“A philosophical, witty, wonderful, and altogether magical love story.” —M.J. Rose, author of The Hypnotist “Amiably outrageous….Mandery is a worthy son of those great writers of the 1970s, Vonnegut, Barthelme, and Barth.” —Joseph Skibell, author of A Curable Romantic “I’ve never read anything like it and enjoyed every minute of it!” —Jessica Anya Blau, author of Drinking Closer to Home A (Timeless) Love Story is a smart, romantic, and funny novel about tender and requited love, a wonderfully original literary feat from Evan Mandery, a rapidly rising fiction star. Taking the classic love story and turning it on its head, Mandery brilliantly blends outrageous humor, existential philosophy, and heartbreaking angst while offering a wealth of satisfying surprises. Funny and wise, a magical tale of a man obsessed yet unable to allow himself the fulfillment of a perfect romance with the one true love of his life, A (Timeless) Love Story is a uniquely delightful work of fiction from one of the most exciting novelists currently on the literary scene.
Evan Mandery is the author of eight books, including four novels, as well as the co-creator and executive producer of the TV series Artificial, for which he won Peabody and Emmy awards in 2019. A leading expert on the death penalty, Evan’s book, A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America, was a New York Times Editors’ Pick, a Kirkus best book of the year, and an ABA Silver Gavel honorable mention. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Evan has been an outspoken critic of legacy admissions since publishing an op-ed in The New York Times in 2014. His new book Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us offers a devastating critique of how elite colleges and suburbs work together to exacerbate social inequality. Evan is also a regular contributor to Politico. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife, Valli Rajah-Mandery, a sociologist. They have three children.
Indulgent and self-serving best sums up that book to me. I loved the concept, the idea of being visited by your future self, the chance to change the course of your life. It could have been such an amazing book but it really fell short for me. I didn't feel like it went anywhere, it felt repetitive and just flat. I liked the ending though but that's about it. Read it if you wish but I won't be recommending it.
Q: A Love Story is a misleading title if ever there was one. It is a love story only in the sense that it's a book with a love story in it - most of the plot doesn't relate to this, regardless of what you might (understandably) assume. More unusually and significantly, it's also a time travel story. But more than either of these, it's a comedy. Oh, and the character of Q barely features, only making a couple of appearances, which seems odd given the author's choice to name the book after her.
The premise, however, is great, and certainly caught my attention when I impulsively picked up the hardback from a bookshop display. The unnamed narrator (possibly representing the author himself?), a rather unsuccessful writer, is blissfully happy with the love of his life, Quentina, known to all as Q. He's happy, that is, until the day he is visited by a man who claims to be an older version of himself, from a point in the not-too-distant future when time travel has been invented. This man tells the narrator he must leave Q, or else something terrible will come to pass that will ruin both their lives. The narrator chooses to heed the warning, and thereafter, his life becomes dominated by attempts to avoid various awful fates.
I loved the idea of a person being visited by their future self, and I also loved that the story was set in contemporary New York - there seemed to be so much that could potentially be done with this scenario. Unfortunately, the book wastes it. The tenderness of the love story and all the potential intrigues of the time travel detail are jettisoned in favour of what seemed to me like a rather heavy-handed satire. None of the minor characters are developed further than a one-note caricature. There's an irritating repeated emphasis on the 'quirkiness' of the narrator and Q - they're very eco-conscious, they like painfully cool indie music and cult films, Q grows organic vegetables in an Eden-like garden in the heart of NYC etc etc - which, honestly, made them seem more like awful stereotypes of smug, middle-class, white hipsters (I hate that word, but it's SO apt for these people!) than anything else. And Q is, of course, one of those radiantly beautiful, incredibly kind, apparently flawless female characters with no negative traits whatsoever that authors so love to invent. After a while of this I did begin to wonder whether Mandery actually wanted the reader to find the protagonists insufferable - confusing since you're meant to care about the romance between them.
Ultimately, Q is much more of a farce than a love story. Mandery dwells on the ridiculousness of the narrator blindly following whatever his future selves, who crop up with increasing regularity as the book progresses, tell him to do. Entertaining, I suppose, but not half as good as what could have been done with an idea like this. The writing reminded me of Jonathan Franzen's style, and indeed this story may appeal to fans of Franzen, but its humour lacks any kind of real edge. I have to give it some credit for a genuinely interesting, original premise and a half-decent ending. Unfortunately, in every other way it was rather disappointing.
yes, you've heard it all before, and, yes, you've probably heard it told just like this one, and, yes, it still doesn't get old....love never does.
overall, i enjoyed this book. that being said, i do have some complaints.
