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The Morels

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  199 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The MorelsArthur, Penny, and Willare a happy family of three living in New York City. So why would Arthur choose to publish a book that brutally rips his tightly knit family unit apart at the seams? Arthur's old schoolmate Chris, who narrates the book, is fascinated with this very question as he becomes accidentally reacquainted with Arthur. A single, aspiring filmmaker wh ...more
ebook, 221 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

This is a hard book to review. There's a lot wrong with it, but at the same time it's utterly fascinating. I'm not sure what exactly I feel about it, which makes for a successfully provocative novel I suppose.

Lets start with what I didn't like. This novel is just barely shy of being unbearably pretentious. It's a book (1) in which one of the characters writes a book (2) fictionalizing the characters i
Many years ago, I bought a house while I was living with my then-boyfriend. Things weren't going well between us, to the extent that I felt more comfortable getting into a 30-year commitment with Chase Mortgage than with him. Still, we stayed together, in no small part because at one point he told me accusingly, "I know exactly what's going to happen—we're going to move and then you're going to dump me."

So of course I couldn't, even though the relationship had clearly run its course and neither
I love to gamble on debut novels - and this one, with its premise of a family torn apart by Art - certainly has an attention-grabbing hook. And the book draws the reader in right away. Though there are some initial stylistic choices that are distracting with its unnamned narrator, shifting verb tenses and even varying perspectives, inconsistent punctuation, the book has that very distinct “literary” flavor that will appeal to many readers. And the readers who this will attract, will most likely ...more
I wanted to like this. I could barely finish it. I skimmed most of the middle, to be honest. I found it way too self-aware, almost like it was trying too hard to be clever. I didn't find any of it humorous or compelling, and the characters felt tired and pretentious. I seem to be in the minority with my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
Larry Hoffer
What is art, and how far should you go to pursue it? Are there lines that shouldn't be crossed, people who shouldn't be sacrificed, or does art supersede everything else?

These are a few of the questions addressed in Christopher Hacker's intriguing, somewhat frustrating, and slightly disturbing new novel, The Morels. Arthur Morel is a writer whose first novel was published to some acclaim, but in his everyday life, he is struggling as an adjunct college professor. Socially awkward and idiosyncrat
Mike Cuthbert
This book demonstrates why you should read blurbs on the cover with great care. One critic, supposedly helping the author, said of it: “It also does a lot of heavy lifting, asking big questions about art, life and family...” The lifting is not particularly heavy—this is a very accessible novel that has one shocking surprise near its beginning and variations on that theme for the rest of its length. Art Morel is a genius. That much is made clear by our anonymous narrator. Arthur is an accomplishe ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 03, 2013 Liam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers
Recommended to Liam by: Cale Hand
Difficult, moving, and frustrating in alternating doses, Hacker's novel wrestles with a number of tough ideas regarding fiction, culpability, family, and the ferreting out of truth, to a mostly satisfying conclusion. We get through a number of flights and shifts the story of the titular family, and while I don't want to go too much into detail, I'll say that the book takes a very difficult and totally not neat twist, and dresses it with considerably lucid and compelling prose that propels you th ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Quinten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: lit
The Morels tells the story of a disturbingly self destructive act: a man who writes a book of fiction that tears apart his family. We wonder why, but we discover that perhaps, the resulting impact was the goal of the book after all. The nature and purpose of art is questioned. The book asks us, is insider art really art? What space is left in an area like literature, or classical music, to truly create art, when the symphony is now a place for rich folks to applaud without understanding through ...more
Ed Gibney
It's been a few months since I read this now, but The Morels has really stuck with me. I find that the characters and the issues they deal with really raised a lot of questions that I still think about from time to time in my daily life and in my own writing. Hacker's prose makes the pages skip by luxuriously and enjoyably, but the subject matters he deals with manage to lodge themselves deep inside you—that is no mean feat! What is the purpose of art? What are the lines between fantasy and real ...more
This book, like many of its characters, doesn't want to be liked. So maybe two stars is unfair, since it was successful. But the structure was clunky, the plot felt padded, and the conclusions weren't as profound as the author hoped.

Also, can we start proofreading books again? That would be great. Because roofs have "eaves," not "eves." And there were a few other examples in this book.
Steve Bauman
Fantastic. It starts off as a little character study, then has its major "holy shit" moment... and then everything falls apart in the best way possible. It's almost too good, too clever, and the final twist would be pretty contrived in weaker hands. But yeesh, good job, man.
Too clever by half, derivative of another novel (and if I named that novel, I'd be giving a spoiler), and with a clunky narrative structure that left me wondering "Why???"
Jul 19, 2015 Rayme added it
This book's first half is a mess. Way too long, editing oversights (Vale, Colorado? Come on Soho Press!) and very unlikable characters had me considering this one for the "didn't finish" shelf. BUT somewhere after the halfway mark the story got more focused and I became interested in the bigger questions the book asks about the thickness of the line between fiction and memoir and what, if anything, is sacred to a parent, friend or spouse who is also an artist. Responsibility and morals are in qu ...more
Apparently this book makes some strong statements about the artistic process. I'm not interested in ruminating about the value of art but I enjoyed the book regardless. The narrator is an unlikeable fellow. I was supposed to dislike the "protagonist", but I found the narrator to be more irritating. There is a big reveal at the end of the novel that made me want to start it all over again (the end of the actual novel, not the end of the novel written by the guy in the novel). I do recommend this ...more
Lyn Talbert
what is this book about? ummm...well I would say: art. specifically, Arthur's views on art.

