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Starting Out in the Evening

3.5  ·  Rating details ·  1,049 Ratings  ·  181 Reviews
Leonard Schiller, an Upper West Side writer of some repute and a relic of The New York Intellectual scene, is courted in the twilight of his life by Heather, a young, ambitious, graduate student from Brown who wants to writer her master's thesis on Schiller's novels. Meanwhile, Schiller's daughter, Ariel, an aerobics instructor, who Heather views as "another boring forty-y ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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May 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Morton's most recent book Florence Gordon more than this. When I think of that book, I picture it in color, and this one I think about in black and white. That's the best way I can describe it. I found the people in this book less likeable; many of them being the kind of nakedly ambitious literary people I can't stand (full disclosure: I once one of these people, albeit not as talented :)).

To continue the comparison of these books...superficially, Leonard Schiller is similar to Florenc
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yulia by: Sherry Keller
This thoughtful and intelligent novel presents us with three individuals at different points in their lives: the first, Leonard Schiller, a 71-year-old author who, after two heart operations, knows he is close to death but is still determined to finish his last novel, even as his four previous works have gone out of print; the second, his 39-year-old daughter, Ariel, a dancer who has become an exercise instructor and is hoping to find fulfillment in becoming a parent finally; the third, Heather ...more
Pamela Pickering
3 Stars, but just barely
This is a hard book to rate. There were several times when I just wanted to abandon it but then it just didn't quite put me off too much. But at other times I just felt very turned off as with one statement, "When he stood, he looked at his gray, fat penis, a smoked out stub of an antique cigar." Now why do I need to know that? I suppose if I were a man I would understand a little bit more of this fascination with a certain anatomical part but I'm not a man, I'm a woman.
Betsy Robinson
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like the last Brian Morton book, Florence Gordon , that I read, this one takes place in my Upper Westside of Manhattan neighborhood, but even more personally, it inhabits the neighborhood of anybody who is aging—stunned by how fast time has gone, the changes to their body, the shift in their taste, and plagued by the question, "if what you offer the world isn’t needed, then why continue to bring it your offerings?" Since I'm a writer, and the story exposes a real writer's real mundane life, I w ...more
Anna Rohleder
Jan 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
As a writer, Morton has a lot of good and useful things to say about the "craft" of writing, so called, particularly where he characterizes it less as the glamorous or noble calling that it is made out to be and more as the bizarre compulsion it actually is.

As a writer, he has a certain amount in common with the protaganist of this book, Leonard Schiller. Where Schiller is tiring and pedantic, so is Morton. Often the narrative seems to lurch forward rather than flow, braked repeatedly by sentenc
Nov 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brian Morton's book is a gem. The characters, though flawed, are well drawn. (Ariel was the exception. She seemed a bit of a loopy stereotype.) Most of the action of this book takes place on the human interior, a place Morton has clearly explored, since the reflections are dead-on. He raises questions about art and life and what gives meaning to both. And he offers an array of answers, always with compassion. Morton's writing never gets in the way of his ideas, but it can be memorable, too. Ther ...more
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic-setting
Almost pitch perfect. A fine, well-balanced portrait of an aging writer, his daughter, friends, and a young brash woman who has been influenced by his work and wants to write her thesis on him. I read it for pacing, and for character development.

The male characters, especially the writer, Leonard, are fully developed. I felt that the two main women, the daughter Ariel and the student Heather, were not as clear, perhaps because as a reader I never inhabited their physical bodies the way I did wi
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love a good character-driven novel and Morton's recently-released Florence Gordon is among the best I've read. After finishing that unexpected gem (a 5-star read and favorite of 2014) I dove straight into his backlist, selecting this 1998 title because it was on my library's shelf. Once again I found an introspective, intelligent novel, a slow unfolding of characters, and beautiful writing.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joy H.
Added 4/13/2009
_Starting Out In the Evening_ by Brian Morton (first published 1997)

