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The Ladies' Man


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About the Author

Elinor Lipman is the author of seven books: the novels The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, The Dearly Departed, The Ladies' Man, The Inn at Lake Devine, Isabel's Bed, The Way Men Act, Then She Found Me, and a collection of stories, Into Love and Out Again. She has been called "the diva of dialogue" (People) and "the last urbane romantic" (Chicago Tribune). Book Magazine said of The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, "Like Jane Austen, the past master of the genre, Lipman isn't only out for laughs. She serves up social satire, too, that's all the more trenchant for being deftly drawn."

Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, Gourmet, Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times' Writers on Writing series. She received the New England Booksellers' 2001 fiction award for a body of work.


The Ladies' Man is three things: the title of Lipman's newest book; a description of the main male character, Nash Harvey; and the book's weakness. The basic premise of the book is that Nash Harvey, n‚ Harvey Nash, has a crisis of conscience over an engagement he walked out on 30 years ago. He returns to Boston to see Adele Dobbin, his spurned fianc‚e. Nash's visit teaches Adele and her two unmarried sisters a new lesson "about dignity being less important than love." Nash is a shallow smooth talker, seemingly addicted to lust and unfamiliar with love. The difficulty with the novel is that while Lipman (The Inn at Lake Devine, LJ 2/1/98) characterizes Nash so well, in doing so she creates a central character who is most unsympathetic. Furthermore, Lipman has Nash cut a romantic swath through the lives of other women during the course of the novel, creating a large cast of female characters, none of whom are fully developed. A book of moderate appeal.ÄCaroline M. Hallsworth, Cambrian Coll., Sudbury, Ont. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

The Dobbin sisters are not the Bennetts, and Harvey Nash is no Mr. Darcy, but Lipman's latest novel is Pride and Prejudice as it plays out in the bicoastal, aging-boomer '90s. The protagonistsÄthree red-haired siblings and the man who dumped one of them at her 1967 engagement partyÄare all in their 40s and 50s. Almost chaste and largely celibate, the Dobbins live together spinsterishly in a Boston suburb, until the womanizing cad who now calls himself Nash Harvey flies in from L.A. "on a mission... to apologize." Unforgiving Adele, the oldest and the one he dumped, works stoically in public TVÄin marked contrast to Harvey's precarious livelihood writing commercial jingles. Difficult middle sister Lois, divorced from a cross-dressing patent attorney, for decades has believedÄmistakenlyÄthat the smoothly smarmy Harvey left town because of his feelings for her. She welcomes him back with barely concealed lust. The youngest, Kathleen, reacts angrily to his predatory insinuations, breaking a casserole dish on his head and inadvertently turning Nash into an unwelcome houseguest. Paths cross in sitcom fashion, especially since Cynthia John, Harvey's pickup on the red-eye from L.A., lives in the building that houses Kathleen's lingerie shop. The situation is provocative and promising, and at first Lipman seems poised to deliver a semiwhimsical search for identity … la Ann Tyler. She exhibits a gimlet eye for the nuances of social interaction and for the rituals of courtship both East and West Coast style, and as usual, her view of the battle of the sexes is frank and refreshing. But the narrative soon begins to read like the outline of a screenplay. Done in shots and heavy on (admittedly snappy) dialogue, it sacrifices depth of character and story for glib entertainment. Though certain scenes (Adele's perfunctory deflowering; the car crash in which Harvey's ex meets a New York playwright on the make) are witty and engaging, too many other encounters (Harvey's sojourn in the Dobbins' apartment; a cocktail party/jingle recital) are dictated less by credibility than by the need to be cute. It's satisfying that while Harvey faces his comeuppance and a palimony suit, the Dobbin sisters finally confront love and commitment. In the end, however, this book is more superficial than we have come to expect of Lipman's fiction. BOMC selection; film rights to Paramount. (June) FYI: The Inn at Lake Devine will be released in trade paperback by Vintage in May.

Advance praise for The Ladies' Man

"Elinor Lipman is that rarest of things, a charming and funny writer who is also very wise. But your spouse will hate you for reading this book; you'll stay up late nights, shaking the bed with laughter."
--Arthur Golden "I have not read an American writer who can do what Elinor Lipman does: take a poignant situation and transform it, in a moment of instant recognition, into something as wryly perfect as a New Yorker cartoon. The Ladies' Man is full of charm, verbal sparkle, and funny, genial sex. I adored it. Every page. Definitely her best."
--Anita Shreve

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