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Exley

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  468 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
For young Miller Le Ray, life has become a search. A search for his dad, who may or may not have joined the army and gone to Iraq. A search for a notorious (and, unfortunately, deceased) writer, Frederick Exley, author of the “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes, who may hold the key to bringing Miller’s father back. But most of all, his is a search for truth. As Miller says, ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Algonquin Books (first published September 21st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Glenn Russell
Dec 28, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Contemporary American author Brock Clarke’s moving novel of a son’s love for his missing dad. And regarding the book’s title, that’s “Exley,” as in the writer Frederick Exley (1929-1992), author of 1968 autobiographical “A Fan’s Notes.” Clarke’s novel takes place during the war in Iraq, in Watertown, New York, also a prime location in Exley’s book. The novel features two alternating first-person narrators: number one: the son, a boy by the name of Miller, and number two: Miller’s therapist, a do
...more
Snotchocheez
Nov 05, 2012 Snotchocheez rated it it was amazing

Hmm...let's see...how do I convince my fellow Goodreads users that Exley, a book criminally under-read, meh-reviewed, and the (as 2012 draws to a close) best novel I've read this year so far, is a book worth reading??? Maybe compare it to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time??? (Well no, despite it having a precocious young narrator like Curious Incident it's nothing at all like it [Not to mention, my very last review {Pigeon English} made that very-same comparison...m
...more
Vonia
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
John Luiz
Jan 09, 2012 John Luiz rated it it was amazing
I understand why this book garnered some negative reviews. If you're looking for a straightforward tale, told by a reliable narrator, you won't find it here. But if you want a departure from conventional storytelling (without any of the quirks of overly "post-modern" techniques), then you might find this book worth the ride. The novel is about a boy who can't accept his reality -- that his parents have separated and he's lost touch with his father. He is now convinced that his father went off to ...more
Georgette
Sep 11, 2011 Georgette rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this book as much as i enjoyed Brock Clarke's first book. That was downright uproarious. Exley, I can't say the same about it.
What I can say is- it is splendidly written. Clarke has a marvelous relationship with language, and more so, with the main characters in this novel.
Miller is a young kid whose father is in the VA hospital, gravely injured. His mother refuses to go see his father. Miller goes through two therapists before settling in with one, who happens to be fixated with
...more
MK Brunskill-Cowen
Aug 11, 2010 MK Brunskill-Cowen rated it really liked it
This quirky, imaginative book kept me going until the end! Miller is an extremely bright child who makes up his own world to deal with his beloved father's disappearance. Much of his world is based on the writings and life of Frederick Exley, his father's favorite author. Clarke tells the story from both Miller's perspective as he tries to find Exley to save his father, and from the "mental health professional" working with Miller. I loved the writing - and loved the fact that I never knew what ...more
Jenny Roth
Jan 22, 2011 Jenny Roth rated it it was amazing
The hallmark of a good literary novel is that you don't ever want it to end. I raced through the first half of this book, and then started to slow down--not because it became less interesting, but because I wanted to savor it. I knew that once I said goodbye to M. at the end of the book, I would miss him. And I already do.

Exley has two narrators, a mental health professional and his patient, both deliciously unreliable. Unlike some books, where multiple narrators seem like a gimmick or a cop-out
...more
Josh
Mar 25, 2014 Josh rated it really liked it
I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. At times, I was pretty sure it was brilliant. At others, it was only ok. At still others, I had no fucking idea what the point was.

When your two narrators are a nine-year-old with an overactive imagination (and a tenuous grasp on a reality) and a mental health professional who could probably use a mental health professional of his own... Well, shit's gonna get weird.

