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Walks with Men

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It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say that you want the bones for "a friend who does autopsies." If you can’t stand on your head (which is best), learn to do cartwheels. Have sex in airplane bathrooms. Wear only raincoats made in England. Neil’s certainties, Jane discovers, mask his deceptions. Her true education begins.


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It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say It is 1980 in New York City, and Jane, a valedictorian fresh out of Harvard, strikes a deal with Neil, an intoxicating writer twenty years her senior. The two quickly become lovers, living together in a Chelsea brownstone, and Neil reveals the rules for a life well lived: If you take food home from a restaurant, don’t say it’s because you want leftovers for "the dog." Say that you want the bones for "a friend who does autopsies." If you can’t stand on your head (which is best), learn to do cartwheels. Have sex in airplane bathrooms. Wear only raincoats made in England. Neil’s certainties, Jane discovers, mask his deceptions. Her true education begins.

30 review for Walks with Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I added this to a Book Outlet order to get to $35 for free shipping; they were smartly selling them at less than $1 a piece. This is a book where nothing happens and it happens twice. Inexplicably some of the telling starts over halfway and it's already short. The female lets an older academic man treat her badly for no benefit and it's not even scintillating, it's somehow boring. Should have bailed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    what was meant to be profound. insightful. and romantic. turned out to be trite. infantile. and somber. i am not fond of books that romanticize abusive relationships and abusive people.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    This book is 102 pages long, and I thought it would never end. The main character is a pretty, Harvard-educated wunderkind who falls for a rich, manipulative man who speaks entirely in one-liners. Every plot twist is either ridiculously cliché ((view spoiler)[he is secretly married (hide spoiler)] ) or totally bizarre ((view spoiler)[he ends up disappearing, literally, and is presumed dead by the end, but we are never given even the slightest explanation (hide spoiler)] ). To distract you from the This book is 102 pages long, and I thought it would never end. The main character is a pretty, Harvard-educated wunderkind who falls for a rich, manipulative man who speaks entirely in one-liners. Every plot twist is either ridiculously cliché ((view spoiler)[he is secretly married (hide spoiler)] ) or totally bizarre ((view spoiler)[he ends up disappearing, literally, and is presumed dead by the end, but we are never given even the slightest explanation (hide spoiler)] ). To distract you from the trifle of a plot, Beattie attempts to wow you with supposedly clever dialogue and long, semi-philosophical diatribes about the nature of life and relationships. These distractions work but not in the way she expected. They distract you from the lame story by reminding you over and over again that the writing sucks.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tia

    This was a total waste of my time. This book was so random and all over the place. There wasn't a storyline. Her "walks with men" were very dysfunctional and weird. I have so many unanswered questions. Where did her husband disappear to? The ashes? Ben and the train incident?? Her mother? Her relationship with her friends? I'm so confused. I'm just glad it's over and super glad it was only 102 pages long.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ruth

    If you've ever slept with or loved an asshole in spite of yourself, then this book is for you. Many critics didn't like the narrator's detachment, or accused this book as romanticizing abuse. What they're missing is that when you are in your early twenties, detachment and romanticizing abuse (which pretty much go together) and being swept up and easily impressed by worldliness and style and bohemianism are often what it's all about, red flags be dammed. All of which frequently lead to sleeping wi If you've ever slept with or loved an asshole in spite of yourself, then this book is for you. Many critics didn't like the narrator's detachment, or accused this book as romanticizing abuse. What they're missing is that when you are in your early twenties, detachment and romanticizing abuse (which pretty much go together) and being swept up and easily impressed by worldliness and style and bohemianism are often what it's all about, red flags be dammed. All of which frequently lead to sleeping with or being in love with men who are genuine asshats. This book also beautifully captures the aftermath of that experience-- what happens when the infatuation wears off and the asinine sets in. Minus one star for being a bit pretentious and New York. Not sure how much of that was part of the story, but at a certain point I don't care, it just makes me gag.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kimber

    Ann Beattie is an experimental artist. This novella is in a sense an expansion of her themes on narcissistic relationships. For this one, I would say her oh-so-delicate touch is a little too delicate. Still there is her subtle sense of humor and early expose of alternative relationships. But there just wasn't enough here to give me a feel of a literary experience. A novella should give more depth, and she says more in her short stories. The title also was a stretch. "Walks with Men." Is she sayi Ann Beattie is an experimental artist. This novella is in a sense an expansion of her themes on narcissistic relationships. For this one, I would say her oh-so-delicate touch is a little too delicate. Still there is her subtle sense of humor and early expose of alternative relationships. But there just wasn't enough here to give me a feel of a literary experience. A novella should give more depth, and she says more in her short stories. The title also was a stretch. "Walks with Men." Is she saying that a relationship is just a walk we are having with someone? That, like the Buddhists teach, all relationships are transient?