1st gripe: what's with the BIG words in this book? i wouldn't be soooo against 'such words' if it added to the story, but it didn't. further more, how many dialouges have you heard words like "parsimonious" and "hubris" being used. (i needed a freaking dictionary just to read this book!) personally, such words, in everyday converstations, are not realistic; consquently, when used, sound contrived and pretentious. who knows....maybe i'm just stupid. maybe people really do talk like this. or maybe it's the author's way of defining the character. or maybe it's just crap. whatever it is...it isn't working.
2nd gripe: i couldn't distinugish between the author and the main character. based on the dialogue about their child's name,i am assuming the main character's name is Evan, same as the author's name, further driving home my point. i couldnt quite figure out who to hate: Evan or Evan. maybe the author thinks it was witty to place himself as the main character. or maybe he doesn't have the imagnation to develop a distinctive character. or maybe they are distinguishable, and i coulnd't figure it out. whatever it is...it isn't working.
3rd gripe: the stories within the book (the computer story is the only one i read) and the many (unnesscary)tangents. maybe these tangents and blahs are used to help us to get to the know the main character. or maybe it is just 'fillers' to keep the book going. or maybe they are important to the story and i just couldn't figure out how. whatever it is...it isn't working.
now, you are probably wondering why i gave this book 4 stars since my review is less than complimentary. well...i laughed, that's why. i laughed even harder when i was suppose to laugh but didn't. i enjoyed their thanksgiving supper and found myself asking questions.
in short: the book was enjoyable and made me think.
and the ending, while not orignial or suprising, melted my heart...if only a little. so how could i give anything less than 4 stars! i couldn't. so i didn't. and now you know what works for me.
So stupid. I have a strong feeling that I may have been intrigued primarily by its unoriginal concept’s similarity to an episode of the best show, Buffy (“Hell’s Bells”). Neurotic, annoying, and there are minor details left unexplained. I kept with it hoping the story would go somewhere, but it does not. Tangents annoy. The second half is ridiculous and does not hold up to the cool premise. The main character is boring and his novel/story ideas sound really dull to match him. Yes, the protagonist is a writer, so meta out the wazoo. But referencing your writing as bad and pointing out flaws that are not corrected does not make it any less bad. The prologue is the best part of the book, quickly painting a believable love story featuring characters that a reader would want to get to know better. It’s almost as if he wrote a short story then decided he would improve slash butcher it by turning it into a time travel novel. I usually read the first then last chapter of a book before deciding if I should read it. I do not know why I did not do this, but this book reaffirmed for me the wisdom of doing so as I would not have wasted time in such a way. However, he’s not altogether a bad writer. His other book First Contact shows definite potential; it mixes genres much more fluidly and has much more sympathetic characters. Both reference both Hitchhiker’s Guide and Woody Allen, and as I read the former I can see that the tangents used are supposed to be in the same vein but they just do not work. They are uninteresting and don’t move the plot or say much about the characters.
Q is one of those books with the unfortunate side effect that when you are done, you find yourself wandering forlornly around Amazon lamenting the fact that the author doesn't have at least a dozen more books for you to read right away (only 2 others—both fantastic). Q is that good—a rare combination of humor, truth and poignancy. It is told from the point of view of a character called “I” who falls in love with his soul mate, “Q.” Everything goes along peachy until one day I's 60-year-old depressed and dejected self comes back through a time machine to warn young I not to marry Q.
When I finished reading the book, I immediately went back to the beginning and found that the plot fit together perfectly. I got that tingly, excited feeling that I had experienced something truly exceptional. So I'll forgive Mr. Mandery for not having enough books written to keep me happy. I’ll be patient. And I will be first in line to buy his next creation. My only other complaint about Evan Mandery is that it is unfair that he knows about so many subjects, has an amazing sense of humor, teaches, wins at poker, and he can write. No one could possibly accomplish all this in one lifetime. Hmm. Maybe he has also invented a time machine for real. I wouldn't put it past him.
In Q, Mandery writes with equal measures of wit, irony, and poignancy--all tinged with a certain existential angst and philosophical reflection--that is characteristic of his other novels as well (see: First Contact or It's Later than You Think and Dreaming of Gwen Stefani). In my opinion, this is Mandery's best work although I highly enjoyed his other novels as well. If you have read the other reviews, you already know what it is about, so I won't detail the plot here. I will say, however, that Q was a book I could hardly put down; I wanted to read it all in one sitting, and, trust me, I tried. As others have mentioned, the narrator is "malleable," but this does not keep him from having a very real and unique personality, one that enlightens and entertains throughout the book (I enjoyed Q almost as much for its educational value as I did for it's entertainment value--who knew Freud studied eel testes?). Furthermore, this malleability serves a point: who among us is not just as "malleable?" As we go about our lives and worry about our future, who is not subject to every whim of his "future self?" Before you realize it, about seven different versions of yourself have lived and you have not. I thought the essential critique of this book--one that a couple of other reviewers have picked up on as well--was an insightful one. The book questions the assumption that were we all to choose the "right" path in life and follow it through, we would all be happy. Mandery questions this assumption with optimistic existentialism and ties it closely to another theme in the book: the illusion of progress. I liked that, all throughout, Mandery used humor and irony to illuminate these themes without "hitting us over the head" with them (for example, the narrator, who is constantly visited by future versions of himself who try to change his future, is a writer of counter-historical fiction, which contemplates how things would be different were things in the past to change).
