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Magnetic Field(s)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  125 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Organized around the idea that "you can't know what a magnetic field is like unless you're inside of it, " Ron Loewinsohn's first novel opens from the disturbing perspective of a burglar in the midst of a robbery and travels through the thoughts and experiences (both real and imaginary) of a group of characters whose lives are connected both coincidentally and intimately. ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1983)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 06, 2009 karen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to karen by: greg stahl
Shelves: table, favorites
there is something both elegant and disturbing about this short novel. it gave me a really nice chill as it started unfolding; what starts off as a well-written but not awe-inspiring first part builds into this twisting echoing tantalizing web of a novel that reads much much bigger than it is. like house of leaves, except, you know, good.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
“Killing the animals was the hard part.”

For a meta-fictionist reader such as myself, every book finds itself taken as a book about our books, the reading of them and the writing of them. Sometimes it may be the simple matter of Twain tipping his hat to Don Quixote in his Huck Finn story; other times, as is the case with Loewinsohn’s Magnetic Field(s), that habit of reading aboutness as a self-reflexive aboutness feels like the literary version of an earworm. The book is no longer just the story
So I guess it's been a month, but I'm going to take a stab at a (short) review anyway, despite not being able to remember all the things about this book that I thought would stick with me.

This is supposed to be one of the overlooked classics of the 1980's, which, given my fairly low opinion of the 80's in general, I can believe. What's fascinating to me about it is how accurately it portrayed the American privacy/property impulse. According to Erickson in the preface, this impulse hasn't always
Reading Magnetic Field(s) was a unique experience, though it's really hard to put into words exactly what makes it so unique. Essentially, it is a short novel broken into three sections that are interconnected and told from different perspectives, kind of like Rashomon or the telephone game (but not really). The book is sort of like an echo chamber, with images and themes repeating throughout, but in slightly different forms and from different perspectives, making one question what is coincidenc ...more
This book is so good it hurts. I can't say much else about it except it's fucking awesome--anything else I might say could ruin the book for someone reading it.
The Crimson Fucker

Takonator: “fuck I need to go home I need to take a shit”

Magnetic Field: “Just 10 more pages”

10 pages later....

Takonator: “ok”

Takonator: “fuck man I need to take a shit”

Magnetic Field: “READ ME!!!”

Takonator: “look man I really need to go home, I’ve been here since 3:30 and is almost 9 and I need to take a shit”

Magnetic Field: “I COMMAND YOU TO READ ME!!!”

Takonator: “OMG please let me go there is no way I’m using a public bath room just to keep reading you!! Culo save me!!”

MJ Nicholls
I was attracted, magnetically, to this novel after a glowing analysis of Loewinsohnian poetics in Sorrentino's essay collection Something Said. I also can't deny the attraction to a novel that shares the namesake of Stephin Merritt's chamber-pop legends (same name, more committed plural).

Well. Letdowns all round. The novel comprises three sections, two 45 pages in length, buttressing the centrepiece, which is a prim 90 pages. This is symmetrical structurally: 45 pages per hour, four hours readin
Marc Kozak
I'm sure many of us have had that quasi-stoner moment where we see a large group of people and suddenly think, "oh my God, each one of those people has their own life! And their own friends! And their own jobs and their own relationships and their own set of problems! Every person in the world has their own little universe, consisting of all the complex facets and details that make up a life like my own! And just like my universe is totally unknown to all of them, their universes are totally unk ...more
in an interview, loewinsohn explains that he wrote the novel in basically six weeks(!), but when i think about how i read this enthralling, mysterious novel in practically one fevered gulp, i'm not surprised. can't wait to read it again. divided into three sections, MF begins with a burglar's experiences of being in the homes (spaces) of complete strangers and what he imagines their lives are like. the second section is from the perspective of the owner of the last house the burglar is breaking ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Ademption rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ademption by: Greg
Shelves: novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book starts off like a crime novel with a couple of brutal scenes and some really screwed up characters. Then it's not.

Being violated... being the violator...

If this book is like a house and you just walked through the front door you would expect to be in the foyer or living room. You know that the door to the right will be a kitchen but when you look inside it's a porch. What you thought would be the bathroom turns out to be the garage... this book kind of does that to you. Nothing is quit
aidan w-m
quite a novel. fitting that steve erickson wrote the preface, as it's about as good as an erickson book--about as clever, just as affecting, slightly less ambitious, but more precise too. (though stylistically it felt reminiscent of delillo at times, a comparison erickson makes in the preface.) at times so successful with its own conceits it felt like cheating. too bad he only wrote two novels his entire career--he's got a great voice.
Apr 04, 2008 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cat burglars, child prodigies
Recommended to David by: David Rim
Only 16 people on goodreads have read this book?

