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Plays Well with Others

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  529 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
With great narrative inventiveness and emotional amplitude, Allan Gurganus gives us artistic Manhattan in the wild 1980s, where young artists--refugees from the middle class--hurl themselves into playful work and serious fun.Our guide is Hartley Mims Jr., a Southerner whose native knack for happiness might thwart his literary ambitions. Through his eyes we encounter the co ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 2nd 1999 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,047)
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Lauri Royall
Oct 13, 2014 Lauri Royall rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gary Brecht
Mar 25, 2013 Gary Brecht rated it really liked it
You know you've read a good book when at its conclusion you feel as though you lived another life. Alan Gurganus brings us to the Manhattan of the late seventies, early eighties and introduces us to a coterie of aspiring artists. Arriving to New York from the hinterlands these young novices live, in some cases, on the fringes of poverty. And yet they are wholly dedicated to hone their various crafts until they obtain public acknowledgement of their worth as artists. To these young guns the big c ...more
Aug 19, 2009 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: Amy
Shelves: own, 2009
Micro review: Gurganus has a great, somewhat lyrical style that propels the tapestry of vignettes that comprise this novel; that said, he tips his narrative hand in the first 30 pages and you spend the next 450 pages playing a sort of emotional defense.

A few miscellaneous points:
(1) RE: "vignettes" (v.s.): it took me a while to see how the different scenes fit together into a novelistic arc. It isn't that the vignettes are unrelated or disconnected (viz. they're unified by narrator and (for the
Linda Robinson
Jan 19, 2011 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A eulogy for the NY West Village creative community decimated in the 80s, told by a gifted storyteller. Gurganus is gregarious in style, unrelenting in sharing the ego, bonhomie and tragedy of the decade. He lets us sit at the special green marble round table at Ossorio's under the statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and live vicariously the heady personal art world of the young and fabulous, transplanted from the inherited world of golf courses, debutantes, family farms to a bright fast-burni ...more
Richard Jespers
Jan 11, 2015 Richard Jespers rated it really liked it
Original prose, if not thought.

“There are two kinds of . . .” (70) sets up a dichotomy throughout the book.

Turtle is great metaphor for how gay people fare against straight:

“Trudy's brother had been given a new red ax. Mistake. Through camp one day, a snapping turtle came crawling. The thing gathered a crowd, marveling, if from five feet behind. Haltered tourists aimed their Kodaks. The creature was lead-colored, immense, quite visibly ancient. Serrated ridges like some dinosaur's stood upright
Timothy Juhl
Unlike his previous efforts in 'Oldest Confederate Widow' and 'White People', Gurganus falls flat in this messy AIDS-era novel.

The characters never seem fully fleshed out, the story misses a cohesiveness or direction.

The promise of the opening pages, a very funny scene on the public transit system involving a grocery bag of sex toys seems to be the only memorable bit of prose Gurganus could offer in this missed attempt to define the AIDS crisis.
Patricia Geller
Nov 16, 2014 Patricia Geller rated it it was ok
Really worked hard to like this book about NY before, during and after the AIDS crisis took out so many artistic young men. A novel, but despite the good reviews, found is a shlep and gave up after a hundred pages. Could see it as a funny movie.
George Ilsley
Jan 19, 2015 George Ilsley rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, gay, re-read
Don't really remember this from reading it before, and I felt frustrated with Gurganus' style -- which is florid and indirect -- and some sentences even had four dashes in them -- which makes the text feel choppy and under-baked. On page 291 the character Robert gives an assessment of the writer character's style, and I thought the critique was dead on.

Resented having to do so much work for only an occasional pay-off. However after finishing (skipping the appendix, as everyone seems to do) the t
Feb 05, 2012 Jack rated it really liked it
Allan Gurganus is the prototypical Southern country boy / gentleman fleeing an oppressive youth by moving to NYC to become .. an artist. A writer. Almost anything that he could not be in small hometown North Carolina. And gay, of course.

His stories are rollicking period pieces from the early 80s, just before AIDS began to stalk the city and pluck off one promising young man after the next. Gurganus' hero, wonderfully named Hartley Mims Jr., meets two instant best friends, and the three set off
Apr 12, 2013 Kkraemer rated it really liked it
I love Gurganus' writing and have missed him these last many years when only the occasional short story appeared. I was delighted to find this book.

He says that the book is fiction. I suspect it is, to some degree, but it is obviously based on a truth that could only be understood by one who has lived it. He writes of young, smart, artistic, amazing people flocking to New York to live in poverty and urbanity for their art. He is a writer. A friend is a painter. Another friend is composing a symp
Summer Munger
Jun 03, 2010 Summer Munger rated it liked it
Recommended to Summer by: Meg Hensley
Shelves: memoir, gay-issues
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2011
If you ever find yourself in the Marriott in Coralville, IA, check out their little library room. Since Iowa City is the home of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, they have a library filled with books from authors who have attended the workshop in years past. I found this book, read a quarter of it on my last night in Coralville, then promptly downloaded it to my Kindle to finish it.

In 1984, I was living in Janesville, WI, and I was in 4th grade. The AIDS epidemic had blown up enough that even folks i
Mar 04, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Recommended to me as a great raconteur, and I'm convinced. Gurganus writes a quasi-autobiographical piece about moving from North Carolina to Manhattan immediately before the AIDS outbreak. The story most closely follows the narrator (a budding writer) and two friends (one a female visual artist, the other a male composer) as they pursue artistic achievement and romantic gratification. It's a comedy about AIDS, but according to an interview with Gurganus I just read, there's a difference between ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it
Is this semi-autobiographical? Seems so. Nevertheless, outstanding book.
I was pulled deep into the story of NYC in the erupting era of AIDS. I also like the slice of life of single adults. Gurganus doesn't pull any punches on either side of gay culture: He points out widespread homophobia in the media as well as describing the sexually loose lifestyle that predominated then.

