal tics…” and part of me agrees more with the second half of the same sentence which says ”…which is oddly compelling to read.” Ezekiel (‘Zeke’) Stark is an ethnographer who specialises in family photos. What we read is a fairly unfiltered version of what goes through his mind (in fact, there’s an indication later in the book that we might be reading a transcript of him talking to his analyst - echoes of another book, The Appointment, on the 2021 Republic of Consciousness long list). What we read is an extended monologue in which Zeke tells us what it is like to be an American male. Specifically, a white, straight, privileged American male. The first part of the book is heavy on ideas, the second about the consequences of those ideas. A lot of the ideas relate to the area of photography, for instance comparing a picture and an image. As a photographer myself, I found these sections both interesting (some good ideas explored) but also a bit disappointing because so much of it (the book itself acknowledges this) draws on famous texts by Barthes, Sontag and Berger which are all books I have read fairly recently which meant several parts of the book felt like repetition to me, even if a different slant on the ideas sometimes. For example: ”Photographs can create images, but they are not images per se, they are things, a physical object. An image doesn’t have to be based on a photograph. It is a mind-picture, or an image is a picture in the mind. A photograph may inspire or foment an image or images. An image is a concoction, often manufactured, meant to create a way to be seen, viewed, understood. It can be aerie faerie, a phantom, phantasm.” And later on Zeke says: ”Pictures don’t tell stories; they match - align with - stories we tell ourselves. We see this in the way Zeke talks about the pictures that are dotted through the book. He looks for meaning in these images, but he is always aware that the meaning he finds is the meaning that comes from his background, his history. We read images in our own context, not the image's original context. As Zeke talks about images, we also learn about his childhood and his family. I find myself disagreeing with Kirkus Reviews where I read ”There is a narrator, but to call him a main character would be an overstatement, as he never quite materializes as anything more than a collection of erudite observations.” One of the most notable things abut Zeke’s narration is its instability: his mind flits from one idea to the next and the connection isn’t always immediately obvious. But I found this made me think about what kind of person Zeke actually is, what kind of person it is that jumps from this idea to that idea. It’s not written on the page, but I think a good image of who Zeke is forms in the reader’s mind. The other key idea floating around in Zeke’s thoughts is masculinity. Specifically the impact of second wave feminism on men who have grown up not knowing anything else. The final section of the book is Zeke’s ethnographic study (“Men in Quotes”) which he introduces by saying: “I intend to explore: what are ‘men’ now, after the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, feminism, generally, how has that changed us, in what ways, and the women we know and love or hate, and what do we want from women, not what do they want.” This is Zeke’s introduction, but it is also a fair summary of the book. At the end of this section i.e. the very end of the book, Zeke writes: ”These pages, this field report and survey, contain other men’s thoughts, but always my preferences, because unwillingly I participate in everything I may want to change.” And this could almost be Tillman speaking to us as readers as she signs off. Reading the book, the question does arise as to why Tillman, a woman, would write such a detailed analysis of a male psyche. Fitting again with the idea of a monologue as spoken to an analyst, perhaps Tillman is showing a willingness to listen. It’s hard to imagine that this book was written without the input of lots of men (indeed, the acknowledgements include the sentence "Thank you to all of the men who responded so generously and intelligently to all of Zeke’s questions"). As I read Zeke’s document, I found it hard not to think that he wasn’t just exploring masculinity, but also trying to understand women. And this fits with his monologue in the first three-quarters of the book where several women play key roles in both his growth and his tragedies. I went on a journey with this book. I enjoyed the initial pages. I started to lose interest for a while. I got over the verbal tics quite quickly when I decided to read it as someone talking rather than writing. I liked some of the talk about images/pictures but found some of it repeating what I have only recently read elsewhere. I found myself building a picture of Zeke as a person by trying to fill in the gaps and this drew me back into the book in a big way, even if I couldn’t quite relate to all the “new man” talk towards the end (I’d be interested to hear what my sons made of this as they are much closer to Zeke’s generation than I am and several of his correspondents talk about their fathers and they probably mean men of my generation!). This is my first experience of Tillman. I went into it very unsure how I would react. I enjoyed it a lot.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I read this since it was longlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness prize. There are mixed reviews on Goodreads that can tell you more of what the book was about, while this is just my personal reaction. The book is the type of essay/fiction that I usually admire, but I felt Men and Apparitions demonstrated some of the drawbacks to that approach. When I an engaged in a book of this type that I like, I often feel more the connection of colleague, where knowledge is being intimately shared I read this since it was longlisted for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness prize. There are mixed reviews on Goodreads that can tell you more of what the book was about, while this is just my personal reaction. The book is the type of essay/fiction that I usually admire, but I felt Men and Apparitions demonstrated some of the drawbacks to that approach. When I an engaged in a book of this type that I like, I often feel more the connection of colleague, where knowledge is being intimately shared and the author respects the intellect of the reader. Here I felt like a college freshman in a mandated core course being lectured at in an almost condescending manner by a self-indulgent professor. Sources seemed repeated rather than interpreted and when interpreted seemed overly simplified or lacked explanation of their relevance to the present text or present day issues of interest. In fairness to the author, the fault of disconnection lies with the reader as well as author and I doubt I was the targeted audience here, though familiar with many of the twentieth century references. As already stated by Goodreads reviewer Hugh Hudson, the author does get it just right when referencing Clover Hooper Adams, inspiring interest in further researching Adams and providing a mysterious link to the narrator of the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    The Spectator’s review described this as “mansplaining littered with tedious verbal tics, which is oddly compelling to read” - which for me was half right. Lynne Tillman the author clearly has a lot of interesting things to say. Unfortunately she choses here to mediate it through one of my least favourite literary devices, the annoying narrator, and an narrator who seems to have a very limited attention span so that the odd topic of interest is forgotten by the next paragraph. Indeed the novel ma The Spectator’s review described this as “mansplaining littered with tedious verbal tics, which is oddly compelling to read” - which for me was half right. Lynne Tillman the author clearly has a lot of interesting things to say. Unfortunately she choses here to mediate it through one of my least favourite literary devices, the annoying narrator, and an narrator who seems to have a very limited attention span so that the odd topic of interest is forgotten by the next paragraph. Indeed the novel makes a strong early claim for the 2021 edition of my Annoying Dentist Award, named after the inaugural winner. The full roll call of first-person narrative shame: Serotonin (2020), Ducks, Newburyport (2019), The Orchid and the Wasp (2018), Francis Plug: How to be a Public Author (2017), The Sellout (2016), 10:04 (2015) and To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014). The other person bugbear for me is the excessive length. I have been of the view for some time now that very few novels of over 300 pages would not be better at half the length, and this one is Exhibit A for the prosecution. As a 120 page novella of the type in which Les Fugitives specialise, this could have worked for me, but at close to 400 pages I was reduced to skim reading. A rare mistep for me in an otherwise exceptional Republic of Consciousness Prize longlist, but that's my personal taste and I wouldn't want to put others off exploring it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Tillman's books often defy easy categorization. She often creates a heady mix of philosophy, theory, and characterization. This novel stars Ezekial (Zeke) Stark, a cultural anthropologist/ethnographer looking at "the Picture People" (that's basically us--21st century's image-driven society). The prose reads almost like a series of essays interspersed with a memoir revealing Zeke's family history, his insightful view on society and imagery, and ultimately, his series of interviews with men and ho Tillman's books often defy easy categorization. She often creates a heady mix of philosophy, theory, and characterization. This novel stars Ezekial (Zeke) Stark, a cultural anthropologist/ethnographer looking at "the Picture People" (that's basically us--21st century's image-driven society). The prose reads almost like a series of essays interspersed with a memoir revealing Zeke's family history, his insightful view on society and imagery, and ultimately, his series of interviews with men and how they relate to women and manhood. There's definitely a kind of arc to the writing, but not really a story per se. It's more like a set of images alongside a philosophical exploration of meaning, family, and relationships. Zeke is at once, sort of brilliant and meta-narratively millennial in terms of humorously commenting on his own thoughts in a way that makes him seem like he could be on Youtube streaming his commentary or hosting a podcast with no other guests. E.g., “People repeat themselves, usually don’t know it, and I hate repeating myself (but if I didn’t, who would? Kidding), but no one is considered herself, himself, without doing it. Consistency = repetitive behavior. A groove grinds itself into the brain, a beat or melody runs the neural pathways.” He drops countless insights along the way as he comes to grip with the gap between reality and image: “The Picture People are unlike earlier humans only in requiring moment-by-moment proof of the world around them and their position in it. Systems to locate themselves wherever they are. GPS = technological solipsism.” “Words create images, right; but controlling them is trickily elusive, and visual images may be still more elusive, since there’s no dictionary for images, and always a diffuse etymology.” “Illusion shapes and shelters us, as necessary as oxygen and water. Illusions won’t die, they are not delusions, and seem part of a human being’s hard-wiring. The illusion, say, that life will continue as it was yesterday or an hour ago, could be genetic.” “I’m Lazarus, risen from the dead. OK. After Jesus raised him from the dead, Lazarus lived another thirty years. He had to flee Judea because of threats against his life---Christ’s miracle man endangered the state. Tradition also says Lazarus never smiled again except once, when he saw a man stealing a clay pot. Lazarus smiled at him, and said, “The clay steals the clay.” Pretty good. A man’s life is a tautology. I suppose Lazarus’s was redundant too.” Tillman manages to capture the disorienting zeitgeist of today's uncertainty laced with just a bit of hope that changing social roles and notions of identity may lead to a more vibrant human existence. ------------------------------------------------------ WORDS I LOOKED UP WHILE READING THIS BOOK anaclisis | abulia | exogamous | traduced | taphephobia | solipsism

