A Gentleman?s Guide to Graceful Living

Michael Dahlie?s first novel, an elegant, restrained dark comedy, could be called a kinder, gentler Handful of Dust. It is 1998, a dreadful year for 57-year-old Manhattanite, Arthur Camden, a mild-mannered deviation from a line of business titans. He has run the family firm into the ground, and his wife of 32 years has left him, preferring someone who?s fun and on the ball. The point of Arthur?s life, never finely honed to begin with, now completely escapes him. His only friends, aside from his sons, are -- or seem to be -- his fellow members of the Hanover Street Fly Casters. But, unsurprisingly, disaster strikes there, too, and Arthur packs his bags -- an activity he has always enjoyed -- and sets off on a doomed, though terribly funny, journey. The better we get to know Arthur and his feelings of invincible of inadequacy, his natural talent for entering every situation on the wrong foot, and his own wonder at his knack of exasperating others, the more we are drawn to his self-deprecating decency. When he does sally forth we find ourselves rooting for him as if he were coming of age. ("After the concert?Arthur suggested they get dinner, and before long they were seated at a corner table at a restaurant called Epi Dupin, leaning into each other and, although Arthur felt he was not qualified to identify it as such, flirting.") Dahlie?s writing is limpid and deadpan, maintaining the spirit of Arthur?s orderly, if baffled, soul. What is more, out of this unlikely material comes extraordinary suspense. Will Arthur pull it together? Will his tormentors get theirs? What is going to happen? This is a book I could neither put down nor bear the thought of finishing.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.