Forrest Gander

2019 Pulitzer Prize

As a Friend, Reviewed by Publishers Weekly/ Powell's Blog

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Publisher Comments:
"Heroism is a secondary virtue," Albert Camus noted, "but friendship is primary." In his gem-like first novel, Forrest Gander writes of friendship, envy, and eros as a harmonic of charged overtones. Set in a rural southern landscape as vivid as its indelible characters, As a Friend tells the story of Les, a gifted man and land surveyor, whose impact on those around him (his friend Clay, his girlfriend Sarah) provokes intense self-examination and an atmosphere of dangerous eroticism. With poetic insight, Gander explores the nature of attraction, betrayal, and loyalty. What he achieves is brilliant in style and powerfully unsettling.


"An adoring friendship turns deadly in poet and translator Gander's visceral if too brief first novel. Les is the magnetic, godlike protagonist of this reflective four-part narrative: introduced at the time of his difficult birth to a teenage mother, he is put up for adoption. Years later, he is observed by Clay, a colleague on his land-surveying team in a small town in Arkansas, who finds his friend's mannerisms and dissembling so compelling that he apes Les and eventually betrays him. Les, a part-time poet and practical joker, is beloved for his eccentricities, especially by his second wife, Cora, and mistress, Sarah, whose poetic remembrances of Les after his suicide make up the novel's third section and reveal hopelessly guilt-ridden Sarah to be angry, grieving for her tender, quirky lover. Gander's passionate construction of Les reveals a character deeply conflicted, comprising enormous virtue and many flaws, though in the end the work remains piecemeal and incomplete, though nicely done." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

An unforgettable, sensual novel by "one of the most gifted and accomplished poets of his generation" (Mark Rudman).

About the Author
Forrest Gander(b.1956) grew up in Virginia. He is the author of six books of poetry, articles of literary criticism, and numerous translations. He has received The Whiting Award, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Writing, a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship, and the Jessica Nobel Maxwell Memorial Prize. He is Director of the Graduate Program in Literary Arts at Brown University, where he also teaches Comparative Literature.