Starting Out in the Evening
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Starting Out in the Evening

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  687 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Leonard Schiller is a writer in his seventies. All of his books are out of print; he's left no mark in literary history; a lifetime of dedicated labor has brought him few rewards. Heather Wolfe is a graduate student in her twenties. She read Schiller's novels when she was growing up, and they changed her life. She decides to write her master's thesis about Schiller's work,...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published December 29th 1997 by Crown (first published 1997)
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Mar 28, 2011 Yulia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Yulia by: Sherry Keller
This thoughtful and intelligent novel presents us with three individuals at different points in their lives: the first, Leonard Schiller, a 71-year-old author who, after two heart operations, knows he is close to death but is still determined to finish his last novel, even as his four previous works have gone out of print; the second, his 39-year-old daughter, Ariel, a dancer who has become an exercise instructor and is hoping to find fulfillment in becoming a parent finally; the third, Heather...more
Pamela Pickering
3 Stars, but just barely
This is a hard book to rate. There were several times when I just wanted to abandon it but then it just didn't quite put me off too much. But at other times I just felt very turned off as with one statement, "When he stood, he looked at his gray, fat penis, a smoked out stub of an antique cigar." Now why do I need to know that? I suppose if I were a man I would understand a little bit more of this fascination with a certain anatomical part but I'm not a man, I'm a woman....more
Brian Morton's book is a gem. The characters, though flawed, are well drawn. (Ariel was the exception. She seemed a bit of a loopy stereotype.) Most of the action of this book takes place on the human interior, a place Morton has clearly explored, since the reflections are dead-on. He raises questions about art and life and what gives meaning to both. And he offers an array of answers, always with compassion. Morton's writing never gets in the way of his ideas, but it can be memorable, too. Ther...more
Almost pitch perfect. A fine, well-balanced portrait of an aging writer, his daughter, friends, and a young brash woman who has been influenced by his work and wants to write her thesis on him. I read it for pacing, and for character development.

The male characters, especially the writer, Leonard, are fully developed. I felt that the two main women, the daughter Ariel and the student Heather, were not as clear, perhaps because as a reader I never inhabited their physical bodies the way I did wi...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna Rohleder
Jan 14, 2008 Anna Rohleder rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
As a writer, Morton has a lot of good and useful things to say about the "craft" of writing, so called, particularly where he characterizes it less as the glamorous or noble calling that it is made out to be and more as the bizarre compulsion it actually is.

As a writer, he has a certain amount in common with the protaganist of this book, Leonard Schiller. Where Schiller is tiring and pedantic, so is Morton. Often the narrative seems to lurch forward rather than flow, braked repeatedly by sentenc...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joy H.
Added 4/13/2009
_Starting Out In the Evening_ by Brian Morton (first published 1997)

NOTE (9/2/11): The GR Constant Reader Group has invited the author of this book, Brian Morton, to have dinner with the CR group at their October-2011 Convention in NYC. See the following thread:
According to a post at the group, the date and place are:
Sunday, 10/16/11, dinner with Brian Morton: Rosa Mexicano at Lincoln Center (6:30-9 PM)
For confirmation, see the following th...more
A touching story of an aging author (Leonard Schiller) and the young graduate student, Heather Wolfe, who chooses to write her thesis about Schiller's works. Heather is drawn to Schiller based on her association with the characters and themes of his first two books; however, as their relationship develops, Heather is perplexed by how seeminlgy different Leonard's ordinary life is from his characters. As the story develops, Leonard is faced with feelings of infatuation with a much younger woman w...more
The nutshell: An enthusiastic grad student (Heather) chooses to write her thesis on an aging author (Schiller) whose books have gone largely unrecognized. They strike up a tenuous and tender sort of friendship, at times almost romantic and at others far from it. Schiller's daughter, Ariel, is a focal point as well, with her childlike relationship with her father and her efforts to balance finding a partner she can potentially tolerate long-term with her desperate desire to have a child before sh...more
Alex Templeton
Read the book! See the movie!

