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A Fan's Notes

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  2,453 ratings  ·  306 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 McInerneyCathedral by Raymond CarverSelected Stories by Andre DubusRock Springs by Richard Ford
Best of Vintage Contemporaries
1st out of 53 books — 21 voters
Post Office by Charles BukowskiAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea HandlerThe Rum Diary by Hunter S. ThompsonI Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker MaxTo Live and Drink in L.A. by Ben Peller
Drunken Masters
30th out of 184 books — 308 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve
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
...more
Nathanimal
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
...more
Trevor Jones
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
Tony
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
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Bart
Mar 27, 2008 Bart rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
...more
AC
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
...more
Sam
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
Kirk
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
David
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
...more
Allison
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
Lostinanovel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Cleaver
Aug 07, 2007 Joe Cleaver rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Alan Chen
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
Lobstergirl
Feb 08, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
matt

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
...more
H L
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
Charlaralotte
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
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
Zach
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.
Hannah  Messler
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
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
Greg
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
...more
Rifftrafft
after like three or so days of complaining how nobody writes reviews on goodreads--which is to say how nobody uses goodreads for maybe the one thing i was admittedly somewhat excited for, and the only reason i broke my no-more-facebook oath to self--here i am! here i fucking am, with very little to say about _a fan's notes_ that you couldn't find on wikipedia or the positive but patronizing review this book got in the times upon 60s something publication. you win, goodreads! i will never complai ...more
Mary
I read this because one of my old teachers from UC, Brock Clarke, wrote a novel called Exley, which made frequent reference to this book. This book was like a character in Brock’s book. So I wanted to check it out. I was really disappointed in it, though. I really had a hard time getting past the misogyny and the way the protagonist, an author stand-in, treated women and talked about women. That was by far my biggest issue with it. It was so blatant and shocking that I really wish I had a copy w ...more
Ben
Apr 08, 2008 Ben rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ben by: James Dickey, Kurt Vonnegut
This book was written thirty years before 'Running With Scissors' and 'A Million Little Pieces' and all the ill-begotten knock-offs that followed them, and it is a thousand times better.

Namely because Fred Exley makes it abundantly clear that he is at terms with his loathsomeness and at the inherent selfishness of writing about it for everyone to see.

And even more namely because his talent as a writer dwarfs theirs.

Today's memoirs go for shock value. There is shock value in Exley's fictional mem
...more
Matt
Mar 25, 2012 Matt rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
...more
Simon
I had never heard of this book, and didn't know what to expect when I started reading it. A friend bought it for me, and I have to admit, I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea. A book about an obsessive fan of American football just doesn't seem like my kind of thing. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This is an absolutely brilliant book. A more honest, scathing, clear-eyed and ruthless book about America and being an American I have never read. It's like the best parts of Kerouac (ie, wi ...more
Ipsith
A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley is perhaps the first novelistic addiction memoir and is a masterpiece of the genre. Exley’s book is a gorgeously written drunken quagmire; booze—and the New York Giants—are his only allegiances; his sense of entitlement, grandiosity and chronic lying are breathtaking. Incapable of keeping a job, he mooches off family and friends, abandons a wife, lives on his mother’s sofa, and rotates in and out of mental institutions. His courses of electric shock and insulin t ...more
Christopher
Edmund Wilson once wrote of This Side of Paradise that it "commits every sin except the unpardonable sin; it does not fail to live." That's about how I felt after finishing Frederick Exley's "fictionalised memoir," A Fan's Notes. The writing is often slack, occasionally maudlin; nearly every scene goes on just a bit too long; in his rush to invest each moment with significance, Exley often barrels towards interpretation of the thing while only giving us the vaguest hints of the thing itself. But ...more
Quinn
A self-loathing pity party, this book invokes failure, frustration and virtually destroys the notion that anything is possible even in America. Despite all that I loved this book. I felt that it was an honest portrayal of the many demons we all face in this mysterious thing we call life and the pursuit of happiness.

Exley leads us down a dark despairing path of depression, alcoholism and continual disappointments. The narrative character has an acute fear of dying, but is afraid to live because
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EXLEY (A Poem Inspired by the life of Fred Exley) 1 17 Jul 15, 2012 06:32AM  
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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
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More about Frederick Exley...
Pages from a Cold Island Last Notes from Home Modern Library Consumer Brochure

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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” 17 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.” 14 likes
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