  8. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Wow. Frankly, I’m amazed I stuck through this till the end. It’s basically a series of essays told in first person, the way Bill Bryson or Oliver Sacks might do it – though a lot more dry and analytical – with bits of personal history mixed in here and there. The somewhat psycho narrator likes to throw in “Ha ha” or “I’m kidding” or “Do you feel me?” at the end of sentences, which gets annoying fast. The essays themselves are actually interesting and insightful – if you’re after essays – and cov Wow. Frankly, I’m amazed I stuck through this till the end. It’s basically a series of essays told in first person, the way Bill Bryson or Oliver Sacks might do it – though a lot more dry and analytical – with bits of personal history mixed in here and there. The somewhat psycho narrator likes to throw in “Ha ha” or “I’m kidding” or “Do you feel me?” at the end of sentences, which gets annoying fast. The essays themselves are actually interesting and insightful – if you’re after essays – and cover a variety of topics – feminism, obscure poets, anthropology, civil war history, and especially photography. The opening discourse on photography takes up about the first 50 pages of the book. It’s a pity. This would’ve made a pretty good bit of non-fiction in a more appropriate format. Clearly, this is art house stuff, a new form of novel, the next Ulysses. I often like novels of ideas with bits of philosophy woven in – you know, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Invisible Cities, The Fountainhead, Dept. of Speculation, etc. This one, however, is plotless, as far as I can tell – some stuff about break-ups, suicides, a heartless father, etc. Hardly takes up more than twenty pages of the book in all. It basically a big WTF novel, only for those academically superior to the rest of us readers who merely seek a story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tonymess