That being said, from my survey of other reviews, I noticed some recurring complaints that I think are unfounded. A few people seemed to have been irked by the books-within-books (these are excerpted portions of the writing the fiction-writing narrator produces throughout the storyline). Personally, I loved them. First of all, they are very funny. I mean, seriously, the line "He would publish the testes" is reason enough to write them. And contrary to the thoughts of I-70--and some human reviewers--I thought they were well written and entertaining, and could stand as pieces of fiction on their own. The fact that one of them is a story-within-a-book that contains a story within it and talks about a book, is absurdly funny in itself. However, as others have failed to acknowledge, each of these stories reinforce the central themes of the book; they all question the nature of progress and whether or not humanity, society, or individual human beings are constantly moving towards something better, or, in other words, "evolving." Some have remarked that these stories are a "distraction," but in my opinion, they serve an important function. Furthermore, I liked that they were "distractions" in a sense. They literally hinder one's progress through the narrative and tie into the theme of the novel structurally as well as semantically. As literary devices, they do for the book what all of the future iterations of the narrator's self have done to him. Without giving too much away, one's progress through the book is, in a sense, an illusion (those familiar with the ending know what I mean).
Others have said that the book is "unrealistic" or that it fell short of their expectations as being a "love story." In short, the novel is supposed to be neither of these: it is an absurdly and irreverently funny novel that is intended to question the sentiment of a typical "love story" or other such stories. However, if you are looking for a humorous and thought-provoking novel, I would highly recommend Q.
An author needs a wealth of chutzpah to write a philosophical sci-fi/comedy/romance and a still deeper well of talent to pull it off. Impressively, Evan Mandery mostly succeeds with his poignant, often hilarious, consideration of our universal curse of second guessing.
Our narrator, (“I”) is a professor of history and novelist, who writes alternative histories about such profound questions as what if President William Harrison had taken his mother’s advice and worn a jacket to his inauguration (thus avoiding the pneumonia which killed him a mere 32 days later) and what if Freud stayed with his initial topic of study (the search for the elusive eel testicle). I tells of how he met the love of his life, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril (the “Q” of the title). All is paradisaical until a visit from the narrator’s time traveling 60-year-old self, referred to I-60 (to avoid confusion with interstates I will“…refer to these routes by their full Christian names…”).
I-60 persuades him not marry Q. However, ending the engagement brings little happiness (in present or future). A series of future selves arrive later, pushing I in this and that direction (and usually insisting that their advice must be given over a meal at an exclusive New York restaurant, and no, time travelers can’t bring along their wallets). This spiral structure remains fresh -- though one begins to wonder why I continues to accept all this less than stellar advice. Much of Q’s success lies in Mandery’s obvious empathy for I and his delightful sense of humor.
Perhaps my only quibble is that Mandery’s efforts at Woody Allenesque absurdist one-liners sometimes blunt his sharp, Vonnegut-like, humorous social criticism. Any short-comings, however, will surely be forgotten at the novel’s moving final chapter, which will make you want to embrace that person who you love most. It will take a reader with a very hard-heart not to be moved by Q.
First of all, the girl on the cover looks nothing like the Q in my head.
Second of all, Mandery's writing leaves a lot to be desired and tainted my opinions from page 2. A large portion of the book is devoted to random diatribes on anything from the play by plays of a miniature golf game to the relevance of Douglas Adam's work to a detailed synopsis of The Twilight Zone (none of which are relevant to the themes at hand).
Thirdly, the unusual device of time travel is butchered. Seriously, Mandery should have avoided the whole matter if he couldn't even attempt to address the issues surrounding time travel, especially given the dexterity and creativeness that other authors have (i.e. Audrey Niffeneger). One minute, he avoids the science and paradox theories; the next, Mandery is diving in so deep not even he knows what he is saying. At one point there are three I's running around and two Q's. Nowhere do we deal with the problem of the original/current self/narrator following in his older/future self's path, although there is a long rant about the problem of money moving between timelines. Don't get me started on the multiple future selves presenting themselves with different advice on how to change his life. Of all the interesting things that could be done with time travel...
Lastly, I disagree with the title and name of the title character. Q stands for Quentina and the child they have in one path is named QE2. Does he think he's being clever? I think definitely not.
