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Still in Love

A Novel

List Price: $26.00

ON SALE: January 8, 2019 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 240 pages | ISBN 9781640091474
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This hilarious and sometimes harrowing novel is the companion to the critically acclaimed national bestseller Perfect Agreement

This is your chance to enroll in English 10 at highly rated Hellman College—if you can find a place to sit in the fantastically overcrowded classroom.

Mark Sternum, whom readers first met in Downing’s beloved novel Perfect Agreement, is a veteran teacher. Twenty years older, separated for six months from his longtime lover, and desperate to duck the overtures of double-dealing deans above him and disgruntled adjunct faculty below him, Mark has one ambition every day he is on campus—to close the classroom door and leave the world behind. His escape, however, is complicated by his contentious, complicated wrestling match of a relationship with the Professor, the tenured faculty member with whom Mark has co-taught this creative-writing workshop for ten years.

The spectacle of their combative relationship is a chance for students—all of us—to learn what an amazing arena the classroom can be. Replete with engaging writing exercises, harsh criticism, and contrarian advice, Still in Love is the story of one semester in a college classroom. And it is an urgent reminder that we desperately need classrooms, that those singular, sealed-off from-the-world sanctuaries are where we learn to love our lives.

MICHAEL DOWNING is the author of nine books, including the national bestseller Perfect AgreementBreakfast with Scot, which was adapted a feature film; Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center; and Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. A frequent commentator in the national media on Congress and the clocks, he teaches creative writing at Tufts University.

Praise

Praise for Perfect Agreement

“Beautifully and economically written, and very funny.” —Linda Wertheimer, NPR

“Downing is better at writing about the Shakers than Hawthorne or Melville . . . The feeling for the community and its members rings true.” —New York Times Book Review

“Downing’s writing is beautiful and astute, and his ability to unravel the human heart and allow us to see—and feel—its innermost desires is astonishing.” —Amazon

“As artfully and solidly constructed as a Shaker table . . . Exquisite.” —Newsday

“Cleverly constructed and thoroughly engaging.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Certainly no one other than Downing has ever thought to include tips on spelling, diction, and grammar in a novel. They are delivered with a wit that suggests that novelist Downing does not take them as seriously as his Professor Sternum.” —Boston Globe

“Splendid! Downing’s take on academia is so witty and full of such dispiriting accuracy, that it could at first be easy to mistake his novel for a high-end campus satire . . . but Perfect Agreement is much, much more. This may be the first novel in which the love story is counterpointed by a discussion of sentence mechanics, but that doesn’t make it any less moving. Downing has filled his book with so much intelligence and beauty that it can modify your life, like a loved one. And in the realm of art, it doesn’t get any more perfect than that.” —Washington Post Book World

“A witty, moving, and intelligent meditation on the issues of community and justice . . . Like Toni Morrison, Downing turns to the past, giving voice to stories that have not been told and makes an eloquent plea for compassion and patience.” —Lexington Herald-Ledger

“A novel of compassion and wit. In this generous, inventive novel, Michael Downing flawlessly interweaves Mark Sternum’s travails in academe with a Shaker mystery, a mystery that as it unfolds helps Mark realize what is missing in his own life – surprising him with unexpected answers.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred review

Praise for Breakfast with Scot

“Scot [is] one of the great child creations of recent literature—a dainty, prepubescent Holden Caulfield with a thing for neckerchiefs.” —Salon

“Witty, poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, deftly insightful and full of people you wish you knew, plus a few you’re glad you don’t. Breakfast with Scot is a turn-of-the-millennium look at parenthood, families, relationships and who gets to wear eyeliner.” —Newsday

“Bittersweet and sophisticated . . . The highlight of the book is its poignant attention to the exquisite humiliations that daily afflict all three of its main characters.” —Baltimore Sun

“Downing has a jeweler’s knack for rendering beauty in miniature. This brief, sparkling novel is testament to that skill.” —Boston Phoenix

“A middle-aged gay couple’s misadventure in parenting is the subject of this wisecrack-laden fourth novel by the author of Mother of God (1990) . . . The best moments here depict Scot’s effect on his guardians’ extended family of varyingly deranged friends and on his ‘normal’ schoolmates (who hassle him mercilessly and would doubtless prefer to burn him at the stake). The TV movie ought to be fun. And with the (really rather endearing) figure of Scot, some lucky young actor will have the flamboyant role of a lifetime.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“A hilariously sweet take on the woes and joys of parenthood . . . Downing explores what it truly means to be a family, compassionately contrasting familial stereotypes with the realities of family life and showing how it feels to be a boy who doesn’t quite fit into the role society has prepared for him.” —Booklist (Starred Review)

“This heartwarming tale nobly defines and describes a potent, realistic new configuration of contemporary American family values.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for The Chapel

The Chapel is a rich and rewarding novel, by turns comic, thoughtful, nostalgic, and exuberant. I only put it down to browse airfares to Italy.” —Valerie Martin, bestselling author of The Ghost of Mary Celeste

