Asymmetry
by Lisa Halliday


Overview - NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

"Asymmetry is extraordinary...Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction." --Alice Gregory, The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war." --Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"A scorchingly intelligent first novel...  Read more...


 
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    Asymmetry (Paperback)
    Published: 2018-10-16
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    $16.00
     
     
 
 

More About Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
 
 
 
Overview
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

"Asymmetry is extraordinary...Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction." --Alice Gregory, The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war." --Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"A scorchingly intelligent first novel...Asymmetry will make you a better reader, a more active noticer. It hones your senses." --Parul Seghal, The New York Times

A singularly inventive and unforgettable debut novel about love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art, from 2017 Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday.

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, "Folly," tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, "Folly" also suggests an aspiring novelist's coming-of-age. By contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is an urgent, important, and truly original work that will captivate any reader while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501166761
  • ISBN-10: 150116676X
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Family Life - General

 
BookPage Reviews

Two novellas on a theme

Asymmetry, Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday’s debut, is a pair of novellas with a unique narrative shift. What begins as the story of a 25-year-old editorial assistant in early-2000s New York turns into the tale of an Iraqi-American economist detained at Heathrow on his way to Iraqi Kurdistan.

In Folly, the opening novella, Ezra Blazer, a novelist in his 70s who suffers from many ailments, passes on his knowledge of books and music to Alice, an editorial assistant with whom he is having an affair. In her spare time, Alice writes about “War. Dictatorships. World affairs.” In Madness, the second novella, economist Amar Ala Jaafari experiences firsthand the war and dictatorships that Alice writes about, especially during flashbacks to war-torn Iraq and when he encounters the casual racism of border control agents.

The first section of Asymmetry feels sketchy, but the novel gains considerable momentum in Madness. The prose becomes poetic and precise, as when Halliday writes that the bustle in Heathrow “had a kind of prolonged regularity to it, like a jazz improvisation that, for all its deviations, never loses its beat.”

Both novellas deal with insecurity and death, and Halliday draws connections between the two seemingly disparate stories in many ways. For example, in Madness, Amar refers to Saul Bellow’s line from Humboldt’s Gift: “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” The same reference appears in Folly.

In a third and final section, wherein the two novellas come together, Ezra tells an interviewer, “We have very little choice other than to spend our waking hours trying to sort out and make sense of the perennial pandemonium.” Asymmetry is a thoughtful look at many forms of disorder and the eternal struggle to reconcile them.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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