Q: A Novel
Q: A Novel
Shortly before his wedding, the unnamed hero of this uncommon romance is visited by a man, claiming to be his future self, who ominously admonishes the protagonist that he must not marry the love of his life, Q. The author doubts this stranger, but in time becomes convinced of his authenticity and leaves his fiancée. The resulting void in his life is impossible to fill. One after the other, future selves arrive urging him to marry someone else, divorce, attend law school, leave law school, travel, join a running club, stop running, study the guitar, the cello, Proust, Buddhism, opera, and eliminate gluten from his diet. The only constants in this madcap quest for personal improvement are the author’s love for his New York City home and for his beloved Q. Q turns the classic story of transcendent love on its head, with an ending that will melt even the darkest heart.
Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“Just as the narrator of this delightful New York-infused novel is about to marry the woman he loves, his future self shows up, warning him that the couple will end up having a child whose early death will ruin them. And so the younger self is persuaded to leave his fiancée, known as Q, to avoid such an awful fate. With each new path the narrator chooses, an older self travels back in time to offer a glimpse of what’s to come. They invariably counsel him against making the same mistakes and suggest different directions: Marry any warm body so you don’t wind up alone like me. You will be a failure as a writer, so try law instead. And on and on. He follows all of the advice (it is, after all, his own), jockeying from destiny to destiny. Nothing, of course, works without Q. This drill gets a little old, but the payoff is big. A word to the tear prone: Don’t attempt to read the ending in public.”
Stephanie Turza, Booklist
“Mandery’s protagonist, an assistant professor with a historical novel in the works, is deeply and completely smitten with Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, called Q. He and Q embark on a fantastically happy, quintessentially Manhattan relationship, complete with miniature-golfing dates, the occasional matinee, and trips to the Union Square Farmer’s Market. Plans for a wedding have begun to take shape, until an unexpected visitor with some bewildering news casts serious doubt on the next chapter of their lives. Forced to reevaluate his intended path to future happiness, the professor turns to the unreliable visitor for some equally unreliable guidance. Mandery manages to turn a fairly implausible premise into a deeply funny, seriously smart novel, at times both romantic and pragmatic. Fans of Mark Kurlansky and Matthew Norman will appreciate Mandery’s eloquently witty authorial voice, which shines in his narration of the professor’s unlikely predicament. A slightly twisted ending only amplifies the intrinsic charm of this noteworthy, genuinely enjoyable novel. Q is a remarkably refreshing work, full of energy and eminently absorbing.”
Joseph Skibell, author of A Curable Romantic
“Mandery is a worthy son of Vonnegut, Barthelme, and Barth.”
M.J. Rose, author of The Hypnotist
“A philosophical, witty, wonderful, and altogether magical love story.”
Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of the Naked Swim Parties
“Q caught me by surprise; I’ve never read anything like it! It is a smart, funny, mind-bending book that surprised me all the way to the end. It’s utterly original and totally unforgettable.”
Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, is the love of my life. At the time of my arrival, we are far along in the preparations for our wedding. All of the major preliminaries have been arranged – the reception hall, the choice of entrée, the entertainment. The vows have been written, compromises struck on how present God shall be and which God to choose. The honeymoon shall be in Barcelona with a side trip to Pamplona for the running. Only trifling matters remain such as coordinating the flowers for the centerpieces with the boutonnières of the groomsmen and the music to be played at the reception.
The wedding is to be held in Lenox, Massachusetts. The Deverils are New Yorkers thru and thru – lifelong Manhattanites – but they have summered for the entirety of Q’s existence at a home on the Stockbridge Bowl, in the heart of the Berkshires with the appropriate subscriptions to Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow. We are to be married at the inn where John and Joan Deveril stayed on their first visit to the Berkshires more than twenty-five years ago. It is intimated at a celebration-of-the-engagement dinner that this is the inn in which Q was conceived. Lenox is neither Q’s nor my first choice; all of our friends are New Yorkers and we would prefer, all things being equal, to have a city wedding. But John Deveril is a powerful and obstinate man. His construction company is the eighth largest in the country, responsible for two of the ten tallest buildings in Manhattan. More relevantly, Q is utterly devoted to John, and he is quite wed (pardon) to the idea of a Berkshires marriage. He thinks it will lend symmetry to his daughter’s life. All things considered, it seems best to let him have his way. I joke to Q that we should arrange funeral plots for ourselves in Great Barrington. She finds this quite funny.
Mr. Deveril’s mulishness is nowhere more evident than in the discussion of the music to be played at the wedding. A swing band will provide the bulk of the entertainment, but a DJ is retained to entertain during the band’s rest breaks and to offer something for the younger set.
Mr. Deveril prepares an extensive array of directives for the disc jockey. These guidelines, seventeen pages in all, contain a small set of favored songs, including the Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup,” the Mysterians’ “Ninety-Six Tears” and anything by Jerry Lewis; a list of disfavored songs, which includes anything by anyone whose sexuality is ambiguous or otherwise in question – thus ruling out Elton John, David Bowie and Prince (despite my argument that the secondary premise is faulty), any music by any artist who has ever broadcast an anti-patriotic message – thereby excluding Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and (to my great dismay) Green Day, and any song written between the years 1980 and 1992; and a final list of songs, appended as “Attachment A” to the personal services contract between the DJ and the Deverils, the playing of any of which results in irrevocable termination of the agreement and triggers a legal claim for damages by the Deverils against the disc jockey, said damages liquidated in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars. For further emphasis, as if any were required, at the top of Appendix A, Mr. Deveril handwrites the following: “Play these songs and die.” The list includes the Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, and anything by Madonna and Fleetwood Mac.
I happen to like Fleetwood Mac. Mr. Deveril has nothing against Fleetwood Mac per se, but he recalls that Bill Clinton used “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” as the theme song for his presidential campaigns. John Deveril hates many things including the Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide and Madonna, but he has a special, virulent loathing for our ex-President Bill Clinton.
I happen to also like Bill Clinton, but I raise no objection. Neither do I protest the venison that will be served at dinner, nor the ten thousand tulips that have been ordered for the reception hall despite my allergist’s strict instructions to the contrary, nor the (Republican) Presidential look-alikes who have been hired to mingle with the crowd and sit at the dinner tables corresponding to their numerical order in the presidency. It is objectionable enough to have people resembling Nixon and Ford and Bush (forty-one; John Deveril has no tolerance for forty-three) circulating among the crowd, but I wonder, as a purely practical matter, what the people seated at tables nineteen and thirty-four will have to talk about at dinner with doppelgangers of Chester Arthur and John Deveril’s favorite ex-President, Calvin Coolidge.