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Asymmetry

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  11,617 ratings  ·  1,800 reviews
A singularly inventive and unforgettable debut novel about love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art, from 2017 Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday.

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, an
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Hardcover, 277 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Simon & Schuster
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Popular Answered Questions
Liz Nichols I took it that Alice WROTE "Madness" (as Ezra alludes to in the final section), so I don't see her being a character in it. I felt Halliday wanted to…moreI took it that Alice WROTE "Madness" (as Ezra alludes to in the final section), so I don't see her being a character in it. I felt Halliday wanted to show how a random event, like Alice seeing the halal hot dog vendor with Ezra, becomes the inspiration for an act of imaginative empathy and a piece of fiction.
Good points though, Melpub, about the coat.
Finally, this conversation makes me reflect that there is a theme of teasing and hiding that runs through the book - Ezra embodies it, but maybe Halliday is teasing us, too. Coincidence? Fate? Luck? Humans wanting pattern where no pattern really is? Like Ezra, she tells us "Party's over" before we can get the endings we want.
This is the kind of book that really gets you thinking on many levels. Challenging but worthwhile.(less)
Dana DesJardins It's meta, because the very educated, very lovely author is also very serious. The middle section is her fictional creation's book. Get it? Totally…moreIt's meta, because the very educated, very lovely author is also very serious. The middle section is her fictional creation's book. Get it? Totally cool for a white American woman to imagine a story about another white American woman writing a story about a displaced Kurdish male economist.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.56  · 
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 ·  11,617 ratings  ·  1,800 reviews


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Larry H
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm between 3 and 3.5 stars.

How do you judge a book—do you just consider whether or not you liked it, or do you also take into consideration whether or not the author's attempt at conveying a message worked for you? This dilemma arose for me after reading Lisa Halliday's debut novel, Asymmetry .

The book is unevenly divided into three novellas. I loved the first one, enjoyed parts of the second one, and really didn't understand the purpose of the third one. Since the third novella portrayed a c
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Sarah Jessica Parker
I was so happy to get my hands on this book. Enjoyed and glad I read it.
Angela M
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
There were things that I liked about this “novel “ in three parts. In the first part, “Folly”, I especially loved the literary references, the music, and I loved the baseball talk. Having lived in the Boston area I definitely understand the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry and we lived there in 2004 when they won the World Series. ( Go Sox! They are still my favorite team and even though I have moved back home to New York State.) At first I thought the relationship between Alice and Ezra, the writer wh ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
3.5 I did not feel an emotional connection to this book, but I did find it intellectually stimulating. Something very different, very original and elegantly conceived. Two novellas, which are written very differently, the first a famous author, an older man, already successful, his life near the end. A younger woman, Alice, in her late twenties, an editor, still trying to find herself, her life just beginning to unfold. They have an affair, and keep in mind the title, it is very fitting, their s ...more
Esil
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.5 stars, although my thoughts on this one are a bit asymmetrical.

It’s a book of themes, with asymmetry as the centerpiece. It’s broken into three parts of uneven length, tenuously connected to each other. The first part features an asymmetrical relationship between the narrator, a young woman named Mary Alice, and an aging famous writer. The second part is told from the perspective of an Iraqi American man, flitting back and forth in time and place, but always coming back to his detention in a
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Elyse Walters
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Library Overdrive - spontaneous- ‘available’ download.

This is one of those books I had seen around - but couldn’t remember reading anything about it. So- while out walking - with no reviews in front of me - I took it for a test run and liked the beginning right away.,
It started off with a BANG....( kinda creepy)...but totally addicting. I mean - would you like knowing your daughter was having an affair with an old Jewish geezer? Me either ....but it made for a good story - and Ezra ( old geezer
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Andrew Smith
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Three stories – well two really, one being told in two parts.

1. A young female editor has a sexual relationship with an eminent, ageing writer. We are told little of the woman other than that we directly observe. What we observe is that she seems rather naive and lonely and does little other than meet with the writer, receiving random (and sometimes slightly strange) gifts, and that she also has occasional interactions with an elderly woman who lives in a separate flat in her building. The relat
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
I know what I'm supposed to experience with this book, and it was this promise that forced me through to the end (I was stalled at 42% for a while, choosing to read other books):
"These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda."

There are two major stories, one with a young woman in an inexplicable relationship with an older writer. I've seen other reviews refer to it a
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Adam Dalva
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really good, interesting book whose structural ambitions are partly disguised by the directness of its prose. This is functionally two novellas and then a short transcript, (one that works a bit too hard to round off the novel). Part one, which I really liked, tells the story of Alice’s relationship with Ezra Blazer, who the book makes clear is an analogue for Philip Roth. That Lisa Halliday did have a relationship with Roth when she was in her twenties and he in his sixties adds a voyerustic th ...more
Paul Fulcher
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
For her part, Alice was starting to consider really rather seriously whether a former choirgirl from Massachusetts might be capable of conjuring the consciousness of a Muslim man.

