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The Extra Man

The Extra Man

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Jonathan Ames, whose debut novel I Pass Like Night was enthusiastically praised by Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates, has followed up with a brilliant and comic second novel.
Louis Ives, the narrator of The Extra Man, fancies himself a young gentleman fashioned after his heroes in the books of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He dresses the part -- favoring neckties, blue blazers, and sport coats. But he also has a penchant for women's clothing, a weakness that causes him to lose his job as a teacher at a Princeton day school after a bizarre incident involving a colleague's brassiere. Thrust out of Princeton, he heads to New York where he rents a cheap room in the madly discombobulated apartment of Henry Harrison, a failed but brilliant playwright who dances alone to Ethel Merman records, sneaks into Broadway shows, and performs with great style the duties of a walker -- an escort for the rich widows of the Upper East Side.
The two men, separated in age by more than forty years, develop a relationship that is irascible mentor and eager apprentice, and they form a bond the depths of which neither expected. But Louis, when he's not with Henry, has fascinations that lead him to an unusual community on the fringes of the sex world of Times Square. He develops a secret life there, which he fears will be his undoing and which he must keep hidden from Henry at all costs.
A hilarious yet moving story about friendship and longing, The Extra Man is an original and unforgettable novel by one of America's most talented young writers.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684864815 | 
  • December 1998
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The Extra Man Starring Kevin Kline

Based on the novel by Jonathan Ames, The Extra Man is a sophisticated and moving comedy from Academy Award Nominated Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Starring Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes and John C Reilly .

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Describe the tone of The Extra Man. What kind of novel is it? A comedy? A satire?
2. Louis Ives considers himself a "young gentleman" fashioned out of the works of Fitzgerald and Wilde. Since he is the narrator, how does his fantasy shape the novel?
3. At one point Louis says, "I felt less alone -- the whole city had sex problems." How does his attitude regarding his "problem" change throughout the book? Chart his development from his first visit to the "recession spankologist" to his final escapade with Maria. How does he feel about others with sex problems?
4. One of Louis' major conflicts -- apart from his obsession with balding -- regards his Jewish heritage. He says "their anti-Semitism and my Semitism were the major flaws in my young gentleman fantasy." How does he reconcile this?
5. What is the nature of Louis' sexuality? Consider his reaction to watching the young subway couple: "I wanted to be both of them. I wanted to be strong enough to hold someone, or lovely enough to be held."
6. What revelations might be read into his statement, upon seeing Maria naked, "It was a girl as I must have first imagined girls"?
7. Though far apart in age, habit, and attitude, in what ways are Henry Harrison and Louis alike? Why is his relationship with Henry so important to Louis?
8. In what ways does Louis disappoint Henry? What is it about Louis that Henry believes in? Disc see more

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About the Author

Jonathan Ames
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Jonathan Ames

JONATHAN AMES is the author of I Pass Like Night; The Extra Man; What’s Not to Love?; My Less Than Secret Life; Wake Up, Sir!; I Love You More Than You Know; The Alcoholic; and The Double Life Is Twice As Good. He’s the creator of the HBO® Original Series Bored to Death and has had two amateur boxing matches, fighting as “The Herring Wonder.” For more information visit www.jonathanames.com.

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