Brian was my don at Sarah Lawrence, and this is quite possibly his best book. (It's between this and "Breakable You", his latest, IMHO.) I would think this novel was amazing even if I didn't know him. This is my third time reading it. At 16 (when it was first published and I first read it), I didn't like it. I thought the characters were weird and crazy. At 19, when I reread it, I was floored, much better understanding the central relationship of admiring young write...more
Not sure why this book spoke to me so much. Maybe because the main character is 71-years old, and I'm about to turn 70. At any rate, this isn't a plot-driven book...more of an exploration the internal musings of a man with work still to do at the end of his life, his reflections on his very happy marriage to a wife who died some years before, and his loving relationship with his somewhat eccentric 39-year-old daughter. Add to this a rather brash young student doing a master's thesis on the autho...more
Mary Gardner
Feb 23, 2008 Mary Gardner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: reading list
This novel is absolutely beautiful. The interplay among novelist Leonard Schiller, his daughter, and his admirer, Heather rings so true. What really got me though, was his reflections on what it means to be a writer for his entire life, the rewards and the sacrifices. I'm now anxious to see the film, with Frank Langella and Lili Taylor.

It's interesting that my to-read list, which dates back as far as 1998, is being beat out by screen versions of these 10-year old books (e.g. About a Boy, The Co...more
Sheela Word
Netflix persuaded me to watch the movie of “Starting Out in the Evening,” which, aside from Frank Langella’s beautiful, nuanced performance, I didn’t like: it felt turgid and trite, and the characters’ motivations were often opaque. I had a hunch that I might like the book better, and I do. It’s my favorite kind of story: entertaining and easy to read, yet multi-layered and memorable. It’s about the interactions among four characters: an elderly writer, his middle-aged daughter, a young female g...more
Well, it won awards and it had some thought-provoking situations, but the premise of a 25 year old and a sick old man together was kind of creepy to me. I like the contrast of the young writer with the old man's daughter and how one loved on the basis of what she could get, while the other loved on the basis of a purer emotion. The daughter didn't worry about what she might get out of a situation, but allowed her feelings to guide her. The young writer allowed her aspirations to achieve somethin...more
Ellen Keim
I didn't expect to like this book, because it's not really my cup of tea. But I did like it and I think it's mostly because of the author's uncanny ability to describe what it's like to be at the end of your life.

The main character, Schiller, is seventy-one and in poor health. He is also a writer who has published four mildly successful novels in his lifetime and is now determined to finish his fifth before he dies.

As a counterpoint to Schiller's story the author also introduces us to Ariel, hi...more
This is the first novel by Brian Morton that I've read, I came to it via the movie. The novel tells the story of an old man whose life as a novelist has been only mildly successful and of his relationship with a young (female) graduate student who is doing her thesis on him. These themes--writing, aging, success or the lack thereof--are resonant ones for me, and I suspect that's why I raced through this novel in spite of its flaws. The prose, in particular, is extremely uneven and sometimes clic...more
Some touching descriptions of interactions between the main character, an author in his 70s who only published four books, none of which did very well, and his daughter, a dance/exercise instructor in her 40s, had a ring of authenticity to them. The daughter's rekindling relationship with an old lover was sometimes interesting and sometimes just annoying - the fundamental differences of goals and desires that were the reason didn't work out the first time didn't just magically resolve! What a su...more
After seeing the movie (starring Frank Langella and Lili Taylor) this novel is based on, I wanted to read the book. Brian Morton is a consummate writer and although I wasn't as enthused about this as I was about Breakable You, which I read first, I found it absorbing and poignant. The story of a frail elderly writer, Leonard Schiller, who is "rediscovered" by a young, opportunistic graduate student, Heather Wolfe, who wants to write her thesis on his work is fascinating for the multilayered rela...more
Michael Jenkins
I really hated to give this book less than an average rating but it disappointed me. I usually enjoy the romance that Morton portrays in his other books but this one fell flat in some areas.Leonard Schiller is a writer that has the gift to connect to readers with his writing, despite his old age, he will always be remembered as a treasured writer. Mainly by Heather who loves his writing, she seeks out to find him, while writing a thesis on his writing,but s he surprises herself when she develops...more
Beautiful, gently-paced book about the longing for adoration that informs the life of all writers, even the most reclusive and self-sufficient seeming. Also vividly portrays the complexities and many sources of love -- the messy love amongst family members, the hard-to-accept love that constitutes an act of pure kindness from outside our own families, the love we feel for those who inspire us, and the love we feel for those who admire us. In spite of all this "love" it is a very masculine book,...more
This second novel from author Brian Morton beautifully captures the lives of three New Yorkers at various stages of self discovery. Forgotten literary figure Leonard Schiller, his middle-aged daughter, and a young graduate student on love with Schiller's work are seemingly brought together for a curious exploration of Schiller's place among his peers, but the novel presents instead a touching and involved expression of the desires and pleasures that mark each character's age: young Heather Wolfe...more
Brian Morton's Starting out in the evening...

