Harry Mathews

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Cigarettes Cigarettes is a novel about the rich and powerful tracing their complicated relationships from the s to the s from New York City to Upper New York State Though nothing is as simple as it mig

  • Title: Cigarettes
  • Author: Harry Mathews
  • ISBN: 9781564782038
  • Page: 327
  • Format: Paperback
  • Cigarettes is a novel about the rich and powerful, tracing their complicated relationships from the 1930s to the 1960s, from New York City to Upper New York State Though nothing is as simple as it might appear to be, we could describe this as a story about Allen, who is married to Maud but having an affair with Elizabeth, who lives with Maud Or say it is a story about frCigarettes is a novel about the rich and powerful, tracing their complicated relationships from the 1930s to the 1960s, from New York City to Upper New York State Though nothing is as simple as it might appear to be, we could describe this as a story about Allen, who is married to Maud but having an affair with Elizabeth, who lives with Maud Or say it is a story about fraud in the art world, horse racing, and sexual intrigues Or, as one critic did, compare it to a Jane Austen creation, or to an Aldous Huxley novel and be right and wrong on both counts.

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      327 Harry Mathews
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      Posted by:Harry Mathews
      Published :2019-02-01T06:43:05+00:00

    One thought on “Cigarettes

    1. K.D. Absolutely on said:

      INTRICATE. That's the best way to describe the storytelling style of Mathews. This book surpassed my expectations. I normally don't like stories about rich people in a foreign city like for example, the unreachable New York in say The Bonfire of the Vanities (1 star) because I personally have difficulty in relating to the characters. However, Mathews chose not focus his story on the characters' wealth or its consequences and in the process alienate a poor man like me. Rather, Mathews focused on [...]

    2. Lee Foust on said:

      A superlative novel. Cigarettes is a wonderfully intricate tale of human relationships, how we constantly mistake each others' intentions, mess each other up, make up, love, live with each other, and ultimately die in each other's hearts and minds. --As if that's not much to say. Cigarettes has a kind of War and Peace scope in a mere 300 pages because it's literally 90% exposition--exactly what your creative writing teacher will tell you not to do. In this particular novel the technique works fa [...]

    3. Ronald Morton on said:

      Hot damn this was good. In its own way it’s a bit of a mystery – there are gaps and holes in the narrative that kind of jump out at the reader (and some that are easily missable that had me flipping back and forth as I go to later chapter); and those holes are filled as the book progresses. But, while a mystery typically excels in introducing a bunch of different strands, and slowly tightening the strands as the narrative progresses, this book is composed quite differently. Each chapter focu [...]

    4. Karen on said:

      Great quote on bars: She dreaded meeting people she knew, and not meeting people she know, and meeting people she didn't know.I loved the sex scenes with Elizabeth (Mud!) and was appalled at the kinky scenes with Lewis, before it was all Safe, Sane, and Consensual. I didn't think "That's terrible, perverts tying each other up." I thought "with wire!?! That can cut off the circulation so quickly!" And I was horrified worse than the worst puritans at the group sex scenes a crucifixion, fine but th [...]

    5. Peter Landau on said:

      What the hell have I gotten myself into? I thought CIGARETTES was an experimental novel, written by Harry Mathews, the first American chosen for membership in that freaky French literary clique, Oulipian. But what I get instead is a generational tale of New York blue bloods. What’s even stranger is I like it, and I can’t exactly say why. The writing isn’t showy, the plot is dense with detail. Things happen like in an old-fashioned novel, but those things are cut up and linked in a weirdly [...]

    6. Elizabeth (Alaska) on said:

      This is written in such an interesting format. The description is deceiving, and the story nowhere near as confusing as is made out. It is, however, a story of relationships - many more than those of Allan, Maud, and Elizabeth. Each chapter is the relationship of two of the characters. It has great characterization in the context of those relationships. I hesitate to say there is a good plot. Perhaps it is better to say there is a good vehicle for tying these relationships one to the other.Thoug [...]

    7. Muzzy on said:

      Drop whatever you're reading and pick up Harry Matthews' "Cigarettes."For a long time I was frustrated with reading fiction. No matter what I read, even obscure foreign novels in translation, I kept feeling as if I've already read it. There were no surprises to be found. I began to worry that maybe I'd lost my love for reading. Maybe I had read too much too soon? Was I just another one of those cynics who can't find pleasure in anything? I longed for the feeling of discovery I used to experience [...]