Think about it: you could be #17.
Ben Loory
wow, fascinating, mesmerizing book. postmodern in conception, but laserbeam storytelling in action. absolute crystal prose, fun and funny and sad and scary and philosophical and full of great characters. has the kind of world-as-a-haunted-house feel that i love so much in W.G. Sebald, but isn't as weighty or academic or obsessed with decay and evil (in fact, world as a funhouse or house of mirrors might be more like it). can't imagine why i've never read (or even heard of) this book before. than ...more
Taught and intricately structured, pitch-perfect prose and some lovely meditation on Being. Just what I needed.
Jan 30, 2013 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: karen
Shelves: novels, read-in-2012
This novel is all about rooms. In the first section a burglar describes how it feels to be inside other peoples' spaces, their books and plants, their secrets ubcovered - pornography (this is the 70/80s so stashed magazines), drugs, fetish items - and how it makes him feel isolated, sick. He wants to make a mark, and empties an ashtray on a sofa, smashes a large fishtank. It ends with him robbing and having an encounter with the main protagonist of the second part. This latter is about secret ro ...more
Marc Nash
A novel about pursuing identity through the spaces we live in, other people's usually. So part 1 is through the eyes of a burglar who increasingly becomes obsessed with the lives of the people he's robbing as imagined from their geegaws and knickknacks. Part 2 sees a family in a holiday home discovering the secrets of the owner whose son was killed in a hit and run. That son being a potential progeny who inhabited the basement (where he had a recording studio) and the attic where he had a train ...more
Good call, Greg. Another amazing book that I'd never heard of. "Magnetic Field(s)" features a lot of great writing and one really cool narrative trick, which I guess I shouldn't spoil. I'm most compelled to tell you not to be put off by the title and publication date-- this is not some self-consciously hard-to-read early 80's pomo tripe. There are characters, there are stories, and there are a lot of things to keep you reading besides that. I guess the overall aim is to convey the fragility of t ...more
Eric Lundgren
This is a gorgeous, weirdly tuned book -- a "poet's novel" only in the limpid exactitude of its prose. The narratives of a house thief, housesitting composer, and middle-aged adulterer intertwine and resonate in a novelistic echo chamber, in which personal and narrative boundaries are constantly violated. And somehow, through his use of repeated, slightly altered motifs, Loewinsohn manages to the capture the difficulty and necessity of imagining other lives. Stuff like this reminds me why I read ...more
Dear FRiend,

At times this book made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Have you ever house sat for someone and felt like you were trespassing on their secrets--as if you'd just walked in on them in the shower? There's an intimate, breathable life-connection that a place can have with it's dwellers that this book makes palpable.

The wonderful, weird, maddening thing about the book is it's repetition of themes, situations, rooms, items, and dialogue. Each story connects and echos the other
I ... I'm not really sure what I think. This was a tight circular swirling focus on people's thoughts and emotions, but apparently was about nothing but that focus. I started to lose track in places out of apathy. Maybe I was distracted. Regardless, I thought it well-written and parts were fascinating, but other parts just left me cold. Not sad I read it, but won't be picking it up again.
a book about the experience of otherness, or how one feels in spaces that are adapted to be filled by others. a housebreaker thrilling and raging at the presence of other people in their own homes; a composer growing to understand a borrowed home, a writer becoming a stranger in his own life while carrying on an affair. and, as something of a misstep to my mind, a precocious child born to an intellectual otherness and his father's struggles to understand him.

the narrative glides between characte
I was lucky enough to have Loewinsohn as a professor at Berkeley, and so tracked down this book, which really deserves to get more attention. It's a twisty combination of narratives whose atmosphere reminds me a bit of the best parts of House of Leaves. Unsettling and fascinating.
Unlike the sharp staccato repetition of a writer like Peter Markus, Loewinsohn uses long-form repetition, the whole of the novel an insistent loop that only really appears when you've forgotten about it. Super interesting read and definitely a book worth narrative study.
Mirrors on all sides of reality and there are images of images and the one most real is anyone's guess.
Stephen Sajdak
This book is split into three parts, so it's only fair to review it a la carte.

1st Section: A- This section deals with the existential in's and out's of burglary and specifically, what it really means to "break and enter"

2nd Section: C+ Less than stellar depiction of a composer pouring over the diaries of a dead prodigy. We're in very familiar territory here.

3rd Section: F Wowza, I've never seen a promising novel devolve into masturbatory fantasy before. Lots of "sexy?" depictions of a professor
Joachim Stoop
The fact that it's weird, different or 'meta', doesn't mean it's good. Not my cup of tea...
I think Magnetic Fields is a really good example of the sum being greater than the parts. I only really started to get into it in the second part- the moments where the narratives overlap work really well. The ending too, I think was quite effective.

Sometimes the actual plotlines become uninteresting, but eventually that stops really mattering. I liked the way it was constructued.
grab bag gift Xmas 2009 from Emily. Three-part tale; David's story--David's robber's (Albert's) story, David's life as musician (his house, rooms in it, the woods nearby, the room in it), his friend Daniel who got divorced at 45 from Annie, a close friend of David's and Jane's, to marry the luscious, young (23) Connie. Tied together somehow beyond my ken on initial reading; am unlikely to reread. Interesting account of houseburglar, David's prodigy son, and Daniel's affair. Ended very abruptly w ...more
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Loewinsohn earned his BA from Berkeley in 1967 and his PhD from Harvard in 1971 with a dissertation on the early poetic development of William Carlos Williams.

Loewinsohn Joined the English Department faculty at UC Berkeley in 1970, where he spent the remainder of his career. His first novel, "Magnetic Field(s)," was one of five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 19
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“The elaborateness of the cover story made him feel like a criminal. This is what criminals must feel like as they prepare to do a job, he thought, constructing a world based on the fullness (and falseness) of the cover story. And yet he was not going to commit a murder or rob a bank or burglarize a house. He was only going to do something so normal the wonder was that it did require such an elaborate preparation. But it was the combination of secretness and commonness that made it so sweet. It was what everyone wanted and almost nobody did, to slip out of or through the structure that gave your life a shape into a room where your life took the shape you wanted it to have, to love and be loved by someone perfectly beautiful.” 0 likes
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