    Ezekiel Stark, a skeptic in his field, was promising. He studied small groups or areas of cultural concerns – family photographs, the basis of images, men. His dissertation pubbed by a university press, his gig in acadoomia was upped to associate professor. He walked the halls of academe, walked the line, talked the talk, and went by the book. He was a good enough colleague, if sometimes too aggressive when he thought he was right. He always seemed preoccupied. Sometimes he partied. Sometimes he Ezekiel Stark, a skeptic in his field, was promising. He studied small groups or areas of cultural concerns – family photographs, the basis of images, men. His dissertation pubbed by a university press, his gig in acadoomia was upped to associate professor. He walked the halls of academe, walked the line, talked the talk, and went by the book. He was a good enough colleague, if sometimes too aggressive when he thought he was right. He always seemed preoccupied. Sometimes he partied. Sometimes he was a hermit. He did his version of field work. He wrote papers, articles, books, he made a splash, and then he floated. Late in the “novel” ‘Men and Apparitions’ the protagonist, who has been writing fragments, short experiences and expositions, writes three third person sketches of himself, one is above and the other two contain spoilers so I’ll not present them here. Here’s my attempt at Ezekiel Stark’s story: Ezekiel Stark, a boring, mundane academic, who takes anti-depressants, and excrutiatingly mansplains page after page after page on the totally disinteresting subject of ethnography [the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures], more specifically the study of old family photos. He is a narcissistic, misogynistic, bore of a human. He never parties, he just whines about the fact that his best friend ran off with his wife and talks about his fractured relationship with his mother, his father, his elder brother (who is more successful than him), his younger sister (who chose from an early age to remain silent), his aunt, his ancestors and any other relative he can blame for his shitty position. Ezekiel wonders if it was the rise of feminism in the 60’s/70’s that has brought on this crap life and writes a field study “Men in Quotes” which appears at the end of this book. It is no wonder Ezekiel is single, who could be enamored to such a self-centered bore of a human? For my full review go to https://messybooker.wordpress.com/202...