  7. 4 out of 5

    S.

    Everyone has had a mentor-as-lover at some point. If not, one should. Ideally the mentor-as-lover should appear before one turns thirty, when neural pathways are more like rambling and rather wistful dirt roads than the intricate super highways that deliver us to our doom, more or less, as older adults. (This is a Life Tip that could have been delivered by the protagonist's mentor-as-lover. At first I nod. Hmmmm: it seems wise. And then I want to punch whomever said it for his/her arrogance, fo Everyone has had a mentor-as-lover at some point. If not, one should. Ideally the mentor-as-lover should appear before one turns thirty, when neural pathways are more like rambling and rather wistful dirt roads than the intricate super highways that deliver us to our doom, more or less, as older adults. (This is a Life Tip that could have been delivered by the protagonist's mentor-as-lover. At first I nod. Hmmmm: it seems wise. And then I want to punch whomever said it for his/her arrogance, for his/her glib, cheap theatrical oneliners. Perhaps toss a drink in his/her face for emphasis.) There is a period in life when the Henry Higginses, Svengalis and Pygmalions of the world eyeball our youthful pliant selves and dream of stamping us with their brand names and releasing us into the universe as extensions of their own damaged egos. And the kicker is: we say "okay". "Sure." "Why not?" The implicit understanding is that these relationships have expiration dates: there is the molding and shaping phase, the radiant blossoming phase, the student challenging the teacher phase, and then the Leaving Phase, which can be bloody ugly or sappy and saccharine, depending. Beattie tells the story after The Leaving phase, from the perspective of the student. I need to read this novel again, because it is excruciatingly minimalistic, thus packed with possibilities which are signified (in true Beattie style) with artifacts of a very specific culture: the Manhattan of the privileged, well educated and bored. There is the English raincoat, the certain blazer, the calculated nonchalance of a scarf twisted in this way, not that. For the protagonist, the Devil is indeed in the details. He is in the banal habits and preferences that she allowed to be branded on her consciousness. She agreed to this before she was old enough, perhaps, to recognize what it was she was promising (or selling) in return. She is looking back at these events when she tells the story, traveling down old backroads and driving past important landmarks; yet her lack of insight is still maddening and it made me dislike her. I frequently have that reaction with Beattie's characters. She seems to have learned very little from the relationship except for a few concrete, absolute instructions that are superficial and stylistic and yet supposed to be pregnant with social meaning: no paper cocktail napkins; fishing bag, not purse. She seemed trapped on an expressway loop with no exits; with only the same cryptic, chic and ultimately meaningless billboards to orient her journey. She drives the same route,trapped, ever looking for the person she could have become if she'd chosen differently in those critical, pliant years, that time before one turns thirty.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    7/9/2010: This is a mystifying story...either I'm too old for its charms or require too much explanation in my fiction, but when I finished it I was so busy scratching my head trying to figure out what happened that I might have missed the point. Anyway, the writing is wonderful, and the tone is perfect. Many images will stick in my mind for a long time: the white robe pooling on the floor; the impossibility of sliding out of a diner banquette after a piece of bad news has been delivered; the ex 7/9/2010: This is a mystifying story...either I'm too old for its charms or require too much explanation in my fiction, but when I finished it I was so busy scratching my head trying to figure out what happened that I might have missed the point. Anyway, the writing is wonderful, and the tone is perfect. Many images will stick in my mind for a long time: the white robe pooling on the floor; the impossibility of sliding out of a diner banquette after a piece of bad news has been delivered; the ex-wife sitting on the steps of the building; the time capsule stuck in the tree. Beattie really nails the moment. But the story wanders. Barbara might have said it best, and she says she's quoting Beattie herself--that this really should have been a short story, it just got too long. As a short story, the disparate elements that never get tied together are more acceptable, I think. Also, Michael's point was helpful: this story will appeal to young women who may be or want to be in a situation like this. It's a fantasy, as such, and makes more sense that way than as a true nostalgic memoir.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bianca Sarah