It was like a solid Anne Tyler novel wrapped in an episode of Seinfeld ab
...more
David
Jan 10, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Unnerving, funny, and deeply human. The story is told in first person narration, alternately by 10 year old Miller, and by his psychiatrist, hired by Miller's mother, with whom the doctor becomes instantly infatuated. None of the three of them are quite telling the truth, or are quite sympathetic, but I really liked how I had to parse what each one was saying, and construct my own version of what was really happening by which elements of the various narratives coincide. It's like a Wes Anderson ...more
Lori
Oct 08, 2011 Lori rated it it was amazing
Exist kind of reminds of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I loved. There is a young boy who suffers the loss of his father when he leaves for Iraq. His mother sends him to a psychiatrist because she believes he is a liar. (She doesn't believe her husband is in Iraq.). As a reader you never know what is the truth and what is a lie and that is what makes the story so compelling. After all truth is often in the eye of the beholder.
Patty
May 22, 2010 Patty rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. After finding out last year that Brock Clarke was writing this, I read "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley in preparation. Worth it, because it's pretty fantastic, but it's certainly not necessary in order to enjoy Clarke's book. "Exley" has well-developed characters and a fascinating story--funny and sad and maddening and odd. Yay for Brock Clarke!
H R Koelling
Apr 02, 2011 H R Koelling rated it really liked it
This is probably the weirdest book I've ever read. I both loved it and loathed it. I've read a lot of weird books, too. I prefer to read strange fiction, but this book was particularly strange. It wasn't weird because it has an unusual style, or an unusual plot, it's just plain odd! But it's also written in an accessible style, which means anyone can read it, unlike most books that strive to be different. I'm half tempted to call this book a masterpiece. It is certainly one of the best novels I' ...more
Chrystal
Jan 17, 2014 Chrystal rated it it was ok
1.5 stars. If I had read this novel before I read "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England," I would have never picked up another book by Brock Clarke, sad to say. And I would have missed out on a superbly-written novel which made me laugh for days (An Arsonist's Guide, I mean). Unfortunately there is not much to be said for Clarke's strange, confusing novel "Exley" other than I wish I had not wasted my time reading it. I think I understand why he wrote it, and there is a point some ...more
Joe
Oct 12, 2010 Joe rated it liked it
While I found the premise interesting, I found most of the characters inauthentic. There was a lot of unrealized potential in this book. Miller's voice felt particularly unreal. No 10 year old, no matter how precocious, talks like Miller does. I enjoyed the novel, but wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Brian McLaughlin
Jan 13, 2016 Brian McLaughlin rated it it was amazing
Very very impressive. I cannot believe how much happened in this novel and how much I'm questioning what I believe to be true and what I believe to be untrue. Creating my own fictions everyday...? Not sure what more to say. I really want to read Frederick Exley's book now, so that's something. Extremely creative and well-written but somehow also something like a thriller/mystery of sorts. I definitely feel thrilled, or something. LOVED IT, though. Supreme classic. I like my bright yellow copy be ...more
James
Feb 25, 2016 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were points when I was reading this book when I really, really liked it and felt like I should recommend it to people I know who like good books. There were points when I was reading this book when I really, really didn't understand what the hell was going on. If you drew a Venn diagram, many of those points would fall in the middle, overlapping circle.

This book was inventive and creative and at times quite funny. I thought it was much, much better than An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Home
...more
Mark Goldstein
Nov 10, 2011 Mark Goldstein rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps moreso because I had recently finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", which was much heavier than this and a more challenging read. I was ready to escape into a book that captured another, much more familiar and amusing, set of circumstances, which is what this book delivered, though not without some drama and melancholy.

Right off, you can see that at least one of the two narrators is meant to be unreliable. Unlike some of the reviewers of t
...more
Scott
Sep 13, 2010 Scott rated it liked it
Brock Clarke almost pulls off a neat trick in this novel, about a precocious ten-year-old boy (our highly unreliable narrator) who is convinced that his estranged father has joined the army, been shipped to Iraq, and is now down the street dying in the VA hospital. The only way he can saved his dad? Find Frederick Exley, real-life author of A Fan's Notes, the book by which his father lived his life, down to only speaking sentences that appeared in the classic memoir/novel hybrid. Which I have ne ...more
Evan Brown
Apr 19, 2012 Evan Brown rated it really liked it
“Sometimes you have to tell the truth about some of the stuff that you’ve done so that people will believe you when you tell them the truth about other stuff you haven’t done.”

I read Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes my freshman semester of college at the recommendation of a friendly book dealer. I loved it. After reading Clarke’s “Note From the Author” at the end of Exley, there’s really no wonder. Similar to Clarke (to a lesser, younger extent) who was similar to Exley (to a lesser, younger exte
...more
Traci
May 22, 2011 Traci rated it it was amazing
I have recently watched Rashomon so I was excited to delve further into the "unreliable narrator" idea that "Exley" is about. "Exley" has two narrators, neither of which are completely reliable, nor can you accurately judge what is truly happening by the other people in the book. It's fantastic.

