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Mistler's Exit

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Thomas Mistler has always thought himself "a happy man, as the world goes." A scion of old money, he made his own fortune in advertising and is now poised to sell the company he founded for a fabulous price. But when a medical examination reveals the presence in his liver of a fatal intruder, "preposterously, unmistakably, he begins to rejoice," with a feeling of having been set free. But free from what?

He will seek the answer surreptitiously, without revealing his illness to his family, during a last reprieve, a moment of grace in "the one place on earth where nothing irritates him." But amidst the surreal beauties of Venice, he finds bitterness and chaos as he allows himself to drift for the first time. His halfhearted efforts to seize the day and its present pleasures--first with a striving young photographer and later with a love of his youth who never loved him--cannot compete with his need to commune with the living and the dead that crowd his life: his father and uncle, pillars of the Establishment, sources of the "genetic puritanism" he has never tried to resist; his son, Sam, whose love he has only barely salvaged; his wife, once perfectly "beautiful and suitable," now humiliated by him and half-scorned. And the one woman who embodies everything he might have wished for, a woman he "never had and never lost."

Deeply poignant yet mordantly funny, Mistler's Exit brilliantly discloses the pleasures and miseries of having it all. A masterly revelation of the complexities of the heart.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Louis Begley's Memories of a Marriage.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 31, 1998 – There is perhaps no more worldly novelist writing today than Begley: worldly in his attention to class, wealth and sex, but most of all in his attention to pleasure in the face of death. So when his latest protagonist, Thomas Mistler, ruthless captain of a huge advertising firm, learns that he has cancer of the liver, he decides not to fight it and not to tell his wife or son about it immediately but, instead, to go to Venice, "the one place on earth where nothing irritated him," on a clandestine solo vacation. There he has--as Begley heroes do--a series of disquieting sexual adventures (in this case parodies of the erotic epiphany of Thomas Mann's Aschenbach), which bring home to us, if not to Mistler, his essential loneliness. In certain ways, this slim novel seems a pendant sketch to Begley's recent masterpiece, About Schmidt, another study of an aging, philandering gentleman's failures to connect. But this sketch presents enigmas of its own. Begley's dialogue, always highly starched, now sounds epistolary, as if carried on at a distance of miles and days. His hero's luxurious solipsism calls to mind not just Begley's constant great familiars (among them Mann, Jouve, Proust, James, Ford Madox Ford and Nabokov) but the random glamour of an Antonioni film, in which characters appear like emanations, free of the normal exigencies of plot. Even amid the palazzos and great churches of his vividly conjured Venice, Begley displays the bitter moral intelligence, the fear of emptiness, that has distinguished his late, extraordinary career from the start. Once again he has created a sinister, highly ambiguous protagonist in a haunting, ambivalent work of art. Author tour.
Mistler's Exit
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Sep 01, 1998
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 224 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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