I rented the movie (do people still do that in other places?), mainly because Frank Langella is the lead. It felt very dark and I didn't finish it.

When our book club chose it for this month's selection, I decided [because the book is always better than the movie] to give it another chance.

It wasn't a page-turner, but it was poignant, annoying, gentle, insightful, irritating...and maybe a little hopeful (no spoiler alert--you'll see what I mean].

I don't know what people loved about this book-- I liked it somewhat. The characters were very well formed and complex. Not much happens. It's a bit if a stroll with some interesting people and at then end you wish them well. Eh. It was very well written and enjoyable prose. A bit showy in the literary references department. Glad I finished.
Lisa Findley
I almost put this book down just two chapters into it, and while I'm glad I kept going, I didn't end up liking it much better by the end.

The May/December relationship is calculated and tired, despite Morton's attempts at making it seem more interesting and complex. The "just one more story for my dead wife before I die" plot point, the "maybe I can have a career without using people" plot point, the "my daddy is dying and I'll have to grow up" plot point -- all so dull and done. The character o...more
This is a quiet little book, and it seems quite unimposing. However, I kept coming across small thoughts that really are quiet large in importance to one's life. My book has little yellow sticky notes flapping outside the edges.
A young woman writer visits an older man whose writing career is nearly at its end. He has never realized recognition, although he has made a living writing. She holds him in her soul as the man who knew her and wrote directly to her in his early books. She wants to wri...more
4 1/2 stars. I liked this novel a lot while reading it. I like it a lot more now that I'm done. It is staying with me, and I am enjoying very much the time that I continue to spend with it.
I can usually tell how well I liked a book by my desire to rush out an get another by the same author....I probably will not be rushing out to read another book by Morton any time soon. I liked the character Ariel the best as she seemed the least one-dimensional....everyone acted pretty much how I expected, which is somewhat disappointing.

On a personal note, I was disheartened to read the description of Ariel as "posively middle-aged" because she appeared to be approaching forty. Having recentl...more
Even though it's not for everyone, I found this book riveting...although I'm glad to have seen the movie first only because I preferred Frank Langella's image (as the aging writer) than the one painted by the author. It's a character study of people in various stages of life and being in-between them all, I found that I could relate to them all in one way or another. If you like books about writers and would be writers and their reflections on how the world treats people differently throughout t...more
As usual, when the literary world raves about a book, it is just plain and simple weird. What exactly was this story supposed to tell? Was it about an old man who realizes that what he has accomplished in life is satisfactory to him although the rest of the world would see him as a failure? A young woman who tries to insert herself into other peoples lives in a desperate attempt to make herself be noticed. Or an aging daughter who is still depending on Daddy to pick up her pieces and help her fi...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
BRIAN MORTON is the author of four previous novels, including Starting Out in the Evening, which was a Salon favorite book of the year and was made into an acclaimed feature film, and A Window Across the River, which was a Book Club selection on the Today show. He is the dir...more
More about Brian Morton...
A Window Across the River Breakable You The Dylanist: A Novel Florence Gordon Gone in the Air: The Life and Music of Eric Dolphy

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“The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories.” 6 likes
“To sit across the table and talk with someone you love is itself a complex engagement, with an exhaustingly subtle flow of information; to go to bed with someone--to carry your conversation into the realm of the body, a realm of insecurity and fear as well as pleasure--was always fraught with the sad evidence of how difficult it is to understand another person and make yourself understood.” 3 likes
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