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Mistler's Exit

Begley, Louis

ISBN 10: 0449004228 / ISBN 13: 9780449004227
Published by Knopf 1998, 1998
Used Condition: Near Fine Soft cover
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About this Item

Uncorrected proof of the first edition. Wrappers. Fine except for where top right corner is slightly abraded from apparent sticker removal. SIGNED by Begley on the half-title page. Bookseller Inventory # 0459114

Bibliographic Details

Title: Mistler's Exit

Publisher: Knopf 1998

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Soft cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


A self-made New Yorker well into his middle age, Thomas Mistler has long been a lion of Madison Avenue's powerful advertising world. Now, poised to sell his company for a luxurious sum, Mistler receives alarming news: He has only months to live. But his reaction is not what one would expect. Rather than hysteria, Mistler experiences a sense of clarity and a feeling of being set free. From what, he is unsure. In a decision that breaks the mold of his superbly organized routine, Mistler conceals his illness from his family and seeks a moment of grace to be savored alone in the decadent splendor of Venice. There, he meets a young, lustful photographer and, later, a love from his youth. But his attempts to recapture passion only magnify the reconciliations he has yet to make--with the father to whom he sacrificed his own dreams, the son with whom he has never truly accepted, and the wife to whom he has given everything but respect.

A startling blend of grace and satire, Mistler's Exit is charged with unexpected moments of beauty and eroticism, pathos and humor. Like the city of Venice itself, it is a creation of timeless appeal.


Thomas Mistler is rich and distinguished, has a lovely, competent wife, and has more or less made it over the hump with his adult son. He is also dying. At the outset of Mistler's Exit, he is told by his doctor that the spot on his liver is indeed "the crab inside." Unexpectedly, Mistler greets this news with a kind of joy. Instead of wallowing in grief and the strange, protracted hope offered by medicine, he refuses all treatment, and is determined to accept his fate. But before he tells his family, Mistler decides to make a short escape to Venice. The "lingering taste of sweet," he hopes, will help him through the months ahead.

In Venice he wanders around like a man already dead, pondering his past and the few threads of future left to him: "It was the one place on earth where nothing bothered him.... His conscience need not nag if he failed to look at this or that essential painting or monument. Vedi Napoli e mori!. It wasn't as though you could capture a masterpiece on your retina and thereby turn it into a funerary object to accompany you, like a pharaoh, to the grave." There is also a last-ditch encounter with eros. A lovely young photographer, the consort of one of his society friends, has followed him to Venice, intent on an affair. This Mistler undertakes with detachment and annoyance, disliking what this young woman reveals to him.

As he did in his last novel, About Schmidt, Louis Begley presents us with a character who is not eminently likeable--who is, in fact, so insulated by privilege as to be almost distasteful. But slowly, subtly, the author elicits the reader's sympathy. For this we can thank the elegance and sobriety of his prose, along with its moments of true flight: "Preposterously, unmistakably, he began to rejoice. The horizon would no longer recede. The space and time left to him were defined; he had been set free." Mistler's Exit is a novel that is both intelligent and wise. --Emily Hall

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