Q has been, thusfar, my favorite read of 2011. Mandery's First Contact explored alien invasions in a robust, realistic way and thankfully, he's applied that same wonderful sense of style to time travel.
Mandery's obsession with pop culture and comedy (look no further than one character's thousand mile journey for a Chik-Fil-A sandwich) wraps tightly among what is first and foremost a love story, but is turned on its head by rupturing the space time continuum.
At the core of this heartbreaking and hilarious work is an all-too-familiar question: If we could go back in time and tell ourselves not to make certain mistakes, would we listen? Should we listen? Mandery's take on this topic produces one of the strongest works of fiction this year.
I found the premise of this book had the potential to be fascinating, and there were aspects that I enjoyed. I found myself throwing my hands in the air as the main character's future selves kept coming to him, telling him to change every action he makes at the advice of the last future self. I was relieved when his current self responded similarly.
The sections that relate to the character's books were incredibly boring, and perhaps intentionally so. I felt that I was supposed to be in on the joke, but didn't find it funny.
Q is certainly unique but I wish I'd liked it more.
If I were to go back in time and meet my younger self, would I tell him to give up on reading this book?
Two almost insufferably cute people meet cute in Manhattan, bonding over a chance encounter in an almost-empty movie theater showing Casablanca and Play It Again, Sam back to back. They are relatively young, though both turn out to be oddly knowledgeable about bygone media—their shared touchstones are TV series like Maude (1972) and Alice (1976). Erin Grey in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979) shows up too, later on.
These two precious people fall in love, and plan to marry. And then the guy gets a phone call... from himself. An older and apparently wiser self, who tells him (as it says right on the cover), "You must not marry Q."
Of course. once your own older self has proven his bona fides, you're going to do what he says. Hindsight is 20/20, after all, and who better to give you advice than the man who has already lived through the consequences of your decisions? The time-traveller (given the unwieldy sobriquet "I-60" by the narrator) even tells him how to break it off with Q, giving him a key piece of information that really ought to have been obvious to begin with.
I began reading this novel in fits and starts, initially put off by the unlikeable and often rather dim protagonist, a writer writing about writing in the vein of Philip Roth's Zuckerman, though our nameless protagonist here is more Mark Zuckerberg than Nate Zuckerman.
Mandery must be aware of this; he eventually invokes Roth explicitly, in fact, bringing up The Plot Against America shortly after introducing a character named Minnie... Zuckerman. But the man who tells us the story of Q is no Nathan Zuckerman. He's no Zuckerberg, either, not really. Though he gives us plenty of reasons for his love of Q, we see few for her to love him in return.
I came close to giving up on this one altogether, in fact, just a few chapters in. But I'm glad I persevered, because this is one of those rare books where my experience of it (as Q herself might say) improved markedly as it went along. From Fair to Good to Better to Best, mirroring the section headings Mandery chose, Q shows its nameless protagonist's gradually (at times frustratingly gradually) increasing self-awareness, and even wisdom.
If I had to pick just one media touchstone of my own to compare this to, it wouldn't be a book at all; it'd be the movie Groundhog Day. And that's no small praise.
For more plausible time travel—for more rigorously scientific fiction—look elsewhere. But that's not really the point here. As I'd tell my younger self: no, don't give up. If character development and an at-times absurd working out of the consequences of a neat conceit are your thing, you could do a lot worse than to give this book a chance to grow on you.
"Q" is really funny. And smart. The author made a great choice, because the best way to avoid making the reader think or question about the paradoxes and impossibilities of time travel, is with humor. It doesn't matter (that much) the accuracy of the physic's laws or the science at all (although in the story the paradoxes are discussed), because what is truly important in "Q" are the humor and the romance, and the philosophy which underlays the whole plot, with the idea that the progress or the evolution are an ilusion, and fate and how determinant it is. Also, as a Woody Allen fan, I really enjoyed the short funny story within the story. The Kugelmass Episode is one my favorite Allen's short stories (because it's funny, and because it has a message, "subtle but present", as the narrator in Q explain humans like stories) and I think it has in common with Q the idea that the misery of life is inevitable...(and the humor of the whole book is very Allenlike). But Mandery is far more optimistic, because he puts love as a remedy for the bad things. It's true that Allen "says" the same (and delivers that message in his films), but by the way he writes, and judging from his movies (and interviews), it's hard to really believe him (at least in his personal life). Unlike Mandery, who seems more authentic about it (with the risk of being extremely honeyed), and who wrote one of the most soulful (in the good sense of the word) aknowledgments I've ever read. A must read for Allen's fans, or anyone who enjoys a great love story, filled with smart humor.
This was fantastic. I can't wait to read it again. It encouraged me to think about many different things, those being factual to emotional. I found it very similar to the way I perceive love's encounter. I don't know why others have reviewed it like they have. I guess we all just have different tastes.
