To Be a Man
In a dazzling collection of stories, the New York Times–bestselling author of The History of Love, National Book Award finalist Nicole Krauss, explores what it means to be in that most perplexing of partnerships: a couple.
In one of her strongest books of fiction, Nicole Krauss plunges fearlessly into the confusion of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman that has existed from the very beginning in all Western myths that inform our culture. Set in contemporary times in Switzerland New York, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and South America, these stories open a window onto young women’s coming of age and their newfound, somewhat mysterious sexual power, as well as the opportunities and dangers it presents (“Switzerland”). In a Los Angeles of terrible wildfires, a high school student, distressed by her divorcing parents and determined to assert her agency in the intoxicating freedom of a dangerous environment, forges an original and surprising sexual path (“End Days”). Men play a key role in all these stories as fathers, lovers, friends, children, seducers—even as a husband who is not a husband (“The Husband”).
The stories mirror one another and resonate beautifully with a balance so finely tuned that the book almost feels like a novel: aging parents and newborn babies; generation gaps and unexpected deliveries of strange new leases on life; mystery and wonder at a life lived or one still to come. The two stories that bookend the collection, “Switzerland” and “To Be a Man,” perfectly introduce and play out the author’s major themes: sex and violence, men and women, coming of age and growing older.