David Szalay * Graywolf Press * October 4, 2016 * 272 Pages
Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.
All That Man Is is a collection of nine (unrelated) stories about different men living in different places in Europe at different points of transition in their lives. The plots of the stories vary widely, but many involve travel. All of the stories share themes of loneliness, isolation, and despair.
This is not a happy book, and I struggled to get through it. After the third story, I finally found my rhythm, but those first 120+ pages were a slog. Luckily, as the book goes on, the characters become more interesting–more engaging and complicated, and less self-obsessed and brooding. The action picks up, too.
But this isn’t a book to fall in love with. All the men are depressed and selfish. All the women are ghosts who never fully form. The writing is restrained and sad. The whole thing has such a negative energy to it that I’m just glad to be done with it.