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2.7  ·  Rating details ·  109 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
From the author of God’s Snake (“Passionate…a wonderful book”—Alice Munro), and Fear (“Remarkable, spare, powerful”—Grace Paley), a stunning novel, her first in seven years, that shines a light on what it means to be beautiful, and to be possessed—by oneself, and by others.

The setting is New York City in the 1970s—a time and place of creativity, licentiousness, rebellion—a
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Knopf
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Feb 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
"Do you want a muffin?"
"Do I look like I want a fucking muffin?"

In the confidence game known as the classic Bait And Switch, something of value is seen or perceived just below the surface; once the deal is completed, the bait has disappeared, and something of lesser value, perhaps even something that is worthless --is revealed. In the course of the transaction, the consumer has been switched.

For this reader, something much like that operation took place with this book.

Sucking In The Seventie
Jeff Jackson
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: New York City lovers
Haunting evocation of seedy downtown New York City in early 70s. This is Soho when it was dangerous, and these characters don't pull their punches as they struggle to navigate turblent relationships, dead-end careers, and prospect of art as escape hatch. One of the best books for capturing this bygone era. If it were a film, it would be directed by Fassbinder. If it were music, it would sound like Nico's "Chelsea Girls."
Adrienne Urbanski
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A captivating look at a self destructive young woman living in New York City in the pregentrification 1970s, when Soho was still a place of danger. Spanidou, however, ends the story without resolving the characters' conflicts with one another. I can't help but hope that she is planning a follow up to the story entitled After.
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
Eh. SoHo in the 70s. Empty streets, junkies, pimps, artists, alcoholics and the most unrealistic portrait ever of an editorial assistant. However, something about this book really stuck with me. I loved the way the author crafted each chapter even if I didn't care for the characters or their conflicts.
Sep 19, 2007 added it
Shelves: unabletofinish
I couldn't get through this, which is unusual for me. I don't like being told a character is smart and beautiful when I see no written evidence of this. Book centers aroud a woman loved my many — didn't so much agree.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to NYLSpublishing by: The NYLS Book Review
My grade school teacher, Mrs. Scalia, had an anthem: “If you’re bored, read a book”. A fine axiom, I’d always thought, but didn’t it presuppose that all books mimicked the vivacity of life?

Spanidou’s Before is primarily a story about Beatrice – the pretty, twenty-something protagonist living on a modest trust fund in 1970’s SoHo, New York. She is married to Ned, a struggling artist emotionally manacled with intimacy issues, but is pursued by Faye: a bi-sexual girlfriend from her childhood. Of co
Jul 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Before is set in SoHo in the 1970s, and Irini Spanidou does a wonderful job placing the reader directly in the story. You can see the empty factories, the vacant blocks, the few factory-to-loft conversion projects, and the new bars popping up here and there. You can see that the area is seedy before she mentions the robberies, rapes, and muggings. You know this is a neighborhood full of interesting people with interesting stories.

Spanidou creates a host of promising characters, but Before lacks
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The only redeeming thing about this book was the characterization of Ned - and it's a shame it wasn't explored further in the book. As far as the "protagonist", Beatrice, I am hard-pressed to feel any sympathy or connection to her. She is ineffectual, annoying, and bland; mainly as a result of her martyr-ish "poor me" attitude. The author succeeded in one thing: creating a persona that has absolutely no redeeming value or interesting aspects whatsoever, aside from her apparent outer beauty. No m ...more
Laura Motta
Nov 18, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Wonderfully written but somewhat annoying account of a few months in a young woman's life in SoHo in the seventies. In a nutshell: Beautiful trust fund baby Bea is married to Ned, a boorish painter, who seems to be the only one in her social circle who isn't secretly (or otherwise) in love with her. The writing is so strong -- poetic, muscular, shrewdly observant -- but the ideas about beauty (It fades!), self-love (It comes from within!), and personal crisis (It passes!) are sort of trite by th ...more
Ex Libris
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
I think this book is often misunderstood, and better then it's reputation. It's sparse, drugged, desperate and confused vibe puts off some readers. For instance, the NYT reviewer called the book a failure, saying that Beatrice never feels alive or psychologically deep, but I think that is actually the strength of the book. She lives the void, empty but for destructive drives and desperate sexuality.
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lulu Johnson
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a depressing book about screwed up depressing (and depressed) people. I found I had no sympathy whatsoever for anyone, which made for a difficult read. Everyone was self-centered and made poor choices. They were mean to one another with regularity. I don't need sunshine and roses all the time but I do like to hang on to a glimmer of hope at least. This book didn't have anything to give me.
Sep 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Wonderfully written book about unlikable characters with a depressing story line and a predictable ending. I'm not sure I would have stuck with it if it hadn't been such a quick read. I loved her phrasing in so many ways, telling the story of Bea, who is used to people only loving her for her looks. As they get to know her, not many like her. She turns to the wrong people for help and turns away from the ones who are actually interested in her well being.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
About NYC in the 70s, the then new SoHo art scene. I thought I'd like it more than I did. There was too much bland summary, the main character, who I take it I was supposed to care for, was annoying. And yet I didn't want to see her life go the way it did. Anyway, not great.
Emily Hanna
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is about 3 months in the life of a young woman in nyc in the 1970s.
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Such a waste of money and time.
Jennb33 Brown
Aug 08, 2007 marked it as to-read
On my Amazon list to read...
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
A slight, precious novel. 200 pages and couldn't wait for it to end.
This was a tough book to read..not a long book but very grave and sad
Nov 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Eh no.
Couldn't even get half way through this one. Pretentious, annoying twenty somethings loafing around Soho in the 1970s...they're like some sort of precursor to the hipsters or something.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
dark and painful in parts. but a raw look at life in soho in the 70's. I thought I would have wanted to be there, but i think this shows the other side of the magic.
Melissa Febos
Jul 23, 2008 rated it liked it
My favorite writing teaching in undergrad wrote this. So far it's super sexy.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this, because it started out pretty nicely, but then it descended into Manhattanese, lack of imagination, and blahness. Sorry, I can't recommend it.
Jun 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
No idea why everyone in the book is in love with the pouty, annoying main character. I just wanted all involved to shut the hell up and get a real job.
rated it really liked it
Mar 28, 2011
rated it did not like it
Jan 11, 2008
rated it liked it
Mar 02, 2016
rated it did not like it
Jan 26, 2008
Beth Kondonijakos
rated it did not like it
Aug 23, 2007
rated it liked it
May 29, 2012
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“The only way out is deeper in. It's what you don't yet know that can save you.” 2 likes
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