  10. 4 out of 5

    LindaJ^

    I read about half of this book after it appeared on the longlist for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness prize. Having only finished half of it, I'm not rating it. There were things I like but overall I just was not into it and with too many other books on the shelf, I won't be returning. I read about half of this book after it appeared on the longlist for the 2021 Republic of Consciousness prize. Having only finished half of it, I'm not rating it. There were things I like but overall I just was not into it and with too many other books on the shelf, I won't be returning.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tommi

    Two extended essays, one longer on photography and one shorter on masculinity, delivered through the sometimes jarring voice of Ezekiel, whose rambling overstays its welcome but whose complexity is also a nod toward Tillman’s ability to create multidimensional characters. The novel tends toward the tidbit-dropping genre like another RoC shortlistee A Musical Offering, but the latter’s poetic style surpasses Men and Apparitions by far. Also, somebody should do a bingo card on these fact-dropping Two extended essays, one longer on photography and one shorter on masculinity, delivered through the sometimes jarring voice of Ezekiel, whose rambling overstays its welcome but whose complexity is also a nod toward Tillman’s ability to create multidimensional characters. The novel tends toward the tidbit-dropping genre like another RoC shortlistee A Musical Offering, but the latter’s poetic style surpasses Men and Apparitions by far. Also, somebody should do a bingo card on these fact-dropping novels where one square is dedicated to John Cage. I sometimes feel like I’m reading the same facts and tidbits one novel after another.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    Godlike Walker Evans, was the only photographer in the history of the world. The photographer is a walking horror, fragmented and insanely unreliable, foreign behind eyes, are photographs of the soul. Chris Roberts, God Before the Eyes