I always find a book to be notable when it opens my mind to new ideas and spins old ones and new vocabulary. The tempo was pretty consistent to me too, although I can admit some of the time travel towards the end was a tad much. But the ending was unexpected, yet fulfilling at the same time.
I read this book in a day, which absolutely never happens. But honestly, I don't think there is any other way that this book should be read. Gobble it up, it's so fabulous. The writing is superb, sometimes a bit Austen-esque. And the characters are wonderful. The beauty of this story is that it starts out as a love story, and it ends up being a story of self discovery and of choices. Through our unnamed narrators voice and experiences we see the weight that choices have on our lives, how beautiful it can be when we make our own. Loved this book, it was utterly beautiful and moving.
Immensely moving and poignant.... more like a fable about what the consequences of our actions can be and would we follow on our intentions if we come to know how they would unfold in the future. But also uproariously funny at various places and the counter-factual theories are a spot of absolute, inspired genius, especially when they pull in Old Tippecanoe (William Henry Harrison, President of the US), Daniel Webster, and Herr Doktor Freud. A most delightful, but though-provoking read....
I'm pretty into time travel. I think I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I have some mixed feelings about science fiction as a genre. I don't really have mixed feelings about time travel. There is a lot of time travel in Evan Mandery's novel Q. I was pretty into Q.
So what is it about (besides, of course, time travel)? Q is the girlfriend of our narrator, a counter-historical novelist and academic. The two have a quirky romance and are planning their wedding, when a future version of the narrator shows up and tells him that he "must not marry Q." Thus begins a chain of interruptions and events that our narrator rides like a wave, all the while wondering if he has irrevocably altered the course of his life for the worse by leaving his one true love.
Q is part love story. And the love story is dear. I even shed a tear or two by the end. However, Q is also the kind of playful, postmodern novel that I personally love to read. It doesn't take itself too seriously, toying with its own conventions, filled with clever detail. I didn't like the narrator, in particular, but I was still rooting for him. I even thought I might have read his not-terribly-good novel, exploring how history might have changed if Sigmund Freud had pursued his early explorations into eel anatomy and reproduction. The novel explores history in a number of different ways as the narrator theorizes and lives the consequences of re-writing ones' narrative. These explorations reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Graham Swift's Waterland, although Mandery's approach is much less heavy, more humorous. The comparison on the cover to Vonnegut seems apt, although I would say there are some Palahniukian (I may have made that up) moments as well.
While a lot of the novel is cerebral and hip (which happens to be my thing), Mandery also reveals himself to be a sensualist through his divine descriptions of food, which would make any foodies mouth water. Here's one:
"Here is a wild mushroom corn pudding with goat cheese and an herbed cream sauce," she says, pointing. "This is winter squash stuffed with curried pork. This is Vidalia onion casserole. Here is cranberry relish spiced with mincemeat and pecans. Here are fresh-baked sweet rolls. Here are plain sweet potatoes, just for you, just like your grandmother used to make...And finally, the piece de resistance." She walks to the oven, opens the door, and reveals the giant thirty-pound fowl. "The turkey is glazed with honey, stuffed with andouille sausage, bacon, croutons, apples, dried cranberries, and pears, and has been roasting slowly, upside down, for the past sixteen hours."
I flew through Q and enjoyed almost every moment. I was laughing out loud, and crying in the end. The clever linguistic play and the philosophical jaunts into the nature of time and quantum theory were fun, but weren't the whole of the book. Underneath there is a touching love story and an emotional exploration of how we make meaning in our lives and confront our aging selves. In the end, what really turned on the water works was the "Acknowledgements" page on which Mandery explores the relationships that mattered in his life. It isn't often that an "Acknowledgements" page makes me cry, so I was lucky that I stuck around and read this one, since I just wanted to keep reading this wonderful book. Highly recommended.
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
What would happen if somewhere in the future, the ability to travel through time became a reality? What if you could travel back in time to talk to your earlier version of yourself and stop events before they could ruin your life and make you miserable? Would you do it?
In the novel, Q by Evan Mandery, this is the premise for the story. A man in the story is never mentioned by his name, which is odd when you consider it but it doesn't interrupt the story. He meets the girl of his dreams. She is cute, funny, and they have many of the same qualities in common from favorite game show hosts to frozen TV dinners. She comes from a family whose father, John Deveril, owns one of the top 10 construction companies and is always looking for the next big business project. He on the other hand, is a professor and a writer working on his second novel. His first, Time's Broken Arrow is published but is struggling to find readers who can enjoy the book without falling sleep or using it for a doorstop.
He can completely imagine a life with Q, whose real name is Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, and is set on making plans for a wedding with her when his future self shows up, he is confused. Not sure just what is going on, he arranges for a series of meetings to find out what is going on and what does it mean for him. Ultimately the message is the same, do not marry Q! To find out why, well, you're going to have to pick this one up!