Equally as fantastic is the main narrator, a nine year old boy named Miller, and how he speaks like a book. He calls people by their first initial: "K.", "H.", etc. And even more "holy recursive meta-ne
...more
Laura Lemay
Dec 14, 2011 Laura Lemay rated it it was ok
Socially awkward nine-year-old Miller's parents have split up. It the man dying in the VA hospital down the street actually his father, come back from the war in Iraq? Miller's obsession with his father sends his on a quest for Frederick Exley, who wrote his father's favourite book ("A Fan's Notes," which is a real book). Miller has a fantasy that if he can find Exley, he can cure his father and bring his family back together again. Interspersed with Miller's story is that of his psychiatrist, D ...more
Laura
Dec 06, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
It took me a while to complete this one because I started it right before the storm of mid semester, so I confess, it took me a while to get into the rhythm of it. But by the time I got to the end I was totally hooked on these characters: the little boy who needs to make up stories for himself in order to manage the most dysfunctional and tragic family situation imaginable; the affable but inept psychiatrist who tries to help the little boy; the attractive single mother who firmly believes that ...more
Amy
Oct 09, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
After you finish reading Exley, by Brock Clarke, you may need to take a few moments to catch your breath. You may not sleep well, and that’s certainly not because of anything horrific or scary in the book. This book, quite simply, messes with your mind.



First, the characters are wildly created and completely unpredictable. It starts with Miller, or M-, who is a child prodigy on a quest to find his father who left the family suddenly and without explanation. He’s a weird little kid, but likable, a
...more
Laura
Aug 22, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Mar 23, 2011 Aaron (Typographical Era) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, nook, favorites
“Sometimes you have to tell the truth about some of the stuff you’ve done so that people will believe you when you tell them the truth about other stuff you haven’t done.”

I can pinpoint with blinding accuracy the very day in which I first became aware of “Exley” author Brock Clarke’s existence: September 16, 2009. I know this because that was the day I started to read the Matthew Dicks novel “Something Missing” (what’s missing is any semblance of a good story; don’t bother with it) and I had fl
...more
Tom
Jul 05, 2011 Tom rated it did not like it
I'm trying to give this book a chance, but I can't get over the fact that I fundamentally disagree with the two biggest narrative choices the author made:

1) the precocious kid author voice is a little annoying and, more importantly, wildly inconsistent. Sometimes he writes like a slightly below average 10 year old and sometimes like a PHD student, and neither extreme is all that interesting.

2) the alternating chapters, purportedly the doctor's professional notes, but written in such a style and
...more
Laura
Dec 27, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: White Box
Shelves: favorites
Just received the advance reader copy in the mail. I am so excited to give this one a try as I am huge Fed exley Fan. A dear dear friend loaned me A Fan's Notes about 20 years ago and I ended up reading the whole sad, hysterical, surreal trilogy.

I read this book at the start as a tribute to my dear friend Max (Bramble Books, Viroqua Wisc and late of Tennessee) and because I loved the twisted brilliance of "A Fan's Notes", but in the end I read it to find out how any truth could come out of the
...more
Thomas
Jun 06, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it
An odd but likeable story about an odd but likeable boy. The narrative switches back and forth between Miller, a 9 year old boy dealing with the loss of his father, and his "mental health professional" who is mostly an invention of Miller. (view spoiler) Exley is Frederick Exley, with whom Miller's fath ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Exley was a title often recommended to me by Aaron @Typographical Era. It ended up being the book club's choice to read, so I was glad I was finally going to be getting around to reading it. It wasn't exactly what I anticipated or hoped it would be- the premise was fabulous - a young boy is desperate to find and help his father and believes the only person that can help him is Exley, author of his father's favourite book - but for me the execution of the story fell flat. The good doctor that was ...more
Barbra
Feb 16, 2014 Barbra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-reads
I couldn't put this book down. From almost the first page, my mind was spinning trying to sort out what was fact and what was fiction. Mid-way through the novel, my heart started to break for the Miller (the main character), a nine year old boy faced with sorting out the complexities of love and relationships that are far beyond the cognitive capacity of a such a young mind. He copes with loss by creating fictional people and situations that become more real to him that reality itself. I am now ...more
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Brock Clarke is the author of three previous books: The Ordinary White Boy and two story collections. His stories and essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, OneStory, the Believer, the Georgia Review, and the Southern Review and have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies and on NPR's Selected Shorts. He lives in Portland, Maine, and teache ...more
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“Some people, when desperate, retreat to pills or hard liquor. I nap.” 6 likes
“Because this is one of the things I learned on my own: you need to say things simply, especially when they're complicated.” 5 likes
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