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Want Not by Jonathan Miles

Want Not

by Jonathan Miles

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187993,738 (3.85)16



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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Enjoyed some of the flashbacks way more than the main timeline, but overall just couldn't get into it. ( )
  encephalical | Apr 9, 2018 |
Just didn't click, try again
  jimifenway | Nov 27, 2016 |
Smart, funny, angry and beautifully written, Want Not uses three interlinked stories to explore waste in all its forms. It's a breathtaking achievement, welding a fierce examination of the mindless way people keep or throw away things (and people), with complex and interesting characters and some propulsive plotting. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
The majority of Jonathan Miles’ second novel, Want Not, is told in three separate stories – a freegan couple dealing with welcoming a third person into their squat; a washed up linguist, attempting to juggle a separation from his wife with his father’s worsening Alzheimer’s disease; and a blended family, made up of a 9/11 widow, the man she married for security and her angst-filled teenage daughter. Natural desire eventually pushes these starkly different characters toward one another, in a surprising conclusion.

As its title suggests, want is the central force of the book, driving the decisions each of Miles’ characters make. Even Micah and Talmadge, the freegan couple pulling bruised produce from dumpsters in New York City, have underlying desires that are picked apart in this dense character study. But those desires are not haphazardly assigned. By the middle of Want Not, the amazing depth at which Miles understands his characters becomes apparent – down to a preferred bathroom stall and carefully plotted childhoods. Miles shares these details not to stretch out the mundane, but to breathe real, vibrant life into his story. And it works. Each player in Want Not’s web feels whole and, as the novel progresses, has a purpose that shows clear.

“At the hard bottom of loneliness, he'd found, there is just a single letter, one bereft of curves and ornament, a short straight line that's capped on both ends as though to stifle growth and blossoming: I. Merely shifting that to We - two letters, one reaching upward and the other sliding sideways - felt sometimes like enough: just the regular presence of another human, not to cure the pain but to blunt it...”

Where other novels of similar structure attempt elaborate schemes to bring their characters together, Jonathan Miles brings his three stories together in a natural, believable way. Both hilariously funny and painfully honest, Want Not captures the best and worst of the human spirit in a thoroughly enjoyable read.

- See more at www.rivercityreading.com ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
Having read "Dear American Airlines" which was the best novel I read last year and communicating with the author directly, I was looking forward to "Want Not". It was a terrific book. Miles can flat out write. His prose is terrific and he is very creative. This is a not a plot driven novel and he has 3 different stories which eventually come together at the end. So many novels are using this format that sometimes I feel the each story is short changed but it worked pretty well here although I would have liked more about one character and less about another but that is the nature of any novel with multiple characters. His theme of waste and excess is portrayed through the lives of a young freegan couple living off the grid, an obese linguistic professor whose wife has left him, and a couple that lives the materialistic life. All of the characters live in the New York area. Miles goes deep into all of the characters so you get an insight into everyone. Ultimately this is story that is about what we should value and the excesses of our society. I read about 50 books a year and an always looking for authors to get excited over. Miles is the real deal. Despite the seriousness of the themes that he writes about he also very clever and funny. Enjoy!! ( )
1 vote nivramkoorb | Mar 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
"...he connects his characters not with narrative but with one overarching theme, loudly hinted at by the book’s title and driven home by three on-the-nose epigraphs just inside the front cover: This is a novel about waste."
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, David Haglund (pay site) (Dec 23, 2013)
"By the end, we get Miles’s message very clearly, and it’s not about recycling. It’s that no one can be thrown away. Not the bond trader. Not the collection agency guy. Not the habitual shopper. Not the squatters, the environmental sinners or any baby brought into such a crowded and flawed world. As terrible as we can be, we belong here and we matter and we might even do some good. This, in the end — and by that I mean the planetary end — might be the most inconvenient truth of all."
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, Dave Eggers (pay site) (Nov 7, 2013)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547352204, Hardcover)

A compulsively readable, deeply human novel that examines our most basic and unquenchable emotion: want.  
With his critically acclaimed first novel, Jonathan Miles was widely praised as a comic genius “after something bigger” (David Ulin, Los Angeles Times) whose fiction was “not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding” (Richard Russo, New York Times Book Review, front cover).

Now, in his much anticipated second novel, Want Not, Miles takes a giant leap forward with this highly inventive and corrosively funny story of our times, a three-pronged tale of human excess that sifts through the detritus of several disparate lives—lost loves, blown chances, countless words and deeds misdirected or misunderstood—all conjoined in their come-hell-or-high-water search for fulfillment.

As the novel opens on Thanksgiving Day, readers are telescoped into three different worlds in various states of disrepair—a young freegan couple living off the grid in New York City; a once-prominent linguist, sacked at midlife by the dissolution of his marriage and his father’s losing battle with Alzheimer’s; and a self-made debt-collecting magnate, whose brute talent for squeezing money out of unlikely places has yielded him a royal existence, trophy wife included.

Want and desire propel these characters forward toward something, anything, more, until their worlds collide, briefly, randomly, yet irrevocably, in a shattering ending that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

With a satirist’s eye and a romantic’s heart, Miles captures the morass and comedy of contemporary life in all its excess. Bold, unblinking, unforgettable in its irony and pathos, Want Not is a wicked, bighearted literary novel that confirms the arrival of a major voice in American fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:38 -0400)

On Thanksgiving Day a freegan couple living off the grid in Manhattan, a once prominent linguist struggling with midlife, and a New Jersey debt-collection magnate with a second chance at getting things right randomly and briefly collide as the weight of their desires ultimately undoes each of them, leaving them to pick up the pieces from what's left behind.… (more)

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