NOTE (9/2/11): The GR Constant Reader Group has invited the author of this book, Brian Morton, to have dinner with the CR group at their October-2011 Convention in NYC. See the following thread:
According to a post at the group, the date and place are:
Sunday, 10/16/11, dinner with Brian Morton: Rosa Mexicano at Lincoln Center (6:30-9 PM)
For confirmation, see the following th
Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The nutshell: An enthusiastic grad student (Heather) chooses to write her thesis on an aging author (Schiller) whose books have gone largely unrecognized. They strike up a tenuous and tender sort of friendship, at times almost romantic and at others far from it. Schiller's daughter, Ariel, is a focal point as well, with her childlike relationship with her father and her efforts to balance finding a partner she can potentially tolerate long-term with her desperate desire to have a child before sh ...more
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A touching story of an aging author (Leonard Schiller) and the young graduate student, Heather Wolfe, who chooses to write her thesis about Schiller's works. Heather is drawn to Schiller based on her association with the characters and themes of his first two books; however, as their relationship develops, Heather is perplexed by how seeminlgy different Leonard's ordinary life is from his characters. As the story develops, Leonard is faced with feelings of infatuation with a much younger woman w ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those novels that I appreciated more than enjoyed, one that left me with decidedly mixed feelings about the characters. It took me a long while to warm up to any of them, though by the conclusion I was more sympathetic to at least two out of the three protagonists. For these two, serious challenges brought out hidden strengths, while the third continued throughout to bask in her own ego. On the whole, though, not so enjoyable.

At the same time, I feel Morton may well have been dis
Ginger Bensman
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I read Brian Morton’s novel, Florence Gordon, and enjoyed it so much I went in search of another. Morton writes compelling prose and he is a master of character development. Starting Out in the Evening focuses on three characters at pivotal points in their lives: seventy-one year-old Leonard Schiller—a widowed writer who is overweight and suffering from a heart condition, his thirty-nine year-old daughter, Ariel—a dancer with a free spirit, and Heather Wolfe—a 24-year-old graduate student who is ...more
Alex Templeton
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read the book! See the movie!

Brian was my don at Sarah Lawrence, and this is quite possibly his best book. (It's between this and "Breakable You", his latest, IMHO.) I would think this novel was amazing even if I didn't know him. This is my third time reading it. At 16 (when it was first published and I first read it), I didn't like it. I thought the characters were weird and crazy. At 19, when I reread it, I was floored, much better understanding the central relationship of admiring young write
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure why this book spoke to me so much. Maybe because the main character is 71-years old, and I'm about to turn 70. At any rate, this isn't a plot-driven book...more of an exploration the internal musings of a man with work still to do at the end of his life, his reflections on his very happy marriage to a wife who died some years before, and his loving relationship with his somewhat eccentric 39-year-old daughter. Add to this a rather brash young student doing a master's thesis on the autho ...more
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first saw the movie and from the story knew I had to read the book. I was taken in when Schiller visits his friend Levin in hospital where they discuss authors such as Henry James, Saul Bellows... I was hooked. Brian Morton wrote so poignantly of Schiller's relationships, the friendships he had with his (mainly) dying friends, his daughter and, of course, Heather, the young woman who has come, in a sense, to save him. Ah, the circle of life; the energy and vitality of the young, the mid-life a ...more
Mary Gardner
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: reading list
This novel is absolutely beautiful. The interplay among novelist Leonard Schiller, his daughter, and his admirer, Heather rings so true. What really got me though, was his reflections on what it means to be a writer for his entire life, the rewards and the sacrifices. I'm now anxious to see the film, with Frank Langella and Lili Taylor.

