"That is our 'pointed task. Love & die." So says John Berryman, the pre-eminent lovedrunk poet and the central obsession of Andrew Palmer's debut novel, The Bachelor, a book that is, yes, partially about romantic love in the age of reality television. But what if you're not a fame-starved Instagram model, and instead a brooding but friendly millennial type, recently void of artistic ambition? Palmer's brilliant work is full of insight and romantic mistakes, like reading the best of Andrew Martin, Ben Lerner, or Elif Batuman. Palmer extracts the language of love for what it is—its hollowness! its empty repetition! ("I've never felt this way before." "I think I'm falling for you.") It's a difficult thing to watch, as it starts to indict us all.
An incisive, witty, and tender debut novel about love and commitment, celebrity and obsession, poetry and reality TV.
“This unassuming, sharp novel quietly questions love and the nature of perception in an overconnected world.”—The Seattle Times
Reeling from a breakup with his almost fiancée, the narrator of Andrew Palmer’s debut novel returns to his hometown in Iowa to house-sit for a family friend. There, a chance flick of the TV remote and a new correspondence with an old friend plunge him into unlikely twin obsessions: the reality show The Bachelor and the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet John Berryman. As his heart begins to mend, his fascination with each deepens. Somewhere along the way, representations of reality become harder and harder to distinguish from real life. Soon he finds himself corresponding with multiple love interests, participating in an ill-considered group outing, and trying to puzzle through the strange turn his life seems to have taken.
Intellectually ambitious and keenly observed, The