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robert Wechsler

    I did not find the same level of enjoyment in this book that I found in Tillman's American Genius: A Comedy. This is just as intelligent and unusual, but my interest in images and in the narrator lessened as I went along, and I could not imagine reading 300 pages more. I also found less beauty, although there were some wonderful moments. I did not find the same level of enjoyment in this book that I found in Tillman's American Genius: A Comedy. This is just as intelligent and unusual, but my interest in images and in the narrator lessened as I went along, and I could not imagine reading 300 pages more. I also found less beauty, although there were some wonderful moments.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I was so excited that someone wrote this book, about this exact character, talking about this exact set of themes. I learned a lot reading it - basically a very easy way to digest six lectures on photographic history. So it's great for that - the tiny bit of narrative thread and the process of character-reveal makes the whole graduate level lecture hang together around the mind of the narrator. But wow, wanting this to be anything in addition to a digested history of photographers officially recog I was so excited that someone wrote this book, about this exact character, talking about this exact set of themes. I learned a lot reading it - basically a very easy way to digest six lectures on photographic history. So it's great for that - the tiny bit of narrative thread and the process of character-reveal makes the whole graduate level lecture hang together around the mind of the narrator. But wow, wanting this to be anything in addition to a digested history of photographers officially recognized as artists + post-structuralist ideas... well that set me up for a much more critical experience. I want to be generous with that critique because, after all, this book represents the amount of work that goes in to planning a lecture series PLUS the invention of a character. So to put it gently: 1 - The nebulous masculinity of the narrator was really well achieved by the reflexive and metafiction elements of having an expert in family photographs gradually unearth his relationship to gender and family through stories. But the existential vacancy of the narrator, to me, felt uncanny. This isn't a Meresault situation; it's a narrator whose inner voice is sometimes hard to believe. Interruptions of vulnerable appreciations of his emotional life or of photographs with language like "haha" or "kidding. Not." was incredibly weird, and not only because artist-intellectuals born circa 1978 don't talk like that in thei/our heads. This isn't a way to create reflexivity; every time it happened I just felt it distanced me from a credible subjectivity and called attention to the lack of artistic realness of the character. This shallowness was also communicated by the lack of inter-subjectivity the author experiences in relationship - he is often still describing his siblings in the language and emotional depth of an adolescent. Discussions of love for an ex-partner are sometimes rendered in therapy meme text-blocks (as if it's text to overlay on a .gif) with some superego shading. In the big picture, it feels as if Zeke's mother has more character than he does; her evaluations and gaze are the psychic gravity of the book. Meantime I felt like the book was disrespectful to Zeke. Just because gender, creation, and profession are empty categories in 2019 doesn't mean characters are. 2 - The paratextual elements of the book speak a different language than the text. It's on one of my favorite presses, and the jacket features quotes from extremely cool arbiters of taste. The jacket itself is incredibly beautiful - the color, imagery, laminate and typeface make it one of the most gorgeous objects I've held in my hands recently. The density, texture and weight of the print stock is a joy. Jeffrey Todd Knight's work on books as objects deepened my appreciation here. And I think I finished the book in part because of the sensory investment in holding the thing for hours, the joy and insider-initiate pleasure of tossing it in the top of my tote for a couple of international flights. Yet the writing on its own terms needs to be shorter - there are whole tangents that I can't imagine a fiction or academic editor leaving in. I had to question: are the paratextual elements signifiers of the author's social position rather than reflections of the text itself? In other words, were the blurb writers friends of the author, not actually objective reviewers? Did the book get spared from edits because of the author's prestige? Does the text, presenting itself as a new genre, make exceptions for itself that in the end add up to poor artistic rendering? In the end, the weight and intensity of paratextual elements make it hard for me to evaluate the writing on its own terms. This is not differEnce. It is not a performative irony of lost content in the age of the image. It's just a situation that leads me to question matters of taste. My personal feeling is that it is not good to invest huge amounts of time in art that does not edify me or evoke my soul somehow. Thus my strange feelings upon finishing this interesting, thought-provoking, physically beautiful book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    At about the midway point, I thought to myself that there's nothing better in the world than a Lynne Tillman novel. Her novels--especially her later ones--are dense with thought and connections and knowledge. They're the heirs of both stream-of-consciousness modernist writing and the postmodern nouveau roman, but they have a delightfully intimate breeziness that shrugs off the prickly challenges of a lot of experimental writing. This novel has everything: a survey of the photograph in art, refle At about the midway point, I thought to myself that there's nothing better in the world than a Lynne Tillman novel. Her novels--especially her later ones--are dense with thought and connections and knowledge. They're the heirs of both stream-of-consciousness modernist writing and the postmodern nouveau roman, but they have a delightfully intimate breeziness that shrugs off the prickly challenges of a lot of experimental writing. This novel has everything: a survey of the photograph in art, reflections on nineteenth century socialite and muse Clover Hooper Adams, a breakup, insights on family dynamics, reflections on masculinity and its relation to feminism, insights on academia, probably a lot more I'm not even remembering right now. Plot and character are used loosely as a kind of vessel for essayistic flights. However, I appreciated, in about the first half, how grounding Zeke's character and specific life details were. The drifts were kept within a frame that worked. The novel started to draft away from me in the second half, where we got into ethnographic interviews with men about masculinity, which seemed removed from Zeke's obsession with photography at the start. It made unfortunate sense of the unfortunately clunky, I think, title. I wished men and apparitions were better tied together, and better connected Zeke. Really, this maybe could've been just two shorter, separate novels and I might've been happier. Nonetheless, there's still nothing like a Lynne Tillman experience, and I'm grateful for everything that comes out from her.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    What constitutes a novel? Is it story, character, arcs, and development? Can it be more than just that? How does the novel as a form evolve and break free of its usual constraints? Should it? What does that look like? What can it look like? These are a lot of questions I don't necessarily have any answers to (because I would be all over the place and contradicting myself in trying to answer). But these are questions I couldn't help but think about after reading Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillm What constitutes a novel? Is it story, character, arcs, and development? Can it be more than just that? How does the novel as a form evolve and break free of its usual constraints? Should it? What does that look like? What can it look like? These are a lot of questions I don't necessarily have any answers to (because I would be all over the place and contradicting myself in trying to answer). But these are questions I couldn't help but think about after reading Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman. My first answer is no, this should not have been a novel. They are essays. It's an ethnographer's study about photographs and images of a larger order. What do we see when we look at a picture, and not just with our eyes? Where are we, in the past or in the present? It also touches on the New Man, what it means to be a man, and what is masculinity today, now. Also mass media and pop culture. But this book also has a narrator, Ezekiel "Zeke" Stark. He is said ethnographer. It's his story, and he intersperses a bit of his personal story into it. And as far as I can tell, Zeke is not Lynne, unless Lynne is Zeke. This book does not make a distinction that I could tell. The fictional is personal and the personal is fictional. It is a novel of ideas. But it is a dense novel of ideas that does not lack for ideas, nor does it make the ideas any less worthy of exploration. But form does not always a good novel make.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Guy Worthey