“Great American Novel” =”doorstop of a book, usually pretentious, written by a man.”
Lionel Shriver (Independent 2010)

I suspect, even in January, the oddest book I will read this year as I don’t quite get what the author is achieving other than annoying her readers. It essentially consists of two – I sincerely hope deli
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Steve
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lisa Halliday is one clever writer – clever in different ways, including a sneaky one. I ended up liking this quite a lot. My full appreciation came in the short, final section of its three-part narrative where Ezra, the mature, award-winning writer was being interviewed on a radio show talking about his top ten desert island song list. He mentioned something that shed light on both the preceding parts and gave new meaning to the title.

The final asymmetry would be spoiled by mentioning it. The f
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Maxwell
Jan 15, 2018 marked it as dnf
Shelves: arc, kindle
I can already tell that this book just isn't going to be my thing so I'm calling it quits at page 43. I'm really trying to know when to give up and not spend my time reading books I might end up feeling unenthusiastic about.
Gumble's Yard
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Update: one wonders if the death of Philip Roth will increase the chances of this book being listed for some literary prizes in the UK or US.

Asymmetry is the debut novel of Lisa Halliday. The book consists of two novellas and coda.

The first novella, set in the early 2000s tells the story of Alice – both the opening and closing of this novella, make it clear that the characters name is a very explicit nod to the Alice of Lewis Carroll. An aspiring writer, working at a publisher in New York she b
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Rachel
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Nope, not for me I'm afraid. Asymmetry is more of an experiment than a novel, and an experiment that didn't warrant half as much tedium as what I found myself subjected to. I 'got it' but I didn't find the payoff rewarding at all. There's a good argument to be made that the first two sections were badly written on purpose (once you figure out from the third section the thread that connects the two disparate stories) but if poorly executed structural innovation is all it takes for a book to be la ...more
Justin
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Look, I had a pretty decent time spending a few days of my life reading this book. The first chapter or section titled “Folly” was a little outside of my comfort zone, but it kept me engaged and there were some pretty brilliant pieces of writing weaved within its pages. There is an abrupt, intentional turn in the next section, “Madness”, that feels like a different writer jumped in with a different story to tell, and...

Then, there is a short third section that kind of puts the asymmetry of the n
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Fabian
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The new global literature--of which many unsuspecting contemporary novels are part of--dictates that the more connections you make between time/place and a different time/place, the less you know about everything. The more you know=the less you know. Because, really, what could be as disparate as the fates of two men, one Western the other from the East? Especially after the atrocious September 11th attacks (literature can now be divided by pre- and post-911)--the color of your skin, your relati ...more
Peter Boyle
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
There has been quite an amount of hype about this novel in recent weeks. From the reviews I skimmed, I gathered that it contained two seemingly unrelated stories, and then a coda which would shed light on how they are linked and magically uncover hidden depths that the reader hadn't previously considered. Count me in, I thought, this sounds fascinating.

The first story, Folly, tells of Alice, a twenty-something editor for a New York book publisher. One day she is approached by Ezra, a much older
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Kasa Cotugno
Lisa Halliday has created a work of stunning originality. Consisting of three distinct sections, Asymmetry presents more of a work of concept than either plot or character. The three plots have subtle connections that the reader sometimes has to work at discovering. The first, Folly, concerns the May/December romance of Alice, a young editor living in an upper west side apartment, and her relationship with Ezra Blazer, a much older, prominent author who guides her senses of self and taste. Madne ...more
Alex
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recognize that Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry is a polarizing novel, that has received both significant praise (see NY Times Top 10 Books of 2018) as well as scorn from those who could not get into it for a variety reasons I understand. That said, there have been few books this year that have impressed me as much both in the quality in writing but the audacity in its choices in form and how these choices made the book’s thematic explorations that much more poignant for me as a reader.

Asymmetry is
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Jennifer Blankfein
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Follow Book Nation by Jen for all reviews and recommendations.
An unlikely relationship, a problem at the airport, and an interview with a famous writer…three parts, seemingly unrelated: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday delivers more than you would expect!

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Asymmetry yet, do yourself a favor and buy it today! Delve into this book to absorb what you can, then after, you may want to read the discussion questions. Hint: If you want to discover more…read Alice in Wonderlan
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Marcello S
Funziona più o meno così.

1. Leggo in giro che sta per uscire l’ipotetico libro dell’anno;
2. Mi esalto;
3. Le aspettative crescono;
4. Appena riesco me lo procuro;
5. Lo leggo e.

Tre parti:

1 L’amore/affetto tra Alice ed Ezra. Riferimenti alla storia tra la stessa Halliday e Philip Roth. Quello che ne esce è un racconto abbastanza insulso, che non regge né per trama né per scrittura.

