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Women and Men

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Beginning in childbirth and entered like a multiple dwelling in motion, Women and Men embraces and anatomizes the 1970s in New York from experiments in the chaotic relations between the sexes to the flux of the city itself. Yet through an intricate overlay of scenes, voices, fact, and myth, this expanding fiction finds its way also across continents and into earlier and fu ...more
Paperback, 1192 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1987)
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Cecilia I read about 1/3 of this miserable book (I was so excited to read it). I put out an alert on eBay b/c I refused to pay more than $60 and I couldn't fi…moreI read about 1/3 of this miserable book (I was so excited to read it). I put out an alert on eBay b/c I refused to pay more than $60 and I couldn't find it anywhere except places where it ran like $150+. Finally I got a "Buy It Now" hit on eBay for $54 and bought it. I read as much as I could tolerate and ended up selling it back on (owned by eBay) for $56. Glad I had it in my hands; super disappointed by the book though. Good luck if you are still looking!! You may love it :-](less)

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Adam Dalva
Difficult for me to review this book after such a long journey with it, but I have an essay about the experience up with The Paris Review: ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
people matter
people = matter
people R matter
people are the matter

Most books you read. There are some, however, that read you. Women and Men read me, and found me lacking.

Everything got an explanation: the difference is you pick some things to not explain.

It began with a birth and a word: Breathe. In the beginning was the Word. You can live without breathing, you can't live without breath. Teach me, Jim Mayn, about special reincarnation, about the Choor Monster, the Anasazi Healer, the Hermit-Inve
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I will stake what literary capital I may possess upon the proposition that Women and Men is one of the ten (or five or twenty or whichever way you’d like to dice the decem or quintum honorarium) greatest novels of the twentieth century. “Greatest” gives some folks the squirms (there’s a tapeworm for that!). Here’s what I mean by it: Proust, Joyce’s two fat ones, a novel by Mann (take your pick), Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, The Recognitions (but why not J R as well?), Gravity’s Rainbow, ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Women and Men seems to be the most ambitious novel ever written, anyway, it is the most ambitious one I’ve ever read.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care f
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Along the Curve of Our Resolve

Joseph McElroy took a photo of America in 1977 and then, in the manner of Tristram Shandy’s father, took ten years to convert it into a panoramic painting or tapestry of modern life ("Oh cripes I thought this was gonna be in Technicolor").

He constructed an apartment building (a "multiple dwelling" or "articulated structure that gives play to a multiplicity of small-scale units"), populated it with multiple characters (including "multinational corporate selves" an
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Joseph McElroy's Women and Men is a difficult, beautiful, and astounding book, astonishing. Those final adjectives ought to be clear enough and the prior will be all too quickly misunderstood. 'Difficult' cannot be understood pejoratively as Franzen et al would have it (and for whom Women and Men would fit their bill for difficulty and target for ridicule far better than JR albeit giving them a target even less recognized than Mr Gaddis) for is not calculus 'difficult' and do we not rejoice ever ...more
You cannot take the engineer out of the writer; you cannot take the integration out of life.

There was a time when I cross-referenced a Gravity's Rainbow relation of sunset, radiation dynamics of reddening shades versus the bloody westward draw over sea and foundered land. Whether 'twas a singular page or a singular thought of relative Pynchon's or my own, it didn't matter. What did was a figuring that in the duel between word and constant, equation and verse, mathematical flow of form and memori
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
*3rd reading update*

"What I've always been trying to find was an adequate sentence and passage that could suggest what it is like to be fully alive, and that means to be thinking and feeling and moving even in a physical way that could be conveyed upon the page." -Joseph McElroy in conversation with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm

This is my favorite novel. The competition is not close.

Is it hyperbolic to say that in W&M McElroy comes close to actually realizing Heidegger's goal of approx
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: PoMo lovers, readers who like difficult or puzzle literature
Recommended to Aloha by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Link to Women and Men forum: Women and Men

Joseph McElroy’s Women and Men opens with a birthing scene. The woman is at a party flashing back to her experience of birthing the baby. The title “division of labor” sets the economic tone of labor and productivity that recalls Karl Marx’s Division of Labor . She was experiencing awful pain while her husband Shay, formerly David, was below awaiting the birth of their child. He was paying attention and documenting everything, but can never really know h
"We had learned we were a language"

This is, to put it mildly, a completely unique work of art. It is a novel unlike any other novel I have read (excepting, of course, Joe's other work). It moves through time and thought and Being with such astonishing fluidity it will leave you Breathless. As I have said in other McElroy reviews, he works by accretion, by non-linear addition, by echoings and layerings and leaps across time and perspective within the bounds of a single sentence.