    This slightly crazed book is utterly fascinating. In snippets and disjointed tidbits, the fictional protagonist meanders through his life, his family's lives, and his cultural insights. It all hangs together, in the end, but this is a book that requires its reader to leap in and trust. Ultimately, the trust is rewarded. This is my first Lynne Tillman book and I was not really prepared for the style. Sometimes, the ideas come in jaggedly, sometimes within a single sentence. I'd like to see a spee This slightly crazed book is utterly fascinating. In snippets and disjointed tidbits, the fictional protagonist meanders through his life, his family's lives, and his cultural insights. It all hangs together, in the end, but this is a book that requires its reader to leap in and trust. Ultimately, the trust is rewarded. This is my first Lynne Tillman book and I was not really prepared for the style. Sometimes, the ideas come in jaggedly, sometimes within a single sentence. I'd like to see a speed-reader attempt this and stay sane, haha. The book is also very intellectual. The thesis ideas are mostly about gender, feminism, and masculinity. I enjoyed all that very much, and the book is worth it just for that aspect. The life story aspects support the didactic aspects of the novel well.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    It's not a surprise to say this is an unconventional book, and for a while I was a little uncertain what I was reading: was this sort-of-memoir by Ezekial Stark Tillman's version of _Elizabeth Costello_ where the goal is to just present the emanations of a character, without a larger goal? But by the end of the main text here, there is a kind of narrative arc, though some of what enlivens it, the reflections on photography and the critical theory, does feel more rooted in the character's preoccu It's not a surprise to say this is an unconventional book, and for a while I was a little uncertain what I was reading: was this sort-of-memoir by Ezekial Stark Tillman's version of _Elizabeth Costello_ where the goal is to just present the emanations of a character, without a larger goal? But by the end of the main text here, there is a kind of narrative arc, though some of what enlivens it, the reflections on photography and the critical theory, does feel more rooted in the character's preoccupations than the narrative drive that gets us to the end. Mostly, it's a fun read if you're into that kind of thing, a bit of the cultural anthropology of the way we use and are used by the images in our life-- Tillman writes a pretty convincing critical voice, but it's not so theory-based that it slows things down more than necessary-- it's not fully realistic, in other words:) There's a second text here, "Men in Quotation Marks," which in the world of a the narrative is a ethnographic paper that Zeke presents, but which apparently is the result of surveys conducted of actual men in the world by Tillman? (Sometimes you really need to read the PR around a book, I guess). I thought Tillman was making this section up when I read it, and thought the men sounded too samey, except for what felt like obvious attempts to distinguish them. Knowing they are real responses, it makes me wish that maybe there was a wider group of men surveyed, ones that were a little less steeped in theory and articulation than Tillman herself. I didn't hate it, but I didn't totally get how it was in dialogue with the first part of the book. In fact, the whole gender thing felt, to me, less worked out than the image stuff. Not that everything needs to connect, and I enjoyed this book a lot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aiden