“It’s moving, funny, and memorable: a tale of the baggage we all travel with, a portrait of grief and regeneration, and a bittersweet love story in which the beloved is a 700-year-old work of art.” —Joan Wickersham, bestselling author of The News from Spain 

“There are art lessons, history lessons, and life lessons here, and the amazing and original thing is how all the entanglements sustain the possibility of romance. Downing gives us a witty female narrator with the smarts to make us trust her story. It’s bumper cars with biscotti and Prosecco.”—Dennis McFarland, bestselling author of Nostalgia and The Music Room

“At last, a love story for adults—wrapped in a sophisticated mystery about art, religion and the fragility of the human heart.” —Elizabeth Benedict, bestselling author of Almost and The Practice of Deceit

“Clever, acerbic Liz is both terse and obliquely flirtatious with the many men she meets who tend, surprisingly, to be voluble, kindly and sometimes sexy . . . playful and erudite ” —Kirkus Reviews

“Downing’s latest work combines art, art history, and Italian allure into a cerebral romance channeling love, loss, and the complexities of emotional closure . . . Line drawings, photographs, blueprints, and some exceptionally witty prose and banter complement this affecting story . . . vividly entertaining.” —Publishers Weekly

“Downing’s rich descriptions of the chapel in Padua and fastidious art lectures are reminiscent of the work of Dan Brown, but the mysteries here are mostly of the heart. This story of life after loss delivers equal measures of history and hope.”—Booklist

Praise for Mother of God

“Downing has a sharp eye, a powerful style, and great psychological insight.” —Harvard Magazine

“Here is an intricately plotted, demanding, and deeply rewarding novel written with stylistic grace, a powerful narrative drive, and a deep theological concern. Is a young man who claims to be Jesus insane, or is he a prophet born out of time? Michael Downing has worked these questions into a family drama at times disturbing, at times funny, and always profound.” —Richard Marius, author of Thomas More

“Michael Downing understands how a family can be at once torn apart and bound together by madness. Mother of God is a harrowing account of disintegration and redemption, told with unflinching insight and great compassion, a psychological and literary accomplishment of remarkable distinction.” —Paul Buttenwieser, author of Their Pride and Joy

Praise for A Narrow Time

“A remarkable novel . . . Downing renders his narrator’s feelings and actions so skillfully that each sentence seems at once surprising and completely true . . . Michael Downing’s debut novel, with its believable and likable characters plunged into a horrible situation, sustains an almost exhausting tension. A Narrow Time has the emotional precision of the best fiction and the satisfying resolution of a detective story.” —New York Times Book Review

“Downing displays powers of imaginative sympathy than any first novelist might envy.” —Boston Globe

“Downing touches some of the most profound issues of life, and his story zips along. He hauls our nightmares out of the dark, makes them walk about, and makes us all look at them.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A novel of great power and wisdom. Michael Downing knows about the undertow of family life—the secrets, lies, and nostalgia for things that never were.” —Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted

“A tour de force! Michael Downing is a he? I never thought he was anything but female, so convincing is his fictional voice. How well he gets into the mind of the narrator of this remarkably well-written book. An astounding accomplishment!” —Susan Kenney, author of Sailing and In Another Country

“The author of this impressive first novel not only successfully writes from a woman’s point of view but also tells a thoroughly engrossing story about emotional upheaval in a middle-class family . . . Downing has created a shattering study of relationships told in an extraordinary voice. This is a superior portrait of human suffering and pain.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Life with Sudden Death

“[A] compelling story, but it’s Downing’s intelligence, his bone-dry wit, his carefully measured sorrow, carefully controlled rage, and beautifully wrought prose that make this memoir such a standout. His writing has the cerebral precision and focus of Joan Didion’s, but it’s got other kinds of fullness and heart, too.” —Huffington Post

“Recommended Reading . . . Full of closely observed details” ––San Francisco Chronicle

“Effective immediately, I am making Life with Sudden Death required reading each year for our trainees . . . it will make them better doctors.” ––William H. Maisel, MD, MPH, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston

Praise for Spring Forward

“Now, just in the nick of time . . . comes novelist Michael Downing with Spring Forward, a lively history aimed at debunking the ‘uncanny idea of falsifying clocks to delay the apparent time of sunset.'” —Wall Street Journal

“Downing’s examples of the ravages of keeping time compete with one another for the most zany . . . [He] shows how Daylight Saving Time factored into the low-grade rural-urban civil war that began with industrialization and is today more commonly known as red versus blue.” —The New Republic

“Michael Downing’s merry new book, Spring Forward, tells the story of America’s odd and chaotic movement to change time . . . [You] can’t talk about daylight saving without laughing, because the history is so wacky.”—Boston Globe