    Despite its critical acclaim, I found this novel--if you can even call it that--to be disappointing on all fronts. It is choppy and seems hacked together. The characters are vague sketches of people who the author seems incapable of making seem realistic or engaging, the relationship dynamics are insulting (Women have to watch their man's every move! Older men only date younger women to manipulate and ruin them!),and ultimately it reads like the scrap notes of a book that hasn't reached its seco Despite its critical acclaim, I found this novel--if you can even call it that--to be disappointing on all fronts. It is choppy and seems hacked together. The characters are vague sketches of people who the author seems incapable of making seem realistic or engaging, the relationship dynamics are insulting (Women have to watch their man's every move! Older men only date younger women to manipulate and ruin them!),and ultimately it reads like the scrap notes of a book that hasn't reached its second draft. Beattie tries way, way too hard, and ultimately fails in every way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I really could not get into this book at all. I completely could not sympathize with, or relate to, the characters. I didn't enjoy the plot. I didn't really understand the purpose of the book. The writing style was distracting--lots of parantheses, changes in point of view, flashbacks all over the place, words that appeared to be used just to show off, and brief little paragraphs that didn't really fit in anywhere. Not my style at all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kitty

    It was really a one and a half star. Starts out with a lot of promise for such a short little book, and then it truly peters out. It is almost as if the writer said, "Oh, am I still writing this book?" ????

  12. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    Ann Beattie is such a fine writer. I enjoyed this for her voice and her wit. The central relationship in the novella is an exaggerated version of one that's familiar to me. I think some women willingly stay in relationships where they're just being led around by the nose (even if they're terribly intelligent and sophisticated women who can argue to themselves and everyone else that it's not like that). I can see how the novella seems pretentious to some readers, but I feel like that's intentiona Ann Beattie is such a fine writer. I enjoyed this for her voice and her wit. The central relationship in the novella is an exaggerated version of one that's familiar to me. I think some women willingly stay in relationships where they're just being led around by the nose (even if they're terribly intelligent and sophisticated women who can argue to themselves and everyone else that it's not like that). I can see how the novella seems pretentious to some readers, but I feel like that's intentional--sort of a part of the joke/irony. While I don't need to be spoon fed, I do wish this were a little less disjointed. There's quite a lot of jumping around. A little bit more of an arrow pointing me somewhere as a reader would have been welcome.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

    A ratos me resultó muy divertida, a ratos soporífera. Iba veces ágil, otras repetitiva. Un pequeño relato de poco más de cien páginas denso y directo sobre la figura del amante-tutor, aquel que presume de abrir las puertas a la mujer a un mundo desconocido pero que luego resulta vender solo humo. El tema está bien, es original, y la escritora tiene un lenguaje directo muy agradable pero me resultan desconcertantes algunas cosas, especialmente el destino de Neal (el amante, no digo nada más para n A ratos me resultó muy divertida, a ratos soporífera. Iba veces ágil, otras repetitiva. Un pequeño relato de poco más de cien páginas denso y directo sobre la figura del amante-tutor, aquel que presume de abrir las puertas a la mujer a un mundo desconocido pero que luego resulta vender solo humo. El tema está bien, es original, y la escritora tiene un lenguaje directo muy agradable pero me resultan desconcertantes algunas cosas, especialmente el destino de Neal (el amante, no digo nada más para no meter apiólese) y el final, tan abierto, tan "¿pero qué me quiere decir esta mujer con esta historia?" Diferente, sí. Buen libro... uhmmmm

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Knickerbocker

    I felt like I shouldn't like this book but I did. I love novellas--this one's like a long and luxurious short story, and the ending did just what a good ending should: it felt both inevitable and surprising. (I think that's a Margaret Atwood rule for short story endings.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Macdonald

    An amazing character study. Very very true to the time. Ann Beattie is an artist who continues to grow in very interesting directions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Horrible, don't waste your time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sub_zero

