"In the same way Salinger carved out the niche of male adolescence ....Beller approaches that mutable boy-to-man territory."—San Francisco Chronicle
Writing with the sparkling wit and insight of his highly praised debut, Seduction Theory ("Brilliantly captures the great expectations and recurring ambivalence of youth."—The New York Times), Thomas Beller continues to plumb the adventures of his hero, Alex Fader, a youthful existentialist and sensualist with an insatiable appetite for trouble. The Sleep-Over Artist is an account of critical stages in Alex's life, mapping his progress from youthful delinquent to filmmaker whose career begins when he makes a documentary film exposing the prep school from which he has been expelled. Alex longs for the taste of family life that the early death of his father has denied him. As a young boy he sleeps over at his friends' houses and ingratiates himself with their families; as a young man he extends his sleep-overs to the lives of women, culminating in the ultimate sleep-over—an affair in England with a glamorous, slightly older woman, the mother of a young boy. Beller has a pitch-perfect ear for emotional nuance and a microscopic eye for rendering the wordless moments when a relationship catches fire and all too often begins to falter. The high-wire tension that electrifies The Sleep-Over Artist is Beller's ingenious portrait of a young man who longs to disappear and belong all at the same time.
"Hilarious....captures perfectly the myriad stages of fear, discovery and elation that mark one's first sexual experience."—The New York Times Book Review, Katherine Dieckmann, 16 July 2000 "[W]ell-crafted stories recall the witty phrasing of Updike, the poignant nostalgia of Cheever, the earnest but confused innocence of Salinger."—Library Journal "Featuring a New York that, like Kundera's Prague, is a vast hive of seductions....A moving portrait."—Publishers Weekly, 17 April 2000 "The gentle humor and delicacy of Sleep-Over Artist remind me of the stories of another young cosmopolite, F. Scott Fitzgerald."—Stewart O'Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying "Fresh, sophisticated and most of all utterly readable...strikes a perfect balance between timely ironies and perennial emotional truths."—Eva Hoffman "Tom Beller is gifted with a wry, dry appreciation of life's sweet and unlikely subtleties."—Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch "A fine novel of Manhattan manners."—New York Observer
Featuring a New York that, like Kundera's Prague, is a vast hive of seductions and betrayals, Beller's carefully crafted debut novel charts the coming-of-age of Alex Fader, already familiar from Beller's short story collection, Seduction Theory. Fader grows up "in an apartment on the 14th floor of a large prewar building that took up an entire block of Riverside Drive." His father, a psychoanalyst, dies when Alex is 10; his mother, a dancer, discovers in herself a talent for scholarship and eventually writes a large, authoritative tome on the moral origins of WWI. Alex himself, cousin to the characters in Rick Moody's novels, has a very '70s adolescence; while Moody's characters get their high school kicks in the post-Cheever suburbs, however, Alex is buying Thai sticks from a dealer in the Village and attending numerous extravagant bar mitzvah parties. Curious and keenly observant, he frequently sleeps over at his friends' apartments and perceives various patterns of family relationships. As he moves out of adolescence, Alex discovers his sensual nature. With his mother's image as archetype, he dates a series of successful, competent, beautiful women. Finally, he meets Katrina, an upper-class Londoner with a young son, who succumbs to his charm against her better judgment. Alex invariably adopts a boyish stance in his relationships, alternating between adoration and cruelty, but his conscience gives him trouble on another score. He and his cousin Karl have moved their Alzheimer's-afflicted Aunti B to an old folks' home in Pennsylvania, and Alex guiltily takes over her empty apartment. Always acutely conscious of his environment, he is uneasy living in a place redolent of his childhood, one that is not "clean of history." The narrative moves through Alex's 20s, and ends, symmetrically, with Alex, now a filmmaker, back in the Riverside Drive apartment, lunching with his mother. Beller has the true novelist's knack for weaving together the disparate threads of postmodern urban existence into convincing studies of character. The vignettes of Alex's life coalesce into a moving portrait of a young man intuitively seeking a place he can call home. FYI: Beller is a founding editor of Open City magazine.