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A Fan's Notes (A Fan's Notes #1)

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,924 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
This fictional memoir, the first of an autobiographical trilogy, traces a self professed failure's nightmarish decent into the underside of American life and his resurrection to the wisdom that emerges from despair.
Paperback, 385 pages
Published September 1988 by Vintage Contemporaries (first published 1968)
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A Fan's Notes by Frederick ExleyBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerneyWhere I'm Calling From by Raymond CarverRock Springs by Richard FordCathedral by Raymond Carver
Best of Vintage Contemporaries
1st out of 55 books — 25 voters
Post Office by Charles BukowskiAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea HandlerThe Rum Diary by Hunter S. ThompsonTo Live and Drink in L.A. by Ben PellerI Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
Drunken Masters
34th out of 219 books — 333 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Glenn Russell
Feb 06, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Fredrick Exley (1929-1992) – Photo of the writer as a vulnerable, sensitive young man. In many ways, much too vulnerable and sensitive for mid-20th century American society, a society where a man’s prime virtue is being tough.

“A Fan's Notes” is the odyssey of one man’s unending heartbreak and retreat into an inner world of fantasy and dreams, a retreat, by his own account and language, punctuated by alcoholism and trips to the madhouse; or, put another way, an autobiographical novel
Aug 07, 2014 Steve rated it it was ok
Reasons I should have liked this book:

» It’s meant to be open, soul-searching and literary while at the same time appealing to my gender – the coarse one, that is.

» It’s a somewhat fictionalized memoir by a die-hard NY Giants fan. Though they’re not my team, it was written at the time I was first gaining sports consciousness, learning that a skinny kid could somehow connect to the world of uncles if he knew how many yards Jim Brown gained against the Rams.

» It supposedly set the stage for Ni
Trevor Jones
Jun 09, 2008 Trevor Jones rated it it was amazing
Another reviewer writes, "Exley is basically an east coast Bukowski with the expected enhanced neuroses and over educated self obsession." If that sentence excites you, or if it turns you off, that just about does it in a sense for this one-hit sixties wonder (his other books truly are mediocre). On a personal level however, this book was so much more, as it struck a distinct chord in my brain and sent me spiralling into a season-length depression (aided by Richard Ford's terrible-yet-somehow-si ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Jon rated it liked it
So what’s A Fan’s Notes about? It’s about football, Frank Gifford, and the trials and tribulations of the tortured artist who looks around him and feels contempt and revulsion for the society he’s alienated from. It’s the howl of the misanthropic misfit who doesn’t fit in and rages against the drones who do. Is it any good? Parts of it are. There are plenty of passages that are brilliantly written, with rich language and a spot on critique of modern society. In some ways, this book reminds me a ...more
May 16, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing
This is not a book about sports. If you don't know who Frederick Exley is -- and I didn't till I found it among Thomas' books (or was it a recommendation from him...? - well, either way...) -- then don't not read it because you think it's about sports. It has nothing to do with sports, except that that is one of the author's obsessions -- but he could just as well be obsessed about anything else (and he is)... there is very little discussion about sports in it.

Frederick Exley, as his friend Jon
Jan 17, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u-s-lit, top-10-2010
It is not fear of self-scrutiny which typically causes me to dislike books about a character's dissolution. It's the ennui. So, Hamsun's Hunger and Celine's Journey to the End of the Night wear me down. Don't laugh, but I prefer my nihilism more chipper.

Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes transports the dissolute soul. True, there are moments where the book sags and other times where it seems that Exley is writing what I should have said in some confrontation. But this book is sheer brilliance. Firs
Feb 01, 2013 Nathanimal rated it it was amazing
What's going on with me lately?

Usually I'm all: "Kafka this, kafka that, dalkey book, Stacey Levine, something french, kafka kafka kafka" ad nauseam. But so far this year it's been mostly cultural criticism and history, even a twinkle-dinkle of poetry (and I don't even know how to READ poetry). I could say I'm having a jolly cross-disciplinary time, but let's be honest: I'm having a literary meltdown.

Part of that meltdown is reflected in the only two works of fiction I've been able to finish lat
Mar 27, 2008 Bart rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Serious readers and writers
Recommended to Bart by: Michael FitzGerald
What makes this book so marvelous - and so much better than the others in the genre it launched - is how apparently unconscious it is of itself. It tells a story with self-deprecation, eloquence and wit, without any of the snide and self-consumed irony that clutters most memoirs.