If focuses on how art affects Arthur's life (among others)...more importantly (or is it more important), how his life affects his art.

you might hear yourself shouting BULLSHIT, while reading his passionate views on art or you might scream a resounding YES, so glad that someone 'gets it.' or you might just fling the book down, tired of having philosophies shoved down your throat in the most contrived manne
Ugh. While I intellectually understand that this is supposed to be a commentary on the effects of art/writing on real life, I did not think it achieved that goal. Let's start with the title, obviously a play on morals. Tee hee. Then let's craft the most vile characters we can find: the precocious obnoxious child, the enabling mother, and the arrogant/conceited/pseudo intellectual father. Arthur was a jerk from birth, even though he had a ridiculous upbringing he was still an attention craving eg ...more
Jessica Woodbury
The best literature challenges you somehow. And that seems to be exactly what The Morels is about. Its subject, Arthur Morel, is an artist who has constantly shocked and challenged those around him, usually to his detriment. As a whole, this novel considers his place as an artist but mostly considers his motives for acts that are more than shocking, they're self-destructive.

(This isn't a novel for the faint of heart. That's something I say often, since I have a thing for dark fiction. But the is
I was drawn in by the Morel family. Arthur the artist father who sets the self-destruct button with the incendiary novel he publishes, Penelope the understanding and supportive wife and mother who reaches the end of her tether and finally Will, the hurt and angry son. We view these characters largely through the eyes of a childhood acquaintance of Arthur's. He's a slacker, working at a movie theater and working on a film that's a trailer park version on Hamlet. When he next turns the lens on Art ...more
Red Letter
Here's a peek at what our readers had to say...

Mary Liz "Do you like to debate what makes art “art”? Then this is the story for you." Grade: B

Rosie T. "I liked The Morels because it was a very unusual book, and I haven’t read anything like it before. I also liked the characters, because they are so complicated, but I didn’t feel emotionally attached to any of the characters." Grade: C+

Gigi "I am not sure what to say about this book. I enjoyed it. But I’m not confident enough in it to recommend i
Ted Lehmann
Apr 27, 2013 Ted Lehmann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers of serious contemporary fiction
The Morels by Christopher Hacker (SoHo Press, 368 Pages, $29.95) is a sometimes difficult, often brilliant, and disturbing novel which examines the role of art and the artist within the context of a confused and difficult family during the period from the counter culture days of the 1960's to the near present. Narrated by an unnamed observer/friend of the Morel family, it follows the central character Arthur Morel as he publishes a second novel he calls the "The Morels" creating a constant conf ...more
The Morels is told from the perspective of a childhood friend of Arthur Morel, who witnessed a young Arthur's musical genius and self destruction first hand. This friend then meets him again as an adult and finds himself witnessing Art's pursuit of art (in the form of literature) threatening the happy life he's built with his wife and son.

Until the very end of this novel, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this meditation on art and the pursuit of creating art. Neither the narrator nor his subj
The description doesn't do this book justice.

In a shockingly beautiful telling the author questions the institutions of art, family, and guilt on an unpaved road wrought with familiar pain of being self-aware. You are led down this road by a long absent classmate who through happenstance encounters an old classmate and recounts his classmates descent into sanity. Though confused and even misguided the writing really draws you in to Art’s , the main focus, decline. Initially his action seem depr
I really wish we could give half-stars, or decimals to our reviews on this site. I chose to give this book 5 stars, but that was only due to rounding up. I didn't love this book, but I found it such a compelling and provocative read, that I felt it earned that rating.

It is difficult to say much about this book without delving into spoiler territory. So, to avoid giving anything away, I'd recommend reading the book jacket to get the jist of what it's about. Then, I'd offer this advice: Prepare t
I began this book in fits and starts, as I had a hard time getting into the story, relating to the characters, etc., but after the first couple chapters it clicked. Hacker has written a novel of big ideas and important questions, and my fear that his characters would simply become vessels for those ideas rather than fleshed-out people receded; I found myself drawn to these people.

Longer thoughts are forthcoming. For now let's just say that the quirky screwball comedy the cover suggests and the s
Elly Wendy
4* Heavy, tough, dark, engaging, fascinating, well-crafted. i liked the recent history.
Jennifer Louden
Tightly written and beautifully constructed with well-drawn characters this novel explores what it means to be an artist. Or at least that is what it appears to explore. To me, it explores how the artist is shaped and compelled by life experiences to create what he/she creates. The device at the end felt cheap to me - to many Chinese boxes within boxes. I found a few scenes boring - the relationship between the narrator and his screwed up girlfriend didn't do much for the narrative or me - and I ...more
This book is a fascinating study of what art is and is not. It explores music, film, and writing as well as the artist/creator's role/duty/desires. I found the writing to be fine--some lovely long sentences when necessary, some odd syntax now and then to draw the reader's attention. What I most liked about this book was how it made me consider the role of art and the artist in modern times. I also liked the ending--how it managed to be post-modern without being pretentious. It satisfied me witho ...more
Laurie Duncan
The best compliment I can give a book is "I didn't want it to end." That how I felt about this book. I read it slowly and switched in and out of other books for a few weeks because the closer I got to the end, the more compelled I was to make it last a little bit longer. That's right.,,I'm actually sad now that I've finished this book, but sad because I've finished it, not sad from the content. I'd read it again, but knowing how it plays out makes that less enjoyable.
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“Practice is a private activity, and having someone witness it an odd sort of embarrassment.” 0 likes
“You may be applauding out of genuine appreciation, but the guy next to you, maybe he didn't particularly care for me, but he doesn't want to appear rude, so he applauds, and by adding his applause to yours, he's devalued it, cancelled it out.” 0 likes
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