2 Amar Ala Jaafari viene trattenuto in un aeroporto di Londra per accertamenti. Parallelamente vengono ricostruiti mom
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Doug Bradshaw
There are two virtually unrelated stories here. The first section is a realistic story of the affair an aging (single) well known author has with a much younger girl, Alice, who is an editor. In that the cute author actually dated Phillip Roth for a time, much of the story must have been based on that relationship. As an older male, I enjoyed their relationship and I know many successful older men attract young women for a lot of different reasons. Alice takes care of Ezra in many ways and also ...more
Neil
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, netgalley
If I am honest, it took me a few pages to get properly into this book, but I am very glad I did because it develops into a fascinating book that is almost more enjoyable on reflection than it is during reading. I think I’ve spent almost as long pondering it as I spent reading it.

The book consists of two novellas followed by a coda. At first sight, the novellas are very different from one another. One tells the story of Alice who works for a New York publisher and wants to be a writer who meets t
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Lisa
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I was wary of this novel's buzz as a "literary phenomenon," I did like it more than I expected. Halliday is very clever and the novel is exceptionally well-written and readable. However, at times the asymmetrical structure almost toppled over under its self-conscious weight. I think "Alice's" ambitions to write outside of her own experience were admirable but uneven. I didn't need part three to tie it together and this section felt like Alice's description of lovemaking with Ezra -arriv ...more
Erin Glover
This is not a beach or pool read. You must read the first story, Folly, carefully. Especially to understand the meaning of the second story, Madness. You may be able to decipher Madness before you get to the secret code, story three, Ezra Blazer’s Secret Island Discs. If you’re like me, you won’t decipher it even after that. This novel was a lot of fun for the cogno senti, the professional reviewers. The ones who knew what the second story was. It you read it looking for parallels between Madnes ...more
Lauren
Feb 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010s-fiction
I should have trusted my instinct and stopped after the first section.
That being said, the second section was better than the first. (I waffled between 1 and 2 stars for the second section's sake). Things that other reviewers noted about the revelations in the final section were not clear to me at all, and that just compounded my dislike of this book.

The best thing about this is the cover art.

I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway.
Meike
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-read, usa
Well, this book is aptly named: In "Asymmetry", Lisa Halliday works with factual and perceived asymmetries regarding time, power, and place, tying together the lives of three protagonists by presenting two novellas and an interview-style coda. The effect is often rather unsettling, and the direction in which the story moves seems surprising at first, but convincing once you read the whole thing.

In the first novella, Alice, a Harvard graduate in her twenties who works for a publishing house, goe
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Silvanna
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is divided into three parts. The first section, FOLLY, is a joy to read and the relationship between Alice and Ezra is very compelling. I found Ezra to be a mesmerising character - cheeky, witty, selfish, rather roguish. But then the second section of the book, MADNESS, throws the reader into a completely unrelated story and a pretty boring story at that. Why are we introduced to Amar? What has his journey to London got to do with anything that’s gone before? I have no idea what Lisa H ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I enjoyed this one mainly for the way it tickles the intellect than for the story. In three parts, the book starts with a story of an older author and his young lover, then moves to the story of an American of Iraqi descent stuck at a London airport. The third part is the older author again, relating his experiences with music in his life. While seemingly disparate, the parts included many overlapping themes and motifs that made them not so asymmetrical at all. Is it, however, a novel? Not in th ...more
Dan
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry consists of two novellas and one shtick. By now, you’ve probably read some of Asymmetry’s deliriously positive reviews in U.S., British, and Irish newspapers. You may even have overheard a few tut-tuts of moral disapprobation about Halliday’s backstory. You likely already know so much about Asymmetry that I’m justified in skipping a detailed recounting.

“Folly,” the first novella, centers on an unlikely romance of a young editorial assistant at a prestigious li
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Barnard Brown Bag...: Question 1, "Asymmetry" 22 33 Dec 30, 2018 05:14PM  
Letteratura Postm...: * Sessantesimo Gdl - Asimmetria di Lisa Halliday 24 44 Dec 22, 2018 02:45AM  
is it worth? 1 16 Dec 08, 2018 11:19PM  
Never-Ending Good...: Has anybody read ... 5 20 Nov 15, 2018 06:07PM  
Barnard Brown Bag...: Question 4, Asymmetry 6 21 Oct 31, 2018 09:22PM  
Barnard Brown Bag...: Question 3, Asymmetry 5 17 Oct 15, 2018 09:55AM  
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Lisa Halliday has worked as a freelance editor and translator in Milan, where she lives with her husband. Her short story 'Stump Louie' appeared in The Paris Review in 2005, and she received a Whiting Award for Fiction in 2017. Asymmetry is her first novel.
“But then even someone who imagines for a living is forever bound by the ultimate constraint: she can hold her mirror up to whatever subject she chooses, at whatever angle she likes—she can even hold it such that she herself remains outside its frame, the better to de-narcissize the view—but there’s no getting around the fact that she’s always the one holding the mirror. And just because you can’t see yourself in a reflection doesn’t mean no one can.” 14 likes
“I once heard a filmmaker say that in order to be truly creative a person must be in possession of four things: irony, melancholy, a sense of competition, and boredom.” 10 likes
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