Monday, August 7, 2017

{U.S. Giveaway} EASTMAN WAS HERE by Alex Gilvarry

Summary from Goodreads:

An ambitious new novel set in the literary world of 1970s New York, following a washed-up writer in an errant quest to pick up the pieces of his life.

The year is 1973, and Alan Eastman, a public intellectual, accidental cultural critic, washed-up war journalist, husband, and philanderer; finds himself alone on the floor of his study in an existential crisis. His wife has taken their kids and left him to live with her mother in New Jersey, and his best work feels as though it is years behind him. In the depths of despair, he receives an unexpected and unwelcome phone call from his old rival dating back to his days on the Harvard college newspaper, offering him the chance to go to Vietnam to write the definitive account of the end of America's longest war. Seeing his opportunity to regain his wife s love and admiration while reclaiming his former literary glory, he sets out for Vietnam. But instead of the return to form as a pioneering war correspondent that he had hoped for, he finds himself grappling with the same problems he thought he'd left back in New York.

Following his widely acclaimed debut, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, Alex Gilvarry employs the same thoughtful, yet dark sense of humor in Eastman Was Here to capture one irredeemable man's search for meaning in the face of advancing age, fading love, and a rapidly-changing world.

ISBN #: 9781101981504
Viking Release Date: August 22, 2017
Price: $27.00
Also available as an e-book
For more information visit or

About the Author:

Alex Gilvarry is the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, winner of the Hornblower Award for a First Book, named Best New Voice 2012 by Bookspan.  He has received fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center and the Norman Mailer Center. He is a professor at Monmouth University where he teaches fiction.

Giveaway Info:

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end on Sunday, August 20th. TWO winners will be chosen and contacted for their mailing address. Winners will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen in their place.

Good Luck!!!

Q&A with Alex Gilvarry

Q: EASTMAN WAS HERE, your second novel, follows Alan Eastman—a washed-up writer, public intellectual, cultural critic, and philander—whose marriage has just fallen apart. In part to win back his wife and to revive his writing career, he sets off to Saigon to cover the end of the Vietnam War. What was the impetus for writing this particular story?

A: I was reading Norman Mailer a lot because I was invited to his house in Provincetown for the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony. Before going, all I knew about Mailer was that he liked to battle feminists on television and that he once wrote a very problematic essay I read in college called “The White Negro.” Doesn’t the title alone just make you shiver? So I started reading him to do my homework. The Armies of the Night (very good), The Executioner’s Song (twice as long as it needs to be, but good), An American Dream (just awful), The Prisoner of Sex (embarrassingly bad), and Harlot’s Ghost (gave me tennis elbow). It was very hard to find the sympathetic Mailer, but I was entertained by his transparent feelings in his work. Just counting all the phallic imagery he uses can entertain you for one summer. Machismo, envy, homophobia, sexism—he couldn’t mask anything, and because of the era, why would he?!

In one of his biographies I found a very interesting tidbit that stuck with me. That the New York Herald Tribune wanted to send Mailer to Vietnam in order to write dispatches on the ground war. The deal never happened, supposedly because the Herald’s owner didn’t like his out-spoken attitude against the war. I imagined Mailer would have turned his dispatches, had he written them, into a book, like he did with so much of his journalism.

What would that book have been like? I wondered. Perhaps it’s a book that’s supposed to be about Vietnam, but then it turns out to be all about its author and his love life. I was going through a really bad break up when I was thinking about this book and I had my own crazy feelings that I needed to purge. So that’s how Alan Eastman was born.

Q: The author Liz Moore described EASTMAN WAS HERE as a “wry throwback of a novel that… [is] in the tradition of satirists like Kurt Vonnegut.” Your first novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, was also told through satire. What in particular draws you to this method of storytelling? 

A: My heroes were Woody Allen and Steve Martin. Then later Gary Shteyngart and Mordecai Richler. Donald Barthelme, too, a great satirist. You are what you eat. But what draws me is the emotional state humor, and laughter, can place you in. Especially in the written form. You are somewhat vulnerable after laughing. Therefore couldn’t I break your heart, next?

Q: Eastman has self-aggrandizing and self-crippling notions of masculinity. Can you describe what it was like to channel such a misogynistic protagonist?

A: Well, a misogynist can never be funny, himself. Nor does he deserve to be considered interesting. The humor comes out of watching his ignorance and blindness. He is a fool. We are laughing at him, not with. And to see the fool through a certain lens, going about his life, thinking of himself as a great lover and thinker of his time, I found this to be compelling, and a way to showcase a certain truth about an era. Certainly the truth of gender discrimination. In the book, Eastman lectures a central character, Anne Channing, a war journalist, on masculine writing versus feminine writing. And on how women are perceived as writers, through the male gaze of a Man author. Or as Mailer would put it, a “major” writer, which always meant male. And I find this attitude still exists in our readership and book buying practices. I found certain prejudices in my own reading habits. This is a point made much better by Siri Hustvedt in her essay “No Competition” from A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women. I’m not going to mansplain what women have known for ages. Read Siri’s essay.