    8. Heather on said:

      This book surprised me. I expected it to try my patience by being almost unreadable with word games or unnecessary descriptions of the mundane. Instead, the book blew my mind. Each chapter is devoted to two characters and their relationship with one another. Eventually, the book spins upon itself until the connections between all the characters becomes clear to the reader. And all along there are some common elements: horses and horse racing, paintings, writing, etc. In a way, the structure of t [...]

    9. Andrew on said:

      As America's sole representative in the Oulipo group, Mathews shocked me by not being terribly Oulipian in this novel. The primary Oulipo element is Mathews' writing each chapter as an encounter between two people, and he recombines these encounters. But the chapters are really only ostensibly about the encounters, and each one contains quite a bit of other stuff going on. What you get in the end is a very fun novel about entangled interpersonal relationships yo-yoing across multiple decades and [...]

    10. Woodland Animal on said:

      I thought this was a great book. I mean cigarettes are consequential anomaly in every day life unless you smoke them and then you die. Bummer!!! Cigarettes cause death and death causes cigarettes therefore you do not know what life will bring with smoke rings that curl around your face - oh yeah, you know that you'll trace the lace of grace that plays on the interface -oh what?!! yeah, I said it. Dope! Flip-flop patty wack. This book has it all from the first hit to last breath. Brethren rejoice [...]

    11. M. Sarki on said:

      A streak of bad luck lately in my picking books which bore me. I read about halfway until deciding I had better things to do with my time. None of the characters meant anything to me, and the lives they were leading as well as the stories they told were better left to those who might care. Not the "masterpiece" purported to be. Disappointed again in a publisher's blurbs.

    12. Sara Cervantes on said:

      intricate and beautifully written, with so many relationships as to necessitate a visual chart. psychosexual in a way that is not pushy, just matter of fact. this book has haunted me and i am thankful for the haunting.

    13. Kathryn M on said:

      It was very complex and thought provoking and I absolutely loved it. Highly recommend. It's not a happy story but it's beautifully written and makes you want to read more because there are so many literary references. There are notes and underlines all over my copy and I read it twice.

    14. Katie Cruel on said:

      This didn't work for me.I found Phoebe's character to be very interesting, and that, for me, was the highlight of the book. But at about page 200 I literally couldn't care less anymore about the book. The characters struck me as repetitive and unoriginal. Maybe that was the point.

    15. Jason on said:

      Dedicated to his then-recently-deceased quasi-mentor (and leading light of the Oulipo movement of which they were both certified practicing members) Georges Perec, Harry Mathews' CIGARETTES makes good on this homage by presenting a work that owes much to Perec insofar as it may also be said to invoke intricate scaffolding and jigsaw puzzles. CIGARETTES is first and foremost a virtuoso showcase for plotting. It would be tempting to call it labyrinthine, but such a designation would seem belied by [...]

    16. Maricruz on said:

      Al principio tuve que luchar con cierta irritación ante lo que creía una novela sobre las veleidades de una pandilla de WASP ricachones. Una vez superado el prejuicio, Harry Mathews ha logrado que yo, madrileña y pobretona, empatice con unos pijos de Nueva York. Así de bien delineados están los personajes, y así de interesantes hace las relaciones entre ellos. He leído por ahí que es la novela más convencional de Mathews, y desde luego uno puede leerla sin saber nada de Oulipo, o saberl [...]

    17. Alina on said:

      This is just so, so good. In many ways, it shouldn't be: more summary than scene, few pages devoted to each individual character (and so MANY characters), little indication of a real climax. And yet, Mathews paints each character so vividly, writes sentences so knowing and clever, and invents the most intricate and entertaining situations for a large cast. Somehow, it all coheres. All at once, the book manages to be about the New York art world of the 1960s, family relationships (which are exqui [...]

    18. Tiffany on said:

      Cigarettes is a series of connected vignettes -- each "chapter" can be a story unto itself, focusing on the relationship between two specific people, yet the characters are all from other chapters. It's really tricky the way this book is put together. Each of the main characters weaves into others' stories, hence "connected vignettes." And it's also tricky the way you sometimes don't know that the characters are related -- there might be one story that has a minor character who is merely referre [...]