It is hard only
Mar 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After being available for over a month to Patreon supporters, my interview with the great Joseph McElroy is available to all peons!

Took me over a year and a half to get this interview so please support by sharing. Cheers!

Still working on a review, of course, but this is a big beast to tackle reading-wise and review-wise.
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immortal, mcelroy
Log of the Journey of the HMS Women and Men

Day 1:
Noontime. Our good ship, the massive HMS Women and Men, sets sail out of Lincoln Harbor, NJ, USA. New Jersey coastline recedes in view. Lovely from a distance; far lovelier than from within it, I must confess. Our voyage began with the most joyous of news: a child born just as we breach’d the opens! (Apologies for punning; a lowly form of humour). A tremendous portent, howe’er misleading.

Just out of sight of land, we are caught within the maelstr
Nick Craske
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? That was the title of a 1972 lecture given by the scientist Edward Lorenz. He was studying changes in weather in the early 60s and accidentally discovered a dynamic non-linear system – a high profile discovery within the science community and American culture.

Joseph McElroy’s sixth novel, Women and Men is inherently inspired by, structured and constructed around Lorenz's dynamical mathematical system; we know it today as
Sentimental Surrealist
Let's talk McElroy, hailed as the "lost postmodernist." Let's maybe take one from McElroy's own book, in fact this book which I have just finished and taken it upon myself to review, and talk about simultaneous reincarnation (or "S.R.," which I wouldn't know about without the continued and highly commendable efforts of Goodreaders Aubrey, so unceasingly kind as to send me a copy, Nathan "N.R.," and the other great & passionate McElroyites on this (give them a massive hug on) site). Allow your hu ...more
Christopher Robinson
I finished Women and Men late last night and I don’t know what to do with myself. After three months spent dwelling inside of this massive text, I’m left feeling like I’ve just gotten back from weeks spent out on a boat in rough seas; I had gotten used to the waves, to the chaos and unpredictability. And now, to be back on solid ground, to no longer be reading Women and Men... well, I don’t really know what to do with myself. I feel almost empty, lost, hesitant to start in on another novel today ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was absolutely elated, having very much wanted to read it for some time, when Dzanc announced it was publishing a new edition (the third, ever) this year of Joseph McElroy's quasi-infamous and presumably seldom-read (or certainly finished) WOMEN AND MEN. But hold the phone. That ain't all. Some time before the book's materialization, Dzanc announced on social media that they were offering for sale a number of copies signed by the author (!). Needless to say, I lept at the opportunity to acquir ...more
Ronald Morton
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Women and men maybe weren’t meant to get along”
I was talking to a co-worker about this book when I was about halfway through, simultaneously praising it and cautioning my co-worker about its difficulty level. The co-worker asks me, “what’s it about?” and I laugh a bit, and trail off, “well, that’s a bit tough to answer…”
It is partly about the close and even microscopic interrelations between women and men, which are always there. Also, the book sees that there are strange similarities betw
I've struggled with what to say about this book. I mean, what could I say that would do justice to this brilliant work of art? I am puny and insignificant in its presence, and others more learned than I have said better. Still, I feel compelled to say something, however trivial, if only to count myself in as an ardent devotee of WOMEN AND MEN.

This is one of only a handful of transformative novels that I am likely to discover in my lifetime of reading [though I can hope for a few more], the kind
Kevin Adams
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a way to spend the July 4th weekend. Finishing one of the great American Novels. Ever. Sorry guys, no watching fireworks. Dad’s finishing his book.

Not much I can say that will be better and more profound than the other McElroyites (???) on GR. It’s amazing. My first McElroy was Actress in the House when released in 2004(?) and then Lookout Cartridge and Women and Men. Care of the NYC public library. Much, much better this time. I’m smarter, more focused and I just loved it this time around.
David M
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A shock near the end:

"It was as if suddenly, looking into the revealed distance, we could think." (pp 1161)

And pray tell what is it that we think when suddenly granted the ability to do so (but then what in this 1192 page tome is really "sudden"?). That, I wager, is precisely not the point. It's not a question of content.

I am reminded (all-too-conveniently, perhaps) of my favorite poet, the great Wallace Stevens. At the start of Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction, apostrophizing his art, "The vivid
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
review of
Joseph McElroy's Women and Men
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2011

I. Actually. FINISHED. Reading. This. Whole. Fucking. Thing. From. Cover. To. Cover. All 1,192pp of it. I don't remember when I started this - maybe in March of 2011 - it took me something like 6 mnths to read it. Where to even start?!

