A Nest of Ninnies

A Nest of Ninnies

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Author/Editor: Ashbery, John, and Schuyler, James
Publisher: Dutton
Date: 1969
Binding: Hardcover. 191 p.; 21 cm. First edition.
Condition: USED - Very good. An unmarked copy with tight binding and minimal edge wear.

This extraordinary tour de force of a novel is not quite like any other. Its deadpan humor and precise recording of the way we live now will delight all lovers of social comedy. Only the greatest cartoonists portray modern life in such beautifully off-center terms. The result is shatteringly funny.

The novel, like much of modern painting, doesn't depend for its power on the usual sequence of action but, like a collage, builds character and situation in a series of vivid impressions. Two families, the Bushes and the Bridgewaters, live in a suburb of New York, near a shopping center and a six-lane highway. They move from suburbia to New York to Florida to Europe at the brisk pace of performers in a silent movie. Their conversation has a kind of surreality, as if overheard out of context on a bus. Wherever some of them decide to go, the rest automatically turn up, and it nearly always rains. In Florida they tour the Everglades; in Paris take boat rides on the Seine; in Rome visit the Forum and the Protestant Cemetery; and when they get back home again they take their foreign friends to such local sights as the Walt Whitman Shopping Plaza.

The authors seem to have asked each other what people actually do when they are together. Eating and drinking probably head the list, and they sit down to eat 21 times, masticating their way through meat loaf, cheese fondue, corn dodgers, black-bottom pie, arroz con pollo, lasagna, baked Alaska; they drink on 23 different occasions, everything from eau-de-vie and coffee to Swedish punch and Rabarbaro Zucca. Talking about mutual friends is a close second. They go to movies--mostly old ones. They take cello lessons. They open gift shops. They work in offices, and they sell antiques. They listen to records and read books. They keep cats and dogs. And then finally come the unimportant things like marriage.