A Fan’s Notes


The consolation of Frederick Exley’s grief (Briefly)

A Fan’s Notes
by Frederick Exley
Vintage, 1988
385 pages / $16  Buy from Amazon









Though not a formal review per se—a sort of dependency on the author renders me useless to approach it in some Kakutanian format to perhaps bring a notion of what will follow when the pages are opened up and the narrative begins—I still cannot think of a novel better to be explored in a few hundred words that affected me of late than Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes.

Tending to be referred to as the go-to novel for lost undergraduates (guilty, it should be admitted early on), Exley’s masterpiece is the first in a trilogy of roman a clef works of fiction describing the life of a character named Frederick Exley, who’s seen largely the same things as its author—the two books that follow are Pages From a Cold Island and Last Notes From Home; both equally as triumphant as their predecessor and in true fanatical circles are thought of as the middle and last works in an omnibus rather than a separate and lesser force than the original. I came upon Exley in the fall, which any avid fan will acknowledge is the perfect time to discover him, as much of the novel’s emphasis is on the impact of football—more pointedly, the Giants in the Frank Gifford era—on its protagonist and essentially describes him losing his mind over both a love of the game and of literature. Throughout the narrative it’s as common to have a random digression into a description of the college years of Gifford at USC—they, Exley and Gifford, attended at the same time and were lightly acquainted—as it is for him to cite the letters and journals of F. Scott Fitzgerald losing his mind when Zelda found herself bound up in an insane asylum.

September 24th, 2012 / 12:00 pm