P: A Novel by Andrew Lewis Conn
$15 | 372 pp | 6 x 9 Trade Paper Original Fiction
P tells the story of Benjamin Seymour, a failed pornographer obsessed with his lost love, and Finn, a ten-year-old runaway girl genius. Separately and then together, they wander through New York City, searching for home and family. Most of their story takes place over the course of a single day, and the novel telescopes out from Benji and Finn’s quest to embrace a wide variety of characters and themes. Their perambulations are matched by their journeys inward into consciousness and the very nature of language and storytelling itself.
Formally, P is an ambitious and risk-taking first effort. Conn has written one chapter in the form of newspaper headlines and articles, composed another of thirteen vignettes that follow major and minor characters around the city, cobbled one from a series of questions and answers, allowed one to flow in a stream of consciousness monologue sans punctuation, and created one chapter—the center of the book and its climax—in the form of a full-length screenplay.
P is at once profane and sacred, scabrous and lyrical, pop and academic, raunchy and romantic. The novel is of our cultural moment while also tied to a literary tradition that includes Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth (writers from whom he’s learned a great deal), and on down to Conn's contemporary Jonathan Safran Foer. P is a heartbreaking work, formally ambitious and imaginatively adventurous, from a superb young author writing in a major key.
Born in Brooklyn in 1973, Andrew Lewis Conn has contributed film criticism to Film Comment and Time Out New York. He is a graduate of Cornell University.
Soft Skull Press will be sending the author on a twelve-city tour, including New York, Boston, Amherst, New Haven, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Atlanta, Austin, San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles at Book Expo America. For more information or to schedule an author appearance or interview, please contact Shanna Compton.
Great Reviews for P by Andrew Lewis Conn
From Time Out New York—A summer reading pick!:
June 26, 2003
If Andrew Lewis Conn's impressive debut novel were a film, you would find it in the cult section of the video store, alongside those tricky narrative oddities you're genetically wired to either love or loathe---often, a little of both at once. P follows the peregrinations of Benji, a pudgy 33-year-old ex-porn star and failed pornographer, and Finn, a supersmart, doobie-smoking, Nietzche-reading nine-year-old runaway, as their paths sporadically intersect on the streets of New York one day in 1996. Benji is haunted by memories of his dead lover, Penelope, and of how the couple was seduced, worn down and ultimately burned out by blue movies. Finn, the daughter of a divorced showbiz-lawyer mom, feels like a prisoner in her claustrophobic Upper East Side world. Both search for something that feels like a real home and real human contact.
Their tale's innovative form is in good part a manipulation of Joyce's Ulysses with a Nabokovian-Pynchonesque backbeat. P begins, for instance, on June 16 (i.e., Bloomsday), flirts with stream-of-consciousness and embraces linguistic sportiness. One chapter is governed by headlines, another is shaped around a catechistic series of questions and answers, and a third mimics a screenplay set in a psychedelic night town. Sometimes, such self-conscious pyrotechnics carry the whiff of the undergraduate classroom; they can seem forced and inflated, more willing to imitate than transform the source material in imaginatively liberating ways.
But none of that matters much in the end. Conn's technical talent, handle on smut arcana, insight, and strong sense of character and place make P a sharp, funny, punny, moving, avant-pop love song, whose heart understands "that every human relationship is, finally, a story of loss."
Also from Time Out New York (Summer Reading Issue):
June 19, 2003
“Lab Brats : Experimental First Novels”
P by Andrew Lewis Conn (Soft Skull Press) Conn is fast becoming the toast of the underground, thanks to this racy, ambitious first novel. Benjamin Seymour is a lovesick pornographer who spends a day wandering the streets of NY, accompanied by a brainy nine-year old girl. With echoes of James Joyce and Philip Roth, P strives to be at once tender and filthy, experimental and reader-friendly.
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