Harry, the Rat with Women: A Novel
A satirical novel about the downfall of a narcissistic lothario.
Jules Feiffer's first satirical novel follows the humorous, existential rise and fall of a narcissistic lothario, Harry, from influential high-society hanger-on to suicidal cipher.
Harry is "blessed" by his family's endless bounty of love and hope, raised to believe he is the embodiment of perfectionbeautiful, infallible, irresistible. So great are their expectations that he will provide for them in the future that he is given everything he could ever need. He is kept comfortable and protected at every step of his childhood: "The Harry Fund" is established by his relatives to ensure that he need not worry about money in his younger years, as they are certain the returns on this "investment" will be exponential.
Harry, of course, develops an extraordinarily "healthy" ego. Everyone else is so focused on his development that he can only focus on himself as well. Maturing into adulthood, he gorges on the love and attention of others while never reciprocating. Those around him, in their insecurity, find this terribly attractiveespecially women. The physical beauty and aloofness he radiates appears as strength and Harry finds he can use women to maintain his decadent lifestyle in the midst of New York elite social circles. When one woman can no longer serve him, he simply moves on to the next; burning through their money with abandon.
Feiffer's brilliant modern fable comments less on the anomie of narcissism and more on the insecure desire of the world to find a charismatic messiah. Persuaded to become the attractive face on an idealistic political movement, Harry, finally, realizes the immense power and effect he can have on others. He also realizes that he has not truly experienced and that he is incapable of human connectedness. The novel reaches it crescendo when Harry attempts to leave his oblivious, self-obsessed ways behind: he begins to lose himselfhis entire personality shatters; his looks begin to fail; women reject him!
Originally published in 1963, Harry the Rat With Women is a typically scathing satirical tour de force in the tradition of Little Murders and The White House Murder Case, a wry, hilarious commentary on the American public's seemingly endless love affair with chiselers and ratsmore relevant now than ever.
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