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BOOKS: JUST CONNECT

2 minute read
Martha Duffy

IN THE MAN OF THE HOUSE (SIMON & Schuster; 287 pages; $22), Stephen McCauley’s third novel, a friend tells Clyde, the narrator, “No one cares about novels anymore. No one wants to wade through the obfuscations of fiction. Just pump out all the filthy facts, toss in a chapter on rehab and wrap it up.”

Thank heaven no one has let McCauley’s publisher in on this nearly accurate bit of cynicism. There aren’t any filthy facts here, no trite wrap-ups–just funny, sustaining fiction. The only resemblance between McCauley’s writing and rehab is that you can just check in. Such are the author’s fluency and humor (“Nothing is more intimate than the right kind of insult”) that the reader can ramble along, smelling the roses.

Clyde is a youngish man who teaches at an adult-education center in Cambridge, Massachusetts–courses like Love and Marriage, Horse and Carriage: Relationship Issues in Some 19th Century Novels. Clyde is gay, and his life is on hold because he cannot face the loss of his lover or cope with his cranky father or settle into the teaching business.

Yet almost against his will, Clyde is a good egg–to his father, to his straight roommate, to his brittle, plucky sister and especially to a lonely boy named Ben and his dog Otis, another creature whose life is on hold. In the end there are resolutions, but the reader may want to postpone them. McCauley’s particular skill lies in his grasp of the bonds that link straights and gays in the maze of life’s daily dealings. There sexual preference counts a lot less than goodwill and a hardy knack for survival.

–By Martha Duffy

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