“I’m among those scorned by downstate Illinois Republican Congressman Edward King as ‘the pleasure seekers, the swivel-chair ornaments, and the golf players’ . . . during one of a startling number of debates on this issue over the last 100 years as documented in author Michael Downing’s new book.” —Chicago Tribune

Spring Forward has a cast of characters to rival a mobster novel . . . a charming history of time in America . . . Downing is certainly opinionated, and is thoughtfully skeptical of the need to change the clocks. But he effortlessly captures the ridiculousness of both sides of the debate . . . in this well-researched, amusing book.” —The American Enterprise

“Thoughtful, provocative, and often hilarious . . . Downing delivers a funny, readable, well-documented account of the strange history of daylight-saving time—one that finally absolves farmers and cows from unjustified blame.” —Indianapolis Star

Spring Forward offers not only a history of time in the United States (and, for that matter, in much of the world) but also a wryly humorous look at the perennial clash over the usefulness of Daylight Saving Time . . . Fortunately for readers, he presents both sides of the case with wry skepticism . . . It’s entertaining, informative and—yes—as light as 8 p.m. in the last week in June.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Spring Forward won’t help you understand the wisdom of the practice, but it may help you laugh, especially as all the things you have been told over and over about daylight-saving time are revealed to be fiction. Downing’s book won’t make daylight-saving time more sensible, but it sure makes it more fun and hip to think about.” —Sacramento Bee

“Why is there Daylight Saving Time? The best answer so far is offered in Spring Forward. . . Combining diligent research and amusing asides, Downing has assembled a history of a practice that is misunderstood by most, and unquestioningly obeyed by even more.” —Providence Journal

“Tufts University lecturer Michael Downing asserts in his new book, Spring Forward that profit, not patriotism, motivated some of the Daylight Saving Time backers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big department stores led the charge . . . ‘Whenever Americans turned ahead their clocks,’ Downing writes in his book, ‘somebody turned a profit.'” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Downing draws upon an impressive array of sources . . . [and] leavens the facts he has collected through his use of humor and an ability to create ironic twists in the unfolding drama he weaves.” —Lexington Post-Dispatch

“This fast-paced history of Daylight Saving Time in the United States is a treasure trove of surprising facts that have been forgotten or hopelessly muddled since Congress first began debating the idea . . . Spring Forward is an eye-opener . . . The book should also be a cautionary tale to current members of Congress.” —New Hampshire Valley News

“My favorite philosopher is Groucho Marx, who noted, ‘Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas.’ My second favorite time-related philosopher is Michael Downing.” —Manchester Union Leader

“This short, jam-packed account by Downing rights the often misunderstood history of daylight saving time . . . Downing brings it to life by dramatizing politicians and various industries pitted against one another in absurd, often hilarious debates. It’s a colorful story of something we all take to be fundamental, but through history has been maddening, divisive and baffling.” —Publishers Weekly

“Novelist Downing writes gracefully, with a penchant for the strange detail, and he draws much mirth from the facts about DST and its amorphous benefits.” —Booklist

Praise for Shoes Outside the Door

“Dramatic and thoughtful . . . With no prior experience as a social historian or a connoisseur of Zen, the novelist Michael Downing has nevertheless proven himself well-suited to piecing together the facts and assessing their meaning. He has done so chiefly by interviewing more than eighty of the involved figures and weighing each nugget of testimony against the others . . . Downing is no relativist. His narrative line, though continually interrupted, is lucid and convincing, and he challenges his interviewees’ occasional half-truths with sharp comments and rhetorical questions that bring buried factors into view.” —New York Review of Books

“He paints a complex picture of Westerners in a genuine struggle with Eastern concepts and traditions . . . This is a highly readable book, important for the healing it invites in giving voice to the thoughts and feelings of Zen Center members who have remained silent until now.” —Los Angeles Times

“Downing unpacks Zen Center’s story deftly, drawing the reader in with his comfortable, chatty prose and wry wit . . . The intrigue of the story will draw you near, but it is Downing’s nuanced delivery of the facts that will make you stay, hungry for more.” —Austin Chronicle

Shoes Outside the Door is not simply a narrative history; it raises the larger question of what constitutes the Americanization of Zen . . . Downing’s work is a very important addition to the literature on American Zen and, more broadly, American Buddhism.” —Tricycle

Shoes Outside the Door is a not only a fine history of the San Francisco Zen Center and Zen in the United States, it is a cautionary tale, valuable to anyone embarked on a spiritual practice.” —San Jose Mercury News

“Downing’s masterfully orchestrated inquiry is an invaluable portrait of the heart of the contradictory, still evolving, and unquestionably significant American Buddhist movement.” —Booklist (starred review)

“This intense investigation/indictment from novelist Downing uncovers the alleged abuses of power of Richard Baker, former abbot of the nation’s most influential Zen center . . . this book deserves a wide reading, and not only by the many Buddhists who will buy it lickety-split.” —Publishers Weekly

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