    19. Bob on said:

      Aware that Harry Mathews and Joseph McElroy are long-time friends and consider themselves aesthetic co-conspirators, it is tempting to discuss them in the same breath. McElroy's books are longer and denser, while Mathews' prose is appealing lean. Both share a specificity in describing New York places and geography that I enjoy.Cigarettes follows the intertwined lives of several families from the well-to-do equestrian precincts of upstate New York, from the late 1930s to early 60s and takes the a [...]

    20. Shaun on said:

      Oft tedious reading, I still don't see how this rates as one of the "1,001 Books" that must be read before dying. It doesn't. You can safely pass this one by without one wit of remorse.Structurally this is an unusual book in that the plot follows a carefully planned arc; not unlike a perfectly solved linear equation. In it's perfection, however, lies predictability and, thus, tedious boredom. The only characters I like were the mysterious Elizabeth, the bold and brilliant Irene and the sadomasoc [...]

    21. Howard on said:

      From 87, set half in the 30s, half in the 60s. I knew of Mathews from a friends recommendation of the CIA book and then as the only American member of Oulipo, the group that included favourites Perec and Queneau. It was obviously written with some kind of algorithm in mind but this doesn't interfere with its quality in communicating a driving multiple narrative laden with beautiful moments evoking trains of thought and sensory experience. He has a great ability to put you on a bus looking at fel [...]

    22. Paul on said:

      What a fascinating, dense little book. There's a ton packed into a scant 300 pages, probably due to Mathews' predilection for epic bouts of exposition. If there's a fault here, it's that the crazy amount of exposition can often feel like a giant info dump, which the reader is expected to process and put everything together to make for what might be an understanding of the plot. Things are pretty ingeniously and intricately composed here—it's a pretty smart book, and it was delightful to read, [...]

    23. Will on said:

      Fantastic interweaving narrative, like a series of vignettes inside Venn diagrams that if all put together, would form one large, interconnected web of rings. Everything is connected, everyone lives in everyone else. Parts were breathtakingly exhilarating, some parts dragged, but overall, this was an incredible book, so well put-together and well thought-out (Mathews was an Oulipian, after all) that I would love to read it again from the beginning knowing all I know by the end to see how everyth [...]

    24. Emmakate on said:

      The plot is fine, relatively exciting and it's of course interesting to see how each of the characters that have their own chapter fit into each other's lives. But I recommend this book for its incredible writing, the way the wording takes unexpected turns and will turn from suavely romantic to stomach-turning and violent in a matter of pages. An achingly gorgeous way to write a somewhat typical plot line. Highly recommended.

    25. Steve mitchell on said:

      Well, I didnt love the book, seemed like Mathews was trying to make life imitate art instead of the other way around. I wasnt as fond as I think I was supposed to be about the female character Elizabeth, who everyone is in love with or hates either way she is very popular in the book and drives most of the plot. I did like one bit about how men fear women. I think the sex/relationship/life decisions in the book is supposed to be what grabs the reader, it didnt grab me.

    26. Ffiamma on said:

      il filo conduttore della storia è un ritratto di donna intorno a cui si snodano le storie dei personaggi che sembrano scollegate ma si riallacciano man mano che il racconto procede. l'ambiente è quello della ricca borghesia della east coast, ci sono gli anni 60, l'arte, gli intrighi, i soldi, le perversioni, il sesso, la malattia. perec sta decisamente su un altro pianeta, però.

    27. Jeff on said:

      Great book. Outstanding structure, sort of like Schnitzler's play La Ronde, where two characters are in each section, and one continues to the next, with a new character, who continues to the next--some do come back though, so it's not exact. But awesome interweaving plot and characters, many layered themes. A lesser-known masterpiece.

    28. Kevin on said:

      Structure and compression, a book of 300 pages that takes in three decades and at least thirty relationships. Matthews departs from his usual word games and gives us lives that we can believe, coincidences that aren't very coincidental but are treated as such by the characters, and plenty of pain and healing.

    29. Matt Walker on said:

      I keep wanting to call it Coffee and Cigarettes, because of the Jim Jarmusch movie and because of the cup of coffee on the cover. I keep having to remind myself that it's just Cigarettes.If you like Jane Austen, you might like this book. It's better than Jane Austen though.

    30. Kingfan30 on said:

      Did not get on as well with this book as I thought. I like the idea about each chapter exploring the different relationships between two of the characters but as I read through, I found it hard to remember how each character was related to others I had already read about.

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