I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and LOVED it! Never imagined this type of scenario for a story but could empathize both with the present day and future versions of the man in Q's life. I would highly recommend this one for any reader looking for a twist on your traditional romance stories! I would rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars!
¿Quiero saber porqué el protagonista viaja al pasado para decirse a si mismo que no debe casarse con Q? Sí.
¿Tengo tantas ganas de saber como para soportar seguir leyendo? No.
Terrible escritura. Algunos dicen que es una comedia, y no estoy segura, porque aunque los diálogos son ingeniosos -debo admitir que la escena del mini golf comunista fue muy ocurrente- ninguno me causo ni siquiera el asomo de una sonrisa.
Los personajes no me importaron. Y el protagonista habla DEMASIADO. Es aburrido. Y eso que yo amo las tramas que involucran viajes en el tiempo.
Tal vez más adelante se ponía mas interesante. No sé, no hay nada lo suficientemente fuerte que me impulsara a seguir leyendo y averiguarlo.
Tal vez la película logré ser más entretenida. Eso espero.
I read this book in one day, and I don't remember the last time I did that. My eyesight was really starting to fade but I couldn't stop turning the pages. I will be honest I almost stopped reading it because, in the beginning, there were some annoying political stereotypes and cliches...and I don't like that in the fiction I read. Something told me to stick with it and I'm glad I did. A slightly mind bending and original time-travel love story, this was definitely my kind of book.
Q is witty and pleasant and doesn't take itself too seriously. There were a few powerfully emotional moments but what stuck with me was a Vonnegutian sense of humor. And yes, Mr. Vandery confirms my suspicions on his author page. Good job.
Apparently, Evan Mandery is a keen poker player. It shows in 'Q', a novel that turns the notion of time-travelling upside down simply by exaggerating the process.
Mandery's nameless protagonist is an assistant professor and a budding writer - or so he believes. Just before getting married (to his beloved 'Q'), he is being visited by a future 'I' that has disturbing news about the consequences of his marriage. Bewildered, the protagonist turns to the unexpected visitor for guidance. At his future 'I's request, he cancels the wedding, thereby changing the course of his life.
Surprisingly, the story doesn't end there - in fact, it's merely the beginning. 'I' will be asked over and over again to rearrange his past by many different 'I'-personae, causing chaos and ending up all alone.
The publisher should have issued a warning to readers of this book. To me, 'Q' has been a very frustrating reading experience. The novel starts off in the most boring way. It has an implausible premise and doesn't shun detail, even when the story itself is wearing very thin. Every now and then Mandery adds a touch of humour by turning his characters into stereotypes:
Together, you and Q live the modestly indulgent, culturally sensitive bohemian life of the postmodern liberal - you read The Times online, bicycle to the Cloisters Museum, and flush only out of necessity. On the windowsill Q maintains a flourishing herb garden. In the evenings you watch old movies and eat vegetarian takeout.
As the novel progresses, another layer of meaning is added to the story. The protagonist has a talent for writing counterhistorical novels - inventing parallel lives of well-known people (eg.Freud). Gradually, I became aware of the fact that I had been cheated as a reader, for this is actually a very smart novel that tackles the issues of fact and fiction. Early in the novel, the confident protagonist explains his reasons for writing:
The essential quality of a writer is empathy. It is the ability to view a situation from the standpoint of another living creature and to feel what it would feel. This is also the essential quality of a worrier. He sees no distinction between what happens to him and what happens to someone else. Nor does he see a distinction between what is and what could be.
On p.263, he is visited by a future 'I' that asks him to stop writing:
"The truth is, you're not a terrible writer. Some of your sentences are elegant. You occasionally use language in an interesting way. But you have a poor sense of what makes a good story and a horrible eye for detail. You lack the ability to empathize with the experience of the reader, envision what would be interesting to them.
The reason why I gave this novel only three stars has to do with the ending, which was very weak (in my opinion). Still, a novel worth reading, if you enjoy smart, satirical, postmodern and slightly tricky novels. If you want to read a nice romantic story, you might end up very disappointed.
Well, Q can definitely stand for quirky. The premise of this story was intriguing enough: a man is about to get married to Q, the love of his life, but is then visited by a future version of himself, warning him not to go through with it. The narrator, never named throughout the book, changes the course of his life because of a futuristic visit, but it doesn’t stop there. While trying to appease his future self, he constantly keeps changing the path that his life is to take. He’s a writer, but his future self says that he should take up something else instead. He takes up something else, and a different future self says he should try another thing.