The writing is marvelous. Not till about the 300th page does Frederick Exley reuse any of his other phrases, and only then does he forgivably recycle in all of Christendom. Page after page, a reader approaches the end of
Nov 24, 2008 Sam rated it really liked it
During the course of reading this book, I discovered that my father, one of my best friends, and my mother all thought it was one of the best books of all time. If I hadn't discovered this, I probably would have put it down after a hundred pages. But what a great first hundred pages! As long as Exley talks about being insane/the New York Giants, this book is a piece of demented genius. Exley is really sharp about American culture and how sports culture fits into it, and he puts down the details ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 28, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
Frederick Exley belongs among those champions who after ruining one’s life spends years trying to climb out of shit and for this strenuous endeavour is considered to be a valiant and sagacious hero…
He was an incorrigible dreamer, romantic visionary. He believed the world couldn’t wait to throw its arms around him…
“I was willfully acting in such a way as to alienate myself. But I doubt the validity of this. I had large faith—the faith of youth—in the city’s capacity to absorb me, hair-do and all;
Jan 01, 2008 Kirk rated it liked it
Exley is an interesting cult figure whose debut book, this one, is his real legacy. (The other two, PAGES FROM A COLD ISLAND and LAST NOTES FROM HOME are very flawed). A FAN'S NOTES is a very readable coming-of-age novel about hero worship. The difficulty most contemporary readers have is the object of his hero's worship: Frank Gifford. That's right---THE Frank Gifford, Mrs. Kathy Lee. For those of us too young to remember that FG was a gridiron hero---he retired the year I was born---that's a h ...more
May 27, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
It's tough for me to find a decent place to begin. This book -- and you must know that I'm not usually prone to superlative reviews of anything -- has been hugely important to me over these last two months. And it took two full months to read simply because it is such a painfully beautiful book, passages read over and over again and all that pretentious book-nerd shit.

I re-read both Brothers K and Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge this year -- mostly because they are two beloved and character-f
Joe Cleaver
Aug 07, 2007 Joe Cleaver rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
exley the narrator (though narrated in the first person by a "character" named fred exley, we learn in the foreward that this isn't entirely autobiographical) tells us early on that even in america, failure is a part of life. here, the narrator's life is nothing but a series of failures, but his trenchant accounting of them is nothing but a triumph. though despicable on multiple fronts, exley is redeemed by the extent to which he is despised by the cretinous (a word he loves) people who surround ...more
Hannah  Messler
Oct 28, 2011 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing
Holy moly you guys this is hell of bananas good. I accidentally started being in love with my neighbor and so it took me forever to finish but given more normal circumstances I'd've zipped through it like a regular greased kitten. A real roast beef hoagie of a book, slaaaam bangin.
john brydges
Aug 14, 2008 john brydges rated it it was amazing
This is by far the greatest book ever conceived by a human being. Perhaps a baboon or a hippo has written something better, I have no idea. It would be pretentious, foolish and extremely sentimental of me to try and write a review of this book. I'm pretty sure in Dante's Inferno the deepest depths of hell were reserved for those who've tried such a feat. To avoid any more eternal suffering (if that's even possible) that I'm already due, I will, in a very vague way explain to you why you should ...more
Allison Floyd
I read two chapters and GUPTG, but I don't regret those two chapters. I think I'm at the exact right time of life to fully appreciate and identify with this book, and I think that's the problem. It's a little bit too much like being in my own head, the avoidance thereof being one of my primary motivations to read in the first place. Which isn't to say that it's not wonderful and affirming, etc., to be presented with physical evidence that you're not the only Bad News Bear in the world, or that t ...more
Jun 19, 2011 Lostinanovel rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 12, 2007 Zach rated it really liked it
The first 100 pages = some of the best writing in history. Or at least some of the best writing about Frank Gifford and what it's like to be a teacher in history.

The last 200 pages = what it must have been like to have to sit next to him at a bar. Exhilirating at first, depressing in the end.
I am uber glad to have found these two books pretty close together @ the bookstore, for the name "Exley", a somewhat rare name caught in my eye and I ended up getting both. As I began to read one of them, I felt the need to scan the other and immediately saw how obvious it was that they should be read together. The hunch was one hundred percent accurate. Brock Clarke's "Exley" complimented Fredrick Exley's "Fictional Memoir" by providing a reference for crucial references to specific quotes, con ...more
Alan Chen
Dec 11, 2014 Alan Chen rated it really liked it
This is a difficult read. The protagonist has the same name as the author and the work is more than a little semi autobiographical. Frederick Exley is an alcoholic and his life is and has always been in shambles. He managed to graduate from USC and had a succession of jobs but he's squandered every promising opportunity. This book covers his life up to his 30s and in the course of that time he's managed to have two kids, a failed marriage, lose countless jobs, and 3 trips to the insane asylum fo ...more
TC Jones
Jan 17, 2016 TC Jones rated it it was amazing
"For my heart will always be with the drunk, the poet, the prophet, the criminal, the painter, the lunatic, with all whose aims are insulated from the humdrum business of life."
Feb 08, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sergei Grinkov
Shelves: own, fiction

Jonathan Yardley's introduction explains that Frederick Exley had intended to publish A Fan's Notes as a memoir, but was asked to novelize it by Harper & Row, who feared libel actions. We have this amazing book, Yardley writes, a caustic masterpiece by a man who was essentially an alcoholic bum - he never held one job for more than a few months, he spent months or years crashing on other people's "davenports," including his parents' and various alumni of the mental hospital he had received t
Mar 15, 2012 Greg rated it it was ok
Could’ve been sub-titled, “Scattered stories about every person I’ve ever found to be even slightly interesting or totally repulsive. Most especially, Me. By Frederick Exley.”