Anyway, it's really well written. The characters are likable and believable.
I noticed that the object of the story, Robert
Jun 30, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I found this, used, at the Hasting's in Kingman, Arizona. I like to go there because they have an interesting selection of books and music for a redneck, desert town with nothing much to recommend it except the junction of highways including Route 66 - and the interesting fact that the readers there have very eclectic and sophisticated tastes. Anyway. this is a very interesting book which describes the lives and society of the arts and gay communities in NYC just before and during the AIDS plagu ...more
I'm having a hard time figuring out the first sentence in this review. So many different emotions are swirling around in me. I'm in awe; I'm sad; I'm chuckling. This book is powerful, funny, sad, overwhelming and just damned well-written. It feels as real as a book can feel. The Prologue has about the funniest scene I've ever read in a book. I was laughing aloud at the audacity of it. The subject matter may scare you off--it's about a man taking care of his AIDS-stricken friends in New York City ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
I had the weirdest, faintest sense of deja vu while reading this book, though i don't believe I've read it before. (I must have read at least the first few pages on a library trip prior to checking it out, because the first major scene in the book - where a man carries 3 dozen dildoes in 2 shopping bags on the NYC subway - isn't exactly a common trope in the books I usually read, but it was definitely familar.)

Anyway, this is a sad, sad book about the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. T
Apr 07, 2015 Kweigle rated it really liked it
fabulous, fast paced, adorable
Willonda Camille
this may be the most enjoyable book ive ever read to date. has the rare pleasure of being read more than once. the characters are amusing - simple enough to relate to, complex enough to be interesting. story has a level of honesty ive never seen in any other book. highly recommended. everyone should read it in order to humanize the aids crisis & community (which by the time finish the book, you will understand its marginality is a myth). despite the harsh theme, its a very very funny read. i ...more
Jul 09, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Funny and heart-breaking. You know what is going to happen, but the prose is so engaging that you just have to keep reading to see how it unfolds. Hartley and Angie are endearing; they put Robert so high on a pedestal that he is difficult to like. He's the cool kid that everyone worships except for the outsiders who wonder, "what's all the hype about?"

I read it over two years ago and I still giggle about the scene on the subway with the items from Robert's apartment... You know what I'm talking
Hugh Stephens
Feb 07, 2014 Hugh Stephens rated it really liked it
A juicy bit of story telling that's dense with imagery. Not a fast read as there's so much going on.
Dec 27, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: given-away
The language of this book is poetry. The story might wander a little in some places, but this is some of the most poignant writing on loss. I went back and read contemporaneous reviews, and it seems like the book was marketed as an AIDS book, and I think it is much more a book about self and friendship taking place during a specific historical period. I would say this is at least 60% of a really amazing book and worth the read for that.
Jun 27, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
This book finally answers the burning question so many of us have lived with for so long: what was it like to live as a gay man in NYC in the '80s?
I was incredibly invested in the characters in this book. I actually went and researched the artist character because I was convinced it was at least based on a real person. Hours of internet research convinced me it actually wasn't.
Jen Cross
Nov 01, 2014 Jen Cross rated it really liked it
Plays Well With Others is the story of the early years of the plague and its effect on a queer men's community in Manhattan, written in the voice of a survivor, one of those who tended and cared for and lived at St. Vincents and shepherded parents, just in from out of town for the final minutes of their sons' lives. It's the voice of someone left to record all that was lost.
Gerry LaFemina
Jul 12, 2013 Gerry LaFemina rated it really liked it
Gurganus walks a tightrope between the comic and the tragic in this beautiful (if sometimes indulgent) story about a small cadre of artists at the start of the AIDS pandemic. Plays Well with Others is written with such confidence, and such poetic prose, it's hard to deny the level of Gurganus's genius. There's real pathos here and real humor, like so much of life
Jul 18, 2008 Leslie rated it it was amazing
I'm surprised hardly anyone has read this book. It is one of my all-time favorites and it has so much heart with the right amount of grit. It's about a group of friends in NYC in the 80s, when the AIDS crisis hit. It has one of the best opening scenes ever - so hilarious and sad and beautiful at the same time.
Dec 18, 2008 Julene rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
An old favorite. Allan Gurganus has his own language. The scene with the father in the parking lot looking for his car with the TV remote control still keeps me laughing and I read this years ago. It is a funny book with a serious thread, a group of friends, one of them with AIDS and how they interrelate.
Jul 30, 2012 Carole rated it really liked it
This book is the story of a group of friends, mostly gay men, mostly artists, living in NYC in the 1980's, their relationships, their art, and the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The characters are well developed and their lives are interesting, so it's definitely worth reading.
Liz Deren
Jan 31, 2008 Liz Deren rated it it was amazing
Another one for my all time favorite book list. It's been about 10 years since I read this book and I plan to pick it up again soon. It's a story of friendship in NYC during the 1980s, The backdrop to the story is the AIDS crisis but it's beyond that. It's about a triangle of friends...
Jul 08, 2010 Aileen rated it it was amazing
The best first-person novel about the AIDS epidemic and its effects on an entire community in New York City in the 80's. Funny and fast-reading, heartbreaking. I finished this book and put my head down on my knees and bawled my eyes out. I re-read it at least once a year.
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Since 1989, Allan Gurganus’s novels, stories and essays have become a singularly unified and living body of work. Known for dark humor, erotic candor, pictorial clarity and folkloric sweep, his prose is widely translated. Gurganus’s stories, collected as “Piccoli eroi”, were just published to strong Italian reviews. France’s La Monde has called him “a Mark Twain for our age, hilariously clear-eyed ...more
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