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Thomas Mistler has always thought himself "a happy man, as the world goes." A scion of old money, he made his own fortune in advertising and is now poised to sell the company he founded for a fabulous price. But when a medical examination reveals the presence in his liver of a fatal intruder, "preposterously, unmistakably, he begins to rejoice," with a feeling of having been set free. But free from what?
He will seek the answer surreptitiously, without revealing his illness to his family, during a last reprieve, a moment of grace in "the one place on earth where nothing irritates him." But amidst the surreal beauties of Venice, he finds bitterness and chaos as he allows himself to drift for the first time. His halfhearted efforts to seize the day and its present pleasures--first with a striving young photographer and later with a love of his youth who never loved him--cannot compete with his need to commune with the living and the dead that crowd his life: his father and uncle, pillars of the Establishment, sources of the "genetic puritanism" he has never tried to resist; his son, Sam, whose love he has only barely salvaged; his wife, once perfectly "beautiful and suitable," now humiliated by him and half-scorned. And the one woman who embodies everything he might have wished for, a woman he "never had and never lost."
Deeply poignant yet mordantly funny, Mistler's Exit brilliantly discloses the pleasures and miseries of having it all. A masterly revelation of the complexities of the heart.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
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 HallFrom the Publisher:
"Begley achieves a hypnotically cool elegance...This is an art that calls to mind Louis Auchincloss' upper-crust characters, Paul Auster's defiantly unsentimental voice and Alice Munro's vivid, no-nonsense storytelling. Begley marshals all these elements...and forges a fiction altogether his own."
--Dan Cryer, Newsday
"A fine novel, Begley probes with intelligence and skill."
--Gabriel Brownstein, Boston Sunday Globe
"The falsification of self is a theme Begley has now pursued through five novels...The theme of self-deception at the end of life may be the supreme test for a novelist with this of all obsessions. Mistler's Exit meets the test."
--Jack Miles, The N.Y. Times Book Review
The New York Review hails "the elegance, irony and discrimination of Begley's prose."
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Book Description Knopf, 1998. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0375402624
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # M-0375402624