Q: The female characters in the novel are arguably more successful, more driven, and certainly more emotionally mature than Eastman, exposing and threatening his hypermasculinity. In this way, your novel is a nod to feminism and just one of the ways you puncture some of the romantic illusions still attached to the 60s and 70s. Can you elaborate on the role female characters play in EASTMAN WAS HERE?

A: I found that some of the best writing on the Vietnam War was done by women, particularly Gloria Emerson and her book Winners & Losers. A must read. It won the National Book Award in 1978. It was Emerson who I had in mind when I was creating the character of Anne Channing in the novel. I wanted to place Eastman up against great female characters, who are very strong and together, and Eastman can’t always see this about them because he’s too busy reducing them to sexual objects. But I do this on purpose to show just how ridiculous he is, and men of his kind. And the women in his life do threaten him in a variety of ways. Professionally, personally, romantically. Feminism was such an integral part of this era, and men, like Eastman, were very threatened by it.

Q: Even though the novel takes place in 1973, it feels completely relevant and in tune with what’s happening in today’s tumultuous cultural and social landscapes. Let’s face it, America elected a man who sounds less presidential and more like Alan Eastman every day. While writing EASTMAN WAS HERE, were you consciously thinking of what was happening in this country?

A: Not so much with the election. I set the action at the end of the Vietnam War, where America is withdrawing from an occupation. So I was very much thinking of the end of our presence in Iraq. But why Vietnam when there are so many books about it? That answer is more subliminal. My father was in the Vietnam War and stationed at Than Son Nhut airbase. Yet he’s a very anti-war individual, an intelligent man when it comes to world conflict. I grew up with his stories and like many boys of my generation, a desperate need to please him. Maybe that’s why I engage with this stuff.

Writing, I thought about how Vietnam very much shifted into Cambodia with US involvement and the Khmer Rouge, just as the focus in Iraq has now shifted into Syria with ISIS. I hoped I would learn something from these parallels. The results have been costly and disastrous now, just as they were then. But this is only the social milieu, the backdrop, for what is essentially a love story set in two cities. New York and Saigon. Nothing blows up in this book. Eastman barely leaves his hotel, the Continental, that mysterious place where Graham Greene stayed and all the war correspondents in Vietnam after him.

Q: In the book, you simultaneously celebrate and dismantle the romance attached to the 1970s New York and its literary lions, like Mailer, Roth, Bellow, and their kin. In your opinion, how should we evaluate the legacy of those writers?

A: Man, I love this period. New York still had Book Row and Elaine’s and Paris Review parties at George Plimpton’s house. Book deals were made at parties. Books were sexy, and had plenty of sex in them. You know what else was sexy? The Upper East Side. Go figure. I think the writers you mention have all said regrettable things or have had periods of scandal, and they all lived to publish another book, win a Pulitzer or National Book Award, no matter how bad their behavior got, personally or publicly. Of course things turned out fine for them—they were men! I address this very issue in the novel when Eastman meets Anne Channing, a real war reporter, good at her job, better than him in every way. She makes him face all of this male ugliness. But the book isn’t a reprimand or a chastising of WMNs (“White Male Narcissists” to quote David Foster Wallace). It’s a love story.

Q: When authors like Mailer, Bellow, or Gore Vidal were at the height of their popularity, they were not only writers, but public intellectuals, constantly debating the day’s issues—Vietnam, civil rights, etc.—on TV and through op-eds. For better or worse, we don’t really have an author today quite like Mailer. As an author, do you feel you have a responsibility to take up profound social issues? Should authors be more publicly outspoken?

A: I think I have a responsibility to capture the time I live in, and many of our novelists take up social issues. If there’s something that bothers me, like Guantanamo Bay remaining open, I write about it. Sure, I wish some of our major novelists would dig in a little more and get dirty. However, Mailer and Vidal and Mary McCarthy and Susan Sontag weren’t only novelists, they also wrote compelling non-fiction, reportage, social criticism. It was during a time when magazines would send writers, sometimes novelists, into dangerous places like Vietnam. Mary McCarthy went to Vietnam for the New York Review of Books. James Jones reported on it for the New York Times Magazine. What they wrote made them public intellectuals of a certain kind, first. Then came television. And it wasn’t always very successful. Just take a look on YouTube at Mailer’s appearance with Gore Vidal on the Dick Cavett show. It was a disaster!

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