A wryly funny and moving novel that captures the complexities of marriage, art, friendship, and the fictions we create in order to become the people we wish to be.
A creative writing professor at a third-tier college in upstate New York is on his way home from a summer fellowship in France, where he’s spent the last three months loafing around Bordeaux, tasting the many varieties of French wine at his disposal, and doing just about anything but actually working on his long overdue novel. A stopover in Brooklyn to see his and his wife’s closest friends—John, a jaded poet-turned-lawyer with a dubious moral compass, and Sophie, a once-promising fiction writer with a complicated past and a mysterious allure—causes further trouble when he and Sophie wind up sleeping together while John is out serenading Brooklyn coeds with poems instead of preparing legal briefs.
But instead of succumbing to his failures as a teacher, writer, and husband, an odd freedom begins to bubble up. Could a love affair be the answer he’s been searching for? Could it offer the escape he needs from the department chair, Chet Bland, who’s been breathing down his neck? Relief from the gossip of colleagues and generational tension with students? Respite from embarrassment over his wife, Debra Crawford, and her meteoric rise as a novelist? His escapades might even make the perfect raw material for an absolutely devastating novel, which would earn him tenure, wealth, and celebrity—everything he needs to be set for life. If only he could be the one to write it.
A brilliant case of art imitating life, Andrew Ewell’s gem of a debut is a hilarious and poignant tour de force that asks who owns whose story, skewers the fictions created from our lives and others’, and brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “publish or perish.”
About the Author
Andrew Ewell is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Moulin à Nef Studio Center, in Auvillar, France. He spent his early years on a sailboat in the Caribbean and was later raised in Annapolis, Maryland. He holds a BA in English from Carleton College and an MFA in creative writing from Boston University. His stories and essays have appeared in Salon, The Chattahoochee Review, Five Chapters, TriQuarterly, and other publications. He taught English and creative writing at numerous universities before writing Set for Life.
"Set for Life is a hilarious novel about failure, lost youth and squandered dreams. Andrew Ewell seems to be an expert on bad decisions, self destructive behavior and hangovers. His hugely entertaining debut reminds me of Frederick Exley's classic A Fan's Notes."—Jay McInerney
“Have you ever wondered why some of the smartest, best educated people you know are among the most hopelessly lost? Well, so has Andrew Ewell, and he’d love to explain it to you in Set for Life, his sharp, witty and surprisingly moving academic novel."—Richard Russo
"A sharp, entertaining chronicle of male vanity and self-sabotage that deserves a place alongside other boozy masters of the genre such as Fred Exley and David Gates."—Jim Gavin, creator of Lodge 49 and author of Middle Men