Conn, Andrew Lewis 1973-
Conn, Andrew Lewis 1973-
Born August 5, 1973, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Robert (a salesman) and Marcia (a teacher) Conn; married Kay Suzanne Conn, August 29, 2003. Education: Cornell University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1995. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Movies, theatre, reading, running.
Home—305 8th Ave., Apt. A-6, Brooklyn, NY 11215 E-mail—[email protected]
P&F Communications/The Berney Group, account executive.
National Arts Club.
P, Soft Skull Press (Brooklyn, NY), 2003.
Contributor of film criticism to periodicals, including Film Comment.
Andrew Lewis Conn's novel P is the author's homage to James Joyce's literary classic Ulysses. In Conn's story, Joyce's character Leopold Bloom becomes Benjamin Seymour, a pornographer with an Ivy League education; Stephen Dedalus is replaced by a ten-year-old runaway girl named Finn; and Joyce's Dublin is changed to New York's Times Square, circa 1996. Benjamin is depressed, still in mourning for his dead love, Penelope, who was also the star of his many films. Benjamin and Finn wander New York, exploring inner and outer worlds, in a meandering story that takes in multiple themes. "Technically, the talented Conn is more than proficient," reported a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who nevertheless felt the book was "hamstrung by its slavish devotion to Ulysses." The book's cleverness proved a distraction at times, in the opinion of New York Times Book Review contributor Max Winter, but he concluded that despite this weakness, "Conn has written an urbane adventure story that Joyce scholars, pornographers and worldly readers alike will enjoy." Jeff Bursey commended P in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, calling it "a diverting read that is cautiously experimental" and concluded: "This first novel shows talent that deserves to be encouraged."
Conn told CA: "I was determined to write a novel upon graduating college. I meant to take an intensive Ulysses seminar during my senior year of college but couldn't due to a scheduling conflict, so I began slowly making my way through the book (alongside annotations and guide books) on my own a year or two out of school. Ulysses changed my idea of what a novel could do. I felt that perhaps the most efficacious—only?—way of exorcising (and celebrating) the impending paralysis of influence would be to just take the thing on head first. I remember making the analogy to playing tennis with a player much, much better than you are: you go into the match knowing you will lose, but hoping you will emerge a better player for the experience.
"I thought it would be fun to write a book about porn: that the subject matter would afford me with an abundant opportunity for the kind of punning and wordplay I love; I liked the notion that if Joyce gave us an advertising canvasser as his twentieth-century everyman, then a pornographer would be emblematic of our own crazy time; I responded to the metaphoric implications of porn as symbolic of a culture where everything is made commercial, everything is over-exposed; porn carries a lot of contradictory impulses, and dramatizing contradictory impulses seems to me to be one of the major strengths of the novels I love.
"I remember very self-consciously wanting to write a book that was equally filthy and beautiful. At the time, my reading was also heavily under the sway of Philip Roth, in particular his Sabbath's Theater and the Nathan Zuckerman books. There is something about Roth's work, how it's both manic and controlled, comic and high-minded, colloquial and literary that I was very attracted to as a model. I've always been intrigued by how many of my favorite books and works of art (Ulysses, Lolita, Tropic of Cancer, Last Tango in Paris, Les Demoiselles D'Avignon,) were deemed pornographic and banned upon initial publication/ viewing. The question of where the artist's work stops and the pornographer's work begins (or vice versa) is an endlessly fascinating one to me.
"I also very much wanted to write what I refer to as a literary bait-and-switch (like Lolita or Sabbath's Theater), where scabrous, shocking, or offensive-seeming material camouflages something profoundly moral and deeply felt."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of P, p. 552.
New York Times Book Review, July 6, 2003, Max Winter, review of P, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003, review of P, p. 48.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2004, Jeff Bursey, review of P, p. 153.
Pthenovel,http://www.pthenovel.com (September 29, 2003), author's home page.
Word Riot,http://www.wordriot.org/ (September 29, 2003), Krista McGruder, review of P.