    We follow the eventful life of Ezekiel Hooper Stark - cultural anthropogist, ethnographer and specialist in family photos. As a child he was obsessed with his family photos and is now a commentator on the contemporary world. Now 38 he finds a new research topic - himself. He begins to question the 'New Man' born under feminism and brings up what masculinity is and what is expected from women and men. This book is an encyclopedia of information as Tillman covers art, culture and gender politics. We follow the eventful life of Ezekiel Hooper Stark - cultural anthropogist, ethnographer and specialist in family photos. As a child he was obsessed with his family photos and is now a commentator on the contemporary world. Now 38 he finds a new research topic - himself. He begins to question the 'New Man' born under feminism and brings up what masculinity is and what is expected from women and men. This book is an encyclopedia of information as Tillman covers art, culture and gender politics. There were so many contemporary ideas within this book I found it so intriguing, however I found the structuring a bit start/stop with multiple headlines throughout breaking up the novel I found it difficult to get into the book and often found myself drifting. I will be honest I was hesitant to read this one as its so far out of my comfort zone I would have never thought of picking it off a shelf however there were aspects of this I really enjoyed from the psychology of photographs to the indepth discussions on gender, there is a little bit of humour mixed in which provided a bit of lighthearted relief. The majority of the ideas did go over my head as Tillman is a bit of an eccentric as she vibrantly explores culture. Although this is a work of fiction this book is very interesting and intelligent as there are a lot of philisiopical ideas which are explored through the photographs. This book is basically a celebration of life through photography and memories and how we perceive still images. As a whole this book wasn't for me as it was a lot more fact and less narrative, it was a bit too intense for me to enjoy it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    The narrator Zeke imagines himself as a great observer, and talks at length about theory of two modes of obersving, ethnography and photography. The parts of Zeke's personal story he tells are filled with his failures to observe those close to him, both his wife and sister acting in ways that surprise him. Zeke seems most interested in himself, and his position - his description of photographs often veer more into the role of the photographer than the subjects, and the later 'Men in Quotes' focu The narrator Zeke imagines himself as a great observer, and talks at length about theory of two modes of obersving, ethnography and photography. The parts of Zeke's personal story he tells are filled with his failures to observe those close to him, both his wife and sister acting in ways that surprise him. Zeke seems most interested in himself, and his position - his description of photographs often veer more into the role of the photographer than the subjects, and the later 'Men in Quotes' focuses on people roughly like Zeke. He seemed to me the sort of person you'd dread getting stuck talking to at a party, who only percieves the world through his very narrow interests - and testing the readers patience to some extent helps that characterisation. But 400 pages was, for me, far too much of a stretch. I remember reading an interview with Katharina Volckmer about her book The Appointment, also on the Republic of Consciousness longlist, where she mentions being set on using a distinct and potentially aggravating voice. She decided this made keeping the book short wise, hopefully ending before the reader gets tired. I think it was the better choice, or at least one I preferred.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clarke

    Mother: Please turn off the TV. [War footage, violent crimes, weird sex scenes.] Father: Zeke needs to see the real world, Ellen. Mother: Yours or mine? This little set piece is as good an advert as any for Lynne Tillman’s long form meditation on what it means to be a man in modern America. A fixation with images, male identity and found objects (there are some unsettling plays with old photographs and sudden nostalgia for the nondescript such as the Kodak disc camera) leads Zeke to study male iden Mother: Please turn off the TV. [War footage, violent crimes, weird sex scenes.] Father: Zeke needs to see the real world, Ellen. Mother: Yours or mine? This little set piece is as good an advert as any for Lynne Tillman’s long form meditation on what it means to be a man in modern America. A fixation with images, male identity and found objects (there are some unsettling plays with old photographs and sudden nostalgia for the nondescript such as the Kodak disc camera) leads Zeke to study male identity and being more closely himself as a ‘new man’, the supposed perfect combination of brains and brawn, intellect and physique. (That it’s come to bozos with ponytails supping lattes whilst still being perfectly capable of emotional tone deafness and self obsession is neither here nor there.) The new man deserved to be deconstructed - positively begged for it - and here is. Occasionally hugely funny, and often insightful, and sometimes deeply confusing, Men and Apparations is a novel in spirit if not form. It takes some diving into, but as Zeke observes, obstacles are “created ignorantly by people.” Tillman is our guide to getting round them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nick Duretta

