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The Hair of Harold Roux

By Thomas Williams

Original Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Current Publisher: Hardscrabble Books (University Press of New England)

David Kirby writes:

When I first read The Hair of Harold Roux, I was so taken with it that I recommended it to the woman I was courting at the time; later, she told me that she disliked the novel so much that she thought seriously about ditching me.

How to explain these radically different takes on the same book? Williams’ novel is about reinvention—the narrator, Aaron Benham, is writing a novel-within-a-novel about a character based on himself named Allard Benson—and I was reinventing myself at the time. I was between marriages, for one thing, and also between genres, since I was moving from criticism to poetry. But the woman I had my eye on didn’t take much stock in uncertainty, since she wanted me as I was.

So the novel got to us both in very different ways, as novels will do. To me it was an instruction manual for self-actualization; to her, a handbook on anarchy. She and I have been happily married for twenty-eight years now, proving that, in life as in fiction, the right amount of desire will triumph over conflict every time.

David Kirby was a 2007 National Book Award Poetry Finalist for The House on Boulevard St. His newest collection is The Temple Gate Called Beautiful.

ISBN: 9780874517019

Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Donald Barthelme for Guilty Pleasures
  • Gail Godwin for The Odd Woman
  • Joseph Heller for Something Happened
  • Toni Morrison for Sula
  • Vladimir Nabokov for Look at the Harlequins!
  • Grace Paley for Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
  • Philip Roth for My Life as a Man
  • Mark Smith for The Death of a Detective

Fiction Judges that Year: Stanley Elkin, Elizabeth Hardwick, Richard Locke

The Year in Literature:  

  • The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Eugenio Montale won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

One of Thomas Williams’ students during his time at the University of New Hampshire was the novelist John Irving, who wrote an introduction to a posthumous collection of Williams’ collected stories, Leah, New Hampshire (1992). Irving became a National Book Award winner himself, for The World According to Garp, in 1980.

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