I found the narrator to be quite obnoxious. I don’t know if that was what the reader was supposed to feel towards him, but I found him really unbearable to listen to. He often sounded very contrived and self-indulgent. The narrator starts off as a mediocre writer, and there are a few chapters filled with his works in progress. He’s even told by a future version of himself that he isn’t a good writer, yet us as the readers are subjected to sitting through pages and pages of a Freud “what if” story? I found his lack of conviction and how easily he was swayed by these “messages from the future” really irritating. He changed/selected hobbies, careers and love interests at the drop of a hat because his constantly changing future kept telling him to.
Time travel is a tough subject to write about. If not properly thought out and written, it can easily confuse the readers. Evan Mandery alleviates this confusion by having the narrator clarify for himself (and the readers) on how he will refer to his present-day self and any future selves going forward. The pacing of the book varied quite drastically at times. At times I felt the story was lost among the many philosophical tangents that occur throughout the book. And perhaps it’s in the spirit of the time travel theme, but at times it was long drawn out moments and years, but nearing the end of the novel it seemed to just jump from year to year, future self to another future self. After the way the pacing was throughout the book, the conclusion seemed rushed and jumpy.
All that being said, however, the idea of the story was still quite entertaining to read. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to find out what happens to him! The idea for Q is an interesting one (though a little reminiscent of being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future from A Christmas Carol).
With all the philosophical themes throughout the story, Mandery brings up a good one that readers can't help but consider: If you could find out something bad about your future, would you want to know? At what point do you say enough is enough and you just live the life you’re dealt? Who is to say it wouldn’t backfire; that by changing it now, your future would then also be altered anyway?
This is nearly a 4 star book. I found the writing to be clever and the dialogue to be particularly fun. The author is very well read and provides intriguing ideas for the reader to mull over regarding the roads less traveled. At times, I found the writer's work to be absolutely profound but not in the prominent ideas. It was more in the periphery thought process of the protagonist where the juiciest material occurred. I loved the way he summarizes the workings of the bully and how the bully forces the world around him to conform to his reality but is much more articulate than I was just now.
The premise of the story is that the unnamed protagonist that, for the sake of simplicity, I am going to name Evan (after the author) meets a marvelous young woman and they hit it off immediately. There is humor, depth, and a sweet romance that seems destined to play out for the rest of their lives until "Evan" shows up as an older version to warn him what will happen if he marries Q.
At the same time, Evan is up for tenure. He needs to publish an original work. Working from the same premise as his real self, he chooses to pursue a book about Freud and what if he had followed a different path that he seemed destined to continue but didn't. Would Freud have still gone into psychoanalysis? His original novel was also built on hypotheticals and what-would-have-happened-ifs. Clever at first, I lost interest quickly as the books are recapped.
Back to "Evan's" life, his future self continues to pop up to tell him how the future will unfold if he doesn't do something different. Then, the future self tells him what to do differently, costing him a great deal of money and time. In essence, the author is exploring String Theory only in a much easier context. Not that I can explain String Theory or Einstein's Theory of Relativity but the author also uses examples from the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. Good call.
So the question remains - does what we do really change the end result? Is there an end result or is it just random anyway? Could we do things better or is it simply different. I really did enjoy the lively discussion at the Thanksgiving Dinner and, in particular, the thoughts on the senile professor.
I enjoyed the book and the thoughts presented. I struggled with some of the points of reference as my experiences do not reflect the author's. There were a lot of Jewish inside jokes I didn't understand. I also thought the book was about 50 pages too long. There were stretches were I was bored and others where I was riveted.
A man is visited by his future self, who has travelled through time to warn him that he absolutely must not marry the love of his life.
That's Quentina Elizabeth Dervil, known to everyone as Q.
I loved watching them fall in love. Because it felt so real. Two people meeting, talking about this that and everything, their lives so naturally coming together ...
That pulled me right into the story.
And that's why I was infuriated when the unnamed narrator's future self and insisted that the pair could not marry. His argument was good, but oh how I wanted to find away around it.
And the trouble is, once you have taken the advice of a future self once, any number of future selves will arrive from different periods and different paths taken to offer advice on every life choice you could think of.
It was a joy to watch the dialogues between one man and his future selves, packed full of facts, intelligence and wit. And a tour de force by the author, making one rather neurotic writer recognisable at so many different stages of life.
It was wonderful and infuriating at the same time.
I wanted to intervene. To point out what was really important in life. But I couldn't!
Many of the details of time travel were glossed over, but there were enough details there to sell the concept. Very clever!
The writing is lovely, allowing the story to move forward on a cushion of clever ideas and cultural references.
It gets a little lost sometimes when the story's unnamed hero paises to ponder life, love, his novel ... but it soon finds itself again whenever he has someone to talk with.
Those dialogues, full of warmth and wit, are a delight.
And, just as I was wondering how on earth all of this could be brought together, it was. Perfectly.
This really is a novel for both head and heart.
And I might not have written about it too coherently, but I can only think of one more thing to say - I loved Q!
