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Man About Town


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Stinging and insightful…Merlis is able to move…to the deepest contemplations of commitment, couplehood and the importance of candor. He creates a protagonist with broad appeal, proving beyond doubt that the personal is political and vice versa. – Publishers Weekly

A supremely dry take on the Washington scene — both political and sexual…Like his hero, who stands back and wryly comments, Mark Merlis’s narrative is cynically and enjoyably detached.– London Times 


Alternately comic and tragic…Merlis reaches a level of thoughtful reflection that sings with poignancy. – Kirkus Reviews


In his biting third novel, Mark Merlis deftly sketches two distinct societies in Washington: Capitol Hill, where lawmakers and their aides toil in ridiculous formality and futility; and the city's gay singles scene, with its triviality and treachery on display. The novel offers sharp insights about interracial dating and the death of love's illusions…compelling. -- New York Times


Joel Lingeman has it all: an overpaid sinecure advising Congress, a fifteen-year partnership with a perfectly adequate lover, a cozy circle of drinking buddies. Until one day his world implodes. His lover runs off, working for Congress threatens to turn him into a felon, and Joel is hurled back, out of condition, into the dating game he couldn't manage twenty years earlier. 
Amid the rubble he finds himself clinging to an image from his boyhood: a model in a swimsuit ad, buried in the back of a magazine, who had beckoned to young Joel to step through the page and into another life. Aided by a detective who is more elusive than his quarry, Joel sets out to discover the real person he knows only from a fading photograph. What begins as a quest for an idyll in the New Mexico hills ends in New Jersey, where a rundown split-level turns out to be a shrine to everyday heroism and ordinary happiness.

Joel's journey -- touching, comic, and deftly observed -- overlays a whip-smart critique of the cynicism and buffoonery of Capitol Hill and a gently acerbic account of how people break up and how they get together. Mark Merlis's third novel contains an unforgettable new twist on the idea that the personal is political: clever, wry, and knowing, it's a wise novel that unashamedly celebrates romance, nostalgia, and innocence.