Perlman, Elliot 1964–
Perlman, Elliot 1964–
PERSONAL: Born 1964.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Riverhead Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer and lawyer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Book of the Year, Age newspaper (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1998, and Best Book of the Year, Fellowship of Australian Writers, both for Three Dollars.
Three Dollars, MacMurray & Beck (Denver, CO), 1999.
Seven Types of Ambiguity, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Reasons I Won't Be Coming (short stories), Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Robert Connolly) Three Dollars (screenplay; based on Perlman's novel), Film Finance (Australia), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Before becoming a novelist, Elliot Perlman was a lawyer based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In his first book, Three Dollars, Perlman presents readers with narrator Eddie Harnovey, who feels constrained by his conservative, middle-class surroundings. All around him he sees life falling apart, from his depressed wife and sick child to his divorcing friends. Eddie recounts his life story starting with his boyhood. He becomes a chemical engineer working for a government agency when he suddenly loses his job and finds that his total cash-on-hand assets amount to three dollars. His struggle to survive and make sense of both his own situation and the world around him drive the narrative. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the narrator's "self-deprecating wit, caustic social comment, spirited sensitivity and big heart." The reviewer added, "Perlman's sheer storytelling virtuosity gives this essentially domestic tale the narrative drive of a thriller and the unforgettable radiance of a novel that accurately reflects essential human values." Carolyn Kubisz, writing in Booklist, remarked that the author "deftly and confidently explores a world that can be harsh and unforgiving but also full of hope." Calling the book "an intelligent and humorous recollection of disaster," Antipodes contributor Lars Ahlstrom added, "The story mirrors our time, and asks questions that are relevant today."
Seven Types of Ambiguity features separate narrations by seven characters in the novel, including a prostitute in love with Simon and Simon's psychiatrist. They all tell the story of a love affair gone wrong and its consequences. When Simon is dumped by Anna he cannot let go to the point that ten years later he is still following her life, even though she has married and has a child. When he determines that Anna's son is suffering as a result of Anna's failing marriage, Simon kidnaps the boy, leading to a series of disasters that affect the various narrators' lives. "Constant love in the face of terrible odds—such is the old-fashioned but deeply satisfying theme in a thoroughly modern Australian import," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that, "by copping the title of William Empson's classic of literary criticism,… Perlman … sets a high bar for himself, but he justifies his theft with a relentlessly driven story." Marc Kloszewski, writing in Library Journal, commented that "Perlman reaches for the brass ring, and he successfully shapes this heady material into an all too-rare literary page-turner." In a review in Newsweek, Malcolm Jones wrote: "Within a chapter or so, you're bound to relax, happy in the knowledge that while this novel has been packaged as an ambitious literary event, it is, far more importantly, a page turner, a psychological thriller that is, in short, dangerous, beguiling fun."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Antipodes, June, 1999, Lars Ahlstrom, review of Three Dollars, p. 48.
Booklist, May 15, 1999, Carolyn Kubisz, review of Three Dollars, p. 1670; November 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 443.
Entertainment Weekly, December 17, 2004, Jennifer Reese, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 88.
Esquire, February, 2005, Tyler Cabot, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 888.
Library Journal, October 15, 2004, Marc Kloszewski, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 55.
Newsweek, December 13, 2004, Malcolm Jones, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 72.
People, January 10, 2005, Kyle Smith, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 45.
Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1999, review of Three Dollars, p. 65; October 4, 2004, review of Seven Types of Ambiguity, p. 66; December 6, 2004, Karen Holt, "Elliot Perlman: Down Under Hero," p. 40.
Variety, April 25, 2005, Richard Kuipers, review of Three Dollars (film), p. 54.
This Swirling Sphere, http://www.thei.aust.com/ (September 16, 2005), brief profile of author.