It's interesting that my to-read list, which dates back as far as 1998, is being beat out by screen versions of these 10-year old books (e.g. About a Boy, The Co
Feb 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Given the amount of time I spent complaining about this book to anyone that would listen, anything greater than one star would be too generous.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is more understanding of our inner lives on one page of this book than in the length of most books. It's a mix of minutia and the largest philosophical questions. Isn't that life? This a novel with short chapters and simple clear prose. I just moved through it with pleasure. There are three major characters: the aging novelist whose books are out of print, his child-like but very sweet daughter, and the graduate student who is writing a master's thesis on his works. She asks for a meeting, ...more
Shankia Monique Tinsley
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
After seeing the movie--which was beautiful but watching it totally ruined the story for me--I was itching to get my hands on the book! I kid you not when I say I didn't want to put this one down! I read rather slow, so it took me like a week and a half to get through it, but that's the point; usually books take me weeks and even months to get through, either because I lose interest or I'm just too tired; with Starting Out in the Evening--not so. With the nature of the story being what it is, I ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why is it that lovers of fine literature seem to be as fascinated with the authors of that literature as they are with the authors’ works themselves? I think of how enthralled I and many other people have been with the details of the lives of Hemingway, Fiztgerald, Henry James, George Sand and numerous others. Starting Out in the Evening is a novel, i.e. a fictional story that follows the twilight years of a fictional
novelist, Leonard Schiller, a New York Jewish intellectual of the 1960s and 197
Mary Wilt
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this title in some list of overlooked but recommended books, and having loved Florence Gordon, gave it a try. This is a thoughtful and lovely look at life at different ages, about finding purpose and reason and yes, love. Also Morton has a great ability to help the reader inhabit the physical world of his characters, an almost visual sense of their milieu. There are small sections of the book that feel a little pretentious at the beginning--especially describing the young grad student. D ...more
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I wander around in the stacks of my local public library, I often pause at the books of favorite authors from my past reading, remembering how much I enjoyed them at a certain time in my life, and wondering if anyone is still reading them. What happens to the work of all these writers who made contributions to social/political criticism, a particular genre, inspiring people at various stages of their lives, and now may be almost forgotten?

Enter our protagonist, Leonard Schiller, a member of
Henry Webb
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often when you're reading a book a friend will ask you what it's about and you're expected to deliver in one short sentence the whole kit and caboodle, hundreds of pages, dozens of chapters. It's going to be a misleading statement at best. For example, you could say with some truth that Brian Morton's "Starting Out in the Evening" is about the seduction and abandonment of an old, frail writer, Leonard Schiller, by Heather Wolfe, a twenty-four year old graduate student. True, but not true enough. ...more
Sheela Word
Netflix persuaded me to watch the movie of “Starting Out in the Evening,” which, aside from Frank Langella’s beautiful, nuanced performance, I didn’t like: it felt turgid and trite, and the characters’ motivations were often opaque. I had a hunch that I might like the book better, and I do. It’s my favorite kind of story: entertaining and easy to read, yet multi-layered and memorable. It’s about the interactions among four characters: an elderly writer, his middle-aged daughter, a young female g ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my kind of book but it did a great job in disturbing me. When a book disturbed me on a personal level, I must say it is a good one.
I really hated to give this book less than an average rating but it disappointed me. I usually enjoy the romance that Morton portrays in his other books but this one fell flat in some areas.Leonard Schiller is a writer that has the gift to connect to readers with his writing, despite his old age, he will always be remembered as a treasured writer. Mainly by Heather who loves his writing, she seeks out to find him, while writing a thesis on his writing,but s he surprises herself when she develops ...more
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Some touching descriptions of interactions between the main character, an author in his 70s who only published four books, none of which did very well, and his daughter, a dance/exercise instructor in her 40s, had a ring of authenticity to them. The daughter's rekindling relationship with an old lover was sometimes interesting and sometimes just annoying - the fundamental differences of goals and desires that were the reason didn't work out the first time didn't just magically resolve! What a su ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

BRIAN MORTON is the author of four previous novels, including Starting Out in the Evening, which was a Salon favorite book of the year and was made into an acclaimed feature film, and A Window Across the River, which was a Book Club selection on the Today show. He is the dir
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“The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories.” 6 likes
“ artist doesn't really need a great deal of experience. One heartbreak can produce many novels. But you have to have a heart that can break.” 5 likes
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