    I really didn't know what to make of this. I was expecting a novel of sorts, and indeed there is a story worming its way through here, about an "ethnographer" named Zeke, his parents and siblings, and his failed marriage. But most of it, by far, is Zeke's rambling discourse on the nature of images--mostly photographs--and their changing role in our culture. It's like a doctorate thesis gone out of control. On top of that, there is a long addendum called "Men in Quotes" which is a supposedly rese I really didn't know what to make of this. I was expecting a novel of sorts, and indeed there is a story worming its way through here, about an "ethnographer" named Zeke, his parents and siblings, and his failed marriage. But most of it, by far, is Zeke's rambling discourse on the nature of images--mostly photographs--and their changing role in our culture. It's like a doctorate thesis gone out of control. On top of that, there is a long addendum called "Men in Quotes" which is a supposedly researched study on changing gender roles. So what was this? You got me. Did I enjoy it? Not at all. It was much too disjointed to follow in any reasonable way, which might be the author's point. Don't try to figure out the world--it's changing too fast and you'll always be one step behind.

  23. 4 out of 5

    xxbigtrucksmalld0g420xx

    lynne tillman's novels are more artist's projects than novels - working around an idea and finding a narrative to serve that investigation along the way rather than the opposite - an admirable mode of working. this book slaps formally and conceptually - how it's written in the style of an anthropological dissertation, how it swaps chapter titles for section headings and includes footnotes throughout the story, how her own ethnography concludes the book. it gets a bit mired in lists and referents lynne tillman's novels are more artist's projects than novels - working around an idea and finding a narrative to serve that investigation along the way rather than the opposite - an admirable mode of working. this book slaps formally and conceptually - how it's written in the style of an anthropological dissertation, how it swaps chapter titles for section headings and includes footnotes throughout the story, how her own ethnography concludes the book. it gets a bit mired in lists and referents, but that comes with the territory. all of this would be fine, but i don't understand how lynne thought that anyone could sympathize with a rich gen x guy from boston?! couldn't do it...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Romany Arrowsmith

    Author Lydia Davis has praised Tillman, and I see why. Like much of Davis' work, this book was full of pretty phrases and interesting ideas, but I just wanted the experience of reading it to end. The protagonist was tiresome but not in a productive, Proustian way. Reading his voice felt like talking to a precocious and neurotic 11 year old boy for 8 hours. The image analysis was quite good but has been done better by ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHERS! On Photography by Susan Sontag blows Tillman's shattered Author Lydia Davis has praised Tillman, and I see why. Like much of Davis' work, this book was full of pretty phrases and interesting ideas, but I just wanted the experience of reading it to end. The protagonist was tiresome but not in a productive, Proustian way. Reading his voice felt like talking to a precocious and neurotic 11 year old boy for 8 hours. The image analysis was quite good but has been done better by ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHERS! On Photography by Susan Sontag blows Tillman's shattered bits of insights out of the water.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarahjanereed4

    This book overwhelmed and exhausted me, hence the lower than average score - but I did find it worthwhile. Written by a woman but told through a (mansplaining) Gen X, middleclass white male — this book blends fiction, criticism and theory to comment on the crisis of masculinity. The final quarter I liked best which is a parody of an ethnographic study (and reminded me of Brief Interviews with even more irony). Interesting to think why Lynne Tillman wanted / felt she needed to write this. The las This book overwhelmed and exhausted me, hence the lower than average score - but I did find it worthwhile. Written by a woman but told through a (mansplaining) Gen X, middleclass white male — this book blends fiction, criticism and theory to comment on the crisis of masculinity. The final quarter I liked best which is a parody of an ethnographic study (and reminded me of Brief Interviews with even more irony). Interesting to think why Lynne Tillman wanted / felt she needed to write this. The last line did really get me tho.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christine Sopko

    I gave up...i couldnt read it as a whole as there was too much information and examples. I had better luck just opening a page and reading a one chapter randomly at a time. The devil is in the details.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Hagestedt

    It took me a very long time to get into this book, as the format seemed awkward until I got used to it. As a visual anthropologist who uses images myself though, I found this fascinating and hilarious at the same time. It manages to come across as both accurate and satirical.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanli

    i loved this book so much and instantly want to read it again. It is not a story-novel, it is a literary-philosophical novel, you have to go slow. Beautiful writer who is interested in images and how they too are a language.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Not my typical genre of books, but a good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Betty Ann

    I couldn’t figure out what was going on in this one. I usually don’t give up easily but I had to pass.

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