I'd only previously read McElroy's The Letter Left To Me wch I liked just enuf to consider reading something else by him. Then I found 2 bks by him on a dollar table outside a
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best novels I have ever read. It's also one of the most difficult.

McElroy does beautiful and strange things with the English language I have not seen done before, but no matter how dense matters get (and they get very dense in parts) the book is always moved by an amazing generosity - like getting concepts just out of your intellectual reach explained to you by friendly and very patient non-human entities (which actually could go as a plot-summary of sorts.) That said, he is a
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
review In PROGRESS

Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units.E. F. Schumacher


I, inchoate (almost Larry's age in furthest non-Lagrangian thread), of mostly speculative fictional background, discovered JPM through comparison in review now unfortunately lost to me, postmodern literary movement recently isolated; infinite gratitude, anonymous angel. Further inquiry returned presence of novel in v
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've read that McElroy writes like Pynchon, or Gaddis. He doesn't. If he did, people would read him. I don't really know how to succinctly describe his writing, it seems like he's writing some kind of humanist bible for aliens who want to reconstruct a diorama of the fears and aspirations that go into existing in a major metropolitan area.

It's beautiful, but so is a lot of stuff. A lot of fish are beautiful, so are certain types of rocks. Beautiful is not that great. What sets this apart from m
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
as i was coming to the end of women and men, i started thinking about why a book like this -- originally put out in hardcover by knopf, of all publishers -- might be forgotten. not just forgotten, but culturally erased: do even the slightest research and you’ll find that, now out of print, even paperback copies of this book go for a minimum of $100 USD on abebooks. philip roth said shortly before he died that while the medium of the novel may endure as capitalism accelerates, the act of reading ...more
Andrew Sare
Mar 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dalkey-archive
"All people matter or all people are matter"

I'm not one to reread a book, but I admit Women and Men could benefit from rereading. The first read to try to hold on to the storyline over 1,000+ pages with McElroy doing a fair bit to shake you. You build up some theories of what has happened. The second reading might be to test the theory or theories you have developed of the plot, and the third would be to finally just enjoy the form.

In the end everything is more-or-less revealed and I'd say it's
Brent Hayward
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Verging on indecipherable, but mesmerizing and a way to look at people and cities and the machination thereof in ways you never have before. There's nothing that can prepare you for the experience of reading this - except maybe a few tabs of acid. ...more
I just read the synopsis of Woman and Men, and I am in complete awe by it depth and scope, stunned by what the author has apparently achieved with the utmost brilliance! I am VERY interested in this massive tome, I simply MUST read it! Thank you, once again, Aloha!!

Also courtesy of Aloha, in regards to Post-Modernism:

"In short, postmodernism deconstructs everything such that you're forced to take a second look at what you normally take for granted. We're on auto-pilot with our preconceived no
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book is a book is a book, right? Of course not. Women & Men is alive, despite its resemblance to a tombstone. Which ought to remind us not only of the would-be readers it has buried but—better—the should-have-been-better books whose forgettable existence it immures. So before you baulk at the bulk, try to gratefully fathom how much shiterature McElroy has spared you.

I don't have the delusive audacity to believe I could add anything to what The Book itself already says or to what the studious
Jun 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
i might have rated this book higher if i didn't resent it so much. it's not that it is bad exactly, if it were even half the size it is it i would probably think it merely mediocre.

it's easy to see the raptures this book induces in its readers, readers with whom my tastes are largely in line. i waited years for this reprint, its one of the most expensive books i've ever bought, and i spent almost a month reading it. a huge (almost the hugest) difficult (supposedly the most difficult) disappeared
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Bookworm (KCRW): Women and Men by Joseph McElroy Available Again 4 14 Jan 13, 2019 10:35AM  
Women and Men: * Introductions 77 228 Sep 11, 2018 07:19AM  
Best book by Joseph McElroy for beginners. 2 36 May 16, 2018 04:26PM  
Women and Men: Women and Men -- 1987 7 104 Sep 03, 2013 02:43AM  
Women and Men: Stephen M's dissertation 25 96 Mar 05, 2013 05:19PM  

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Joseph McElroy is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights, NY, a neighborhood that features prominently in much of his fiction. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1951 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952–4, and then returned to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1961. As an English instru

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