    No sé a qué se debe exactamente, pero lo cierto es que la lectura de Paseando con hombres me ha dejado muy descolocado. Igual me han traicionado las expectativas... o igual es que no estoy acostumbrado a este tipo de narrativa deshilachada e irreflexiva. Sea como sea, el contenido de este libro que apenas sobrepasa el centenar de páginas no se corresponde en absoluto con el que esperaba encontrar y, por desgracia, he salido perdiendo al cambio. Estamos en el Nueva York de 1980 y Ann Beattie nos No sé a qué se debe exactamente, pero lo cierto es que la lectura de Paseando con hombres me ha dejado muy descolocado. Igual me han traicionado las expectativas... o igual es que no estoy acostumbrado a este tipo de narrativa deshilachada e irreflexiva. Sea como sea, el contenido de este libro que apenas sobrepasa el centenar de páginas no se corresponde en absoluto con el que esperaba encontrar y, por desgracia, he salido perdiendo al cambio. Estamos en el Nueva York de 1980 y Ann Beattie nos pone en la piel de Jane, una chica joven, ingenua, recién licenciada, que se enamora de un hombre mucho mayor que ella, embarcándose (o más bien debería decir lanzándose) sin apenas percatarse de ello en una relación tóxica, fraudulenta, de dependencia y sumisión absoluta que acaba anulando completamente su carácter aun cuando ella está convencida de lo contrario. Sin embargo, lejos de desarrollar una trama de manera convincente o esbozar un estudio de los personajes, Beattie prorrumpe en un sinfín de escenas y conversaciones fragmentadas que nos llevarán por diversos lugares, realizando observaciones puntuales sobre el ambiente neoyorquino y las relaciones sentimentales que, opino, confieren al relato el poco encanto que tiene. Más allá de eso, no he entendido el propósito de la obra ni me ha dejado ningún poso, aunque no descartaría —por su extrema brevedad— una futura relectura que me pueda despejar todas esas dudas que ahora tengo.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Pret-ty great. Moves along swiftly (I read it in an afternoon (and a night)), engaging all the way through, great characters. A really interesting relationship, where the guy's an asshole, but she knows it, and calls him on it, and yet they're still together. Seemed symbolic/metaphoric, yet this was pure realism. At first Beattie seemed to do a lot of work to explain why/how they were together, and I paid super close attention to all this, read lines over, etc., but in the end that didn't really Pret-ty great. Moves along swiftly (I read it in an afternoon (and a night)), engaging all the way through, great characters. A really interesting relationship, where the guy's an asshole, but she knows it, and calls him on it, and yet they're still together. Seemed symbolic/metaphoric, yet this was pure realism. At first Beattie seemed to do a lot of work to explain why/how they were together, and I paid super close attention to all this, read lines over, etc., but in the end that didn't really matter. They were together, was all. There's a casual inevitability here which is really tragic and engaging. Things happen and the reader is simply meant to accept them along with the protagonist, who mostly does (i.e. accept things). It's that classic female protagonist, strong but damaged, somewhat aloof, and it's done well here. Three fourths of the way through something big happens, and the novella seems to lose momentum, but it picks back up again. Beattie does a lot of stuff in 100 quick pages, but it never feels polyphonic or experimental or quirky or contempo or annoying. It's really good. Glad I read it. Glad I didn't die of whooping cough or random violence before I came across it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ket Lamb

    Walks With Men is a wisp of a book about a famous-for-fifteen-minutes, young, female, who has a relationship with a manipulative older man in New York. "The deal was this: he'd tell me anything, anything, as long as the information went unattributed, as long as no one knew he and I had any real relationship." With an agreement like that, one expects to learn something remarkable about men. Instead, we whip through a novella about a self-absorbed guy who barely tells us anything, and what he does Walks With Men is a wisp of a book about a famous-for-fifteen-minutes, young, female, who has a relationship with a manipulative older man in New York. "The deal was this: he'd tell me anything, anything, as long as the information went unattributed, as long as no one knew he and I had any real relationship." With an agreement like that, one expects to learn something remarkable about men. Instead, we whip through a novella about a self-absorbed guy who barely tells us anything, and what he does reveal isn't usually true. All the while, we wonder, why does she stay with him? Assuming the man was Norman Mailer was what kept me turning the pages. Though it's set in the 80s, it felt more dated and emotionally distant. Despite the crisp prose, the story was told through a gauzy long lens, as if a neighbor's lace curtain had briefly fluttered open. I wanted to like this novella, but the ending, which raises more questions than it solves, only compounded my frustration. Take a walk with someone else unless you're an Ann Beattie fan.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Well, this was a weird little book. It's noticeable: hot pink piping on the covers, really small size. It sounds like a secret autobio, but I didn't really care enough to dig around and find out who the famous man "Jane" lived with really was. It started seeming like a story about a friend who's fashionable and popular but makes really bad choices so knowing her is like getting to watch a train wreck, again and again, but it wasn't really that interesting and the narrative structure got weird so Well, this was a weird little book. It's noticeable: hot pink piping on the covers, really small size. It sounds like a secret autobio, but I didn't really care enough to dig around and find out who the famous man "Jane" lived with really was. It started seeming like a story about a friend who's fashionable and popular but makes really bad choices so knowing her is like getting to watch a train wreck, again and again, but it wasn't really that interesting and the narrative structure got weird so it wasn't even People Magazine gone wrong. Oh, and for the first 1/2 of it, I kept thinking Anne Patchett had written it, and I was really disappointed! So some of the weirdness is my fault, wouldn't you say?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kate.