Not necessarily rational, but that's love for you!
To be frank I picked up this book because I was standing at the long check out line in Waterstones and my eyes fell on the NY Times quote printed on the cover above. Tear prone? I am very much tear prone so of course I picked the book up.
I wanted a heartfelt sad ending where I can cry my eyes out. I didn’t even read the story description until I was about to start it, which made it even more intriguing. The book tells the story of Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, the love of the narrator’s life who together are preparing for their wedding day when one day a man from the grooms future apparently appears to him, sits him down, and asks him not to marry Q.
The books is fast paced, the story about Q starts quickly and early. It is beautifully written and very philosophical. It presents you with notions that make you stop reading, think for a moment, then resume reading. It is even a novel inside a novel as the hero of the book is a writer himself and you get to read chapters of his books.
Between the pages you can also find dry humor. The kind that makes you laugh but doesn’t come off as silly or impossibly idiotic. The book has big words too, I had to google some of them so I can understand it. It is not the easiest of reads but it is a good book. Quite different if I may say myself. After all it was written by a Harvard graduate.
However, the story is not entirely about Q but ends with Q nontheless. The ending is abrupt and, well, weird. I didn’t get it. I kept reading the last page then flipping it to the acknowledgement thinking there were a missing page. There wasn’t. I closed the book in anger at NY Times. ’That’s it?” I thought to myself! Tear prone o crying in public? Not really, not at all! And this is coming from the one of the worst basket cases you’d ever encounter.
It is the kind of book you enjoy reading once, but once you reach the ending its all ruined for you. Finito.
It took me a very long time to finish, but not because I didn't like it. I did like it. A lot. Except for the parts that were completely uninteresting. Or boring. Or overfilled with too many details. But I can't hate the book for it, because I somehow feel that the author intended those stories within the story to be uninteresting, or boring, or overfilled with details, so that after struggling through them, they made me chuckle and think of how clever and funny the author constructed the whole thing.
I loved the main character, even if he is a bit of a pretentious snob at the start, he's also nerdly endearing . I love how he frets about things I fret over sometimes and I love the journey I witnessed him and his future selves go through, and I loved the way the book ended.
This book is overfilled with random facts and big ideas to mull over. It's as dark as it is light. It's as trivial at times as it is confronting the reader with very basic, existential questions, exploring the consequences of time travel, the mechanics of evolution, and the meaning of life.
This book made me laugh out loud, and cry, and chuckle, and sigh. But most of all, it made me think.
Would my friends like it? Frankly, I have no idea. It's an odd duck. But do give it a try and let me know, because I'd love to discuss and find out what everyone else makes of it. However, don't pick this up expecting a light and easy read. I found it took some effort but all in all, it was totally worth it.
The concept is the most interesting thing about this book. Unfortunately, it is wasted the actual execution of this book.
First of all, the main character was boring and pretentious. He falls in love with Q, who is an organic farmer and passionate about the environment. Which is fine, but it's done so over the top that it almost seemed like I was supposed to hate them. I would've been fine disliking them if I'd known who I was supposed to root for (certainly not the future-father-in-law) or if a better, stronger character could've cropped up.
Then the future version of the writer shows up and warns our narrator not to marry Q. The reason I won't spoil for those who read it, and I can understand how that reason could potentially stop someone. But there was a glaringly obvious way around the problem, and it's never even addressed. I mean, if the side step to misery is this alternate route but you're unwilling to follow it because of REASONS, then maybe you should outline what these are.
This next part will require a couple of set-up spoilers which won't be a problem if you think I'm wrong and want to read it anyway.
Then two more future versions of the narrator that show up. The second one tells him to marry someone else. The third version shows up and tells him not to. Throughut it all, the narrator just keeps going along with everything they say. The most interesting part was his suspicion of the first future self, and even that was short-lived, because the day he spends observing himself is a dull one.
I made it all the way through this novel without actually realizing that the first person narrator doesn' t have a name. This is partly because all along, I thought of him as a very Ted Mosby-like character. The setting in New York City and the similar careers as part-time college professors certainly helped.
But Ted isn't interesting in isolation, and the protagonist of "Q" is mostly wandering around talking to himself. This protagonist's fatal flaw is overthinking, also one of Ted's major drawbacks.
At one point in the book, the protagonist has started hanging out with some younger people and going out drinking in bars every night, even eating the jalapeno poppers, a food he didn't expect to like since he doesn't like jalapeno peppers. A few months later, he has gained weight and a future version of himself comes back to chastise him and tell him to take up running. I realized that the characters on "How I met your mother" are unrealistically slim and sane considering their late night habits and alcohol consumption.
I wish this book were more interesting. But I didn't feel like I knew Q very well and learned way too much about "Ted"'s bizarre historical fiction writing.