three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-ChangedManWhat does it mean to do good in today’s confusing political and social landscape? That question lies at the heart of this comic novel about white supremacist Vincent Nolan, 32, who joins forces with the liberal World Brotherhood Watch to make amends for his past racism and misdeeds. The committed but vain Holocaust survivor Meyer Maslow sees in Vincent an example of the personal transformation that can save the world (and not incidentally, raise the WBW’s profile). On the run from his former Aryan group, Vincent not only encounters the glitz and foibles of the New York philanthropy set, but also involves himself with a divorced fundraiser whose kids view him as an unlikely father figure. Can he truly change?
HarperCollins. 432 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0060196742

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"… the author delivers a well-crafted, ironic, and insightful tale of the darker side of human nature, examining the struggles inherent in the moral ambiguities of our age. Prose argues effectively that nature and nurture are inextricable and that change is a form of magic for which there is always a price." Victoria A. Brownworth

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"Prose lovingly satirizes the world of wealthy New Yorkers. … This book has it all: great characters, dark humor, a racing plot and important themes." Laurie Muchnick

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"… awash in evil glee. … Not a lot actually happens in A Changed Man. Its main events are social gatherings, perceptively sliced and diced in ways that bring Tom Wolfe to mind." Janet Maslin

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The internal narration and the dialogues and interaction of the three characters … allow this novel to occupy a no-man’s-land between farce and tragedy. … A Changed Man has a comprehensible scope, with attractive characters well wrought in precise prose, and it carries that weight well." Robert Birnbaum

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"[This book] has the unmistakable feel of an exercise—an accomplished, expertly plotted exercise, but an exercise nonetheless. It may be timely and clever, but it lacks the staying power of some of Prose’s richly imagined earlier works …"
Julia Livshin

Plain Dealer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"In A Changed Man, the author questions whether anyone, even those dedicated to human rights, can operate without self-interest. … [The novel] goes on too long, and Prose has a penchant for recapping plot and belaboring insignificant points." Tricia Springstubb

Washington Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"While the brisk and sometimes amusing soliloquies of self-doubt make A Changed Man a readable entertainment, they often telegraph what’s to come, and, what’s worse, conspire to put the entire plot in the inconsequential real of middle-class neurosis." Blake Eskin

Critical Summary

Critical opinion varied widely on this latest novel by veteran Prose, who has written 11 novels as well as many nonfiction books. Champions found it filled with biting wit and hilarious episodes pitting the drifter skinhead against the entrenched upper classes, which added up to an entertaining examination of important contemporary issues. Detractors found the plot too static and reliant on caricature, didn’t believe in or care about Vincent’s transformation, and thought the ending predictable. Reading an excerpt of this novel in your favorite bookstore or online may be the best way to see if the concept and tone of A Changed Man carries you away or leaves you cold.

Also by the Author

Blue Angel (2000): Award Star National Book Award nominee. Prose satirizes the world of creative writing programs, academia, sexual harassment policies, and political correctness in a wicked tale about a blocked, worn-out writing teacher brought back to life temporarily by a gifted new student.