I wanted to like this book. One of my favorite authors wrote a book based off it – “Exley” by Brock Clarke – and in order to get the full experience of that book I figured I needed to read this one first. And I kind of sort of regret it.

First and foremost, the protagonist is pretty vile and pathetic. He’s a textbook narciss
Nov 20, 2009 matt rated it really liked it

Re-reading it now after thinking about it unbiddenly recently and seeing a funky, weird old 60's mass-marketpaperback in a used bookstore in Amherst this weekend. I love those old covers, they're so gauche and semi-psychedelic. I saw one for a 60's edition of "The Critique Of Pure Reason" with hallucinogenic spirals all over the place, with the implicit allure to get in on a really heavy, groovy time, maaan.....

But I'm rereading it not for camp but for penance. I read this during a markedly fall
Mar 25, 2012 Matt rated it it was ok
Recommended to Matt by: Osvaldo
The scenes early in the book where "Exley" is watching the Giants games, are pitch perfect and hysterical. I've never read a more realistic and relatable account of all-consuming fandom.

Unfortunately, the rest of the novel failed to hold my interest. Whether our protagonist was in a mental institution, or cadging alcohol money from long-lost friends, or describing his oh-so-wacky brother-in-law or best friend's friend or favorite bartender, none of it seemed funny or original or interesting to m
Jul 19, 2008 H L rated it it was amazing
Maybe the best precursor to the revolution of the 60s - Exley's semi-autobiographical descriptions of his struggles to maintain his sanity in the late 50s/early 60s parallel and presage similar upheavals in society as a whole; his consciousness of his own failings and culpability for those failings serve as an accurately untidy metaphor for a society becoming more self-aware and questioning of its actions. It's beautiful, painful, poetic at times, really fucking funny, and rewarding in its chall ...more
Nov 10, 2009 Charlaralotte rated it really liked it
This book was wonderful, from what I remember. Brutally honest and hilarious description of wrestling with alcoholism and mental illness.

And I didn't know the bit about baseball games not being played on the radio within a certain radius. That was fascinating: Exley driving far enough out to a bar that would have the game on.

Wish I could remember what the blackout radius was. Then I could impress people with details instead of vaguely peculiar-sounding notions.
Bro_Pair أعرف
Feb 25, 2012 Bro_Pair أعرف rated it it was amazing
God damn! This is the best fucking American novel I've read in years. CON: the third quarter of the novel is weak, drags. Cartoonish Mr. Blue episode mars the awful plausibility of just about everything else in the book. PRO: everything else. Ex is a loser's loser and a beautiful bastard. Just read this fucking book, it took words out of my mouth I never knew I wanted to say
May 03, 2016 Kevin marked it as abandoned
I really wanted to do it. I had strange personal reasons for wanting to read this, and some people said it was worth reading, and so I picked it up. Bought a copy, even, because the library didn't have it.

and then had to give up halfway through. I wanted to find the humor in Exley-of-the-book, probably situated somewhere between Ignatius J. Reilly and Ray Midge (from Charles Portis' The Dog of the South) but it never connected. Well-written, verbose, wonderful use of wordplay ... and so unrelent
Exceptionally lucky find in a kind of English book Pluto. It already has some staggering insights, but I'm going to take a wild guess what Exley revealed to his psychiatrist, based on the scenes he watches in the latrine.

This book was turning into a truly impressive high-wire act of style over substance. Long, comforting, apparently erudite considerations build into high expectation, then whatever he considered revealing turns out to be absolutely mundane or he chooses not to reveal any details
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EXLEY (A Poem Inspired by the life of Fred Exley) 1 19 Jul 14, 2012 10:32PM  
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Frederick "Fred" Exley was a critically lauded, if not bestselling, author. He was nominated for a National Book Award for A Fan's Notes, and received the William Faulkner Award for best first novel, as well as the Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters

He was a guest lecturer at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1972 and won a Playboy Silver medal award in 1974 for best non-fi
More about Frederick Exley...

Other Books in the Series

A Fan's Notes (3 books)
  • Pages from a Cold Island
  • Last Notes from Home

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“I certainly didn't want to fight with him. I did, however, want to shout, "Listen, you son of a bitch, life isn't all a goddam football game! You won't always get the girl! Life is rejection and pain and loss" -- all those things I so cherishly cuddled in my slef-pitying bosom. I didn't, of course, say any such thing” 19 likes
“Unlike some men, I had never drunk for boldness or charm or wit; I had used alcohol for precisely what it was, a depressant to check the mental exhilaration produced by extended sobriety.” 18 likes
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