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“Superb. . . . Krauss’s depictions of the nuances of sex and love, intimacy and dependence, call to mind the work of Natalia Ginzburg in their psychological profundity, their intellectual rigor. . . . Krauss’s stories capture characters at moments in their lives when they’re hungry for experience and open to possibilities, and that openness extends to the stories themselves: narratives too urgent and alive for neat plotlines, simplistic resolutions or easy answers.” —Molly Antopol, New York Times Book Review
“From a contemporary master, an astounding collection of ten globetrotting stories, each one a powerful dissection of the thorny connections between men and women. . . . Each story is masterfully crafted and deeply contemplative, barreling toward a shimmering, inevitable conclusion, proving once again that Krauss is one of our most formidable talents in fiction.” —Esquire
In one of her strongest works of fiction yet, Nicole Krauss plunges fearlessly into the struggle to understand what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman, and the arising tensions that have existed from the very beginning of time. Set in our contemporary moment, and moving across the globe from Switzerland, Japan, and New York City to Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, and South America, the stories in To Be a Man feature male characters as fathers, lovers, friends, children, seducers, and even a lost husband who may never have been a husband at all.
The way these stories mirror one other and resonate is beautiful, with a balance so finely tuned that the book almost feels like a novel. Echoes ring through stages of life: aging parents and new-born babies; young women’s coming of age and the newfound, somewhat bewildering sexual power that accompanies it; generational gaps and unexpected deliveries of strange new leases on life; mystery and wonder at a life lived or a future waiting to unfold. To Be a Man illuminates with a fierce, unwavering light the forces driving human existence: sex, power, violence, passion, self-discovery, growing older. Profound, poignant, and brilliant, Krauss’s stories are at once startling and deeply moving, but always revealing of all-too-human weakness and strength.
This triumphant first collection from Krauss (Forest Dark) crisscrosses the globe in 10 ambitious stories written over two decades that wrestle with sexuality, desire, and human connection. In one of the greatest stories, "Seeing Ershadi," a dancer believes she spies the star of the Iranian film Taste of Cherry while in Japan for a performance, and believes she must save the actor from the suicide he commits in the film. After a friend tells her of her own unique encounter with the actor years earlier, the dancer faces the depth of her fanatic and obsessive state. Another highlight, "Future Emergencies," is set shortly after 9/11 and remains timely as its female protagonist navigates a New York City where gas masks are distributed for free and local governments warn of vague threats. "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake," another standout, concerns a woman visiting her dead father's apartment in Tel Aviv, only to find a stranger living in a back room, and the collection's title story breaks a woman's interactions with several men into four parts to ruminate on gender norms and expectations. Krauss's style is marked by a willingness to digress into seemingly superfluous details, yet the minutiae helps the author conjure a series of realistic environments, allowing each story feel lived in. This is a spectacular book.