    I heard this is THE local author to know, so I was excited to get my hands on this one. Short and sweet? A woman tells about her many varied relationships with men: her drunk step-father, her gay downstairs neighbor, her lover-turned-husband-turned-missing-person, her Buddhist ex-boyfriend who changed his name to "Goodness". The overall effect is a little amusing and a lotta annoying. It's as if the narrator's speaking through a scratchy, distant PA system so you can't really understand what's g I heard this is THE local author to know, so I was excited to get my hands on this one. Short and sweet? A woman tells about her many varied relationships with men: her drunk step-father, her gay downstairs neighbor, her lover-turned-husband-turned-missing-person, her Buddhist ex-boyfriend who changed his name to "Goodness". The overall effect is a little amusing and a lotta annoying. It's as if the narrator's speaking through a scratchy, distant PA system so you can't really understand what's going on no matter how hard you listen. Did I mention that the narrator is a beautiful, talented writer? Anne Beattie, I'm onto you. So just go ahead and speak up.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Ann Beattie’s new novella starts with a little idea: Jane Jay Costner, who recently dropped out of college as a radical gesture and now lives on a farm in Vermont with a hippie boyfriend, joins up with an older man who promises to teach her how to live. Even after certain illusions about him are shattered, Jane stays with Neil. She makes fun of her devotion, but never disowns it. I really enjoyed this short and seductively superficial story about a woman who doesn’t come to any final conclusions Ann Beattie’s new novella starts with a little idea: Jane Jay Costner, who recently dropped out of college as a radical gesture and now lives on a farm in Vermont with a hippie boyfriend, joins up with an older man who promises to teach her how to live. Even after certain illusions about him are shattered, Jane stays with Neil. She makes fun of her devotion, but never disowns it. I really enjoyed this short and seductively superficial story about a woman who doesn’t come to any final conclusions.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I often caught myself wondering aloud, "WTF?" Beattie lost me more than a few times with her sprinkling of random events and sudden voice changes. I hoped for more character development and growth. This novella lacks more than it offers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    This genre (we could call it "published in the New Yorker, or may as well have been") makes me depressed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Corman

    He gave me an ice pick, one time, and put an ice cube on the breadboard and set in front of me a photograph of Bernini's Daphne and Apollo. -Ann Beattie, Walks with Men

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This is actually the first Beattie book I've read. Maybe I should have started with something stronger (suggestions?). Some nice breezy prose but I'll admit that I wanted it to be sexier.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joannmullis

    An ok narrative, left me empty. wanted more depth.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Choppy, overwritten, and underwhelming.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Federica

    Me gustó, sin más. Tiene algunos pasajes interesantes y personajes auténticos, pero es un globo, mientras transcurren los acontecimientos se va desinflando. Al principio me recordaba por ambientación y protagonistas a esas películas de Woody Allen que tanto me gustan, después se vuelve algo insípido. Rescato la pluma de la autora, que es bastante original comparada a otras narrativas. También agradezco que no fue predecible cuando imaginé en una situación que lo sería. Le faltó más profundidad en Me gustó, sin más. Tiene algunos pasajes interesantes y personajes auténticos, pero es un globo, mientras transcurren los acontecimientos se va desinflando. Al principio me recordaba por ambientación y protagonistas a esas películas de Woody Allen que tanto me gustan, después se vuelve algo insípido. Rescato la pluma de la autora, que es bastante original comparada a otras narrativas. También agradezco que no fue predecible cuando imaginé en una situación que lo sería. Le faltó más profundidad en general, no me dejó mucho y no me dio tanta gracia el humor, a veces ni lo sentí. De todos modos, me gustaría leer más de ella...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    In this short 2010 book, protagonist Jane Jay Costner puts herself under the control of an older man, a professor, who tells her what she should do and wear, etc. What I liked best is the non-linear structure of the narrative, which made me think about new ways to compose a story. The characters seemed a little too-sharply drawn, almost as though they stood for particular things more than were part of an actual story. I found myself wishing they were more likeable. But, this book is worth lookin In this short 2010 book, protagonist Jane Jay Costner puts herself under the control of an older man, a professor, who tells her what she should do and wear, etc. What I liked best is the non-linear structure of the narrative, which made me think about new ways to compose a story. The characters seemed a little too-sharply drawn, almost as though they stood for particular things more than were part of an actual story. I found myself wishing they were more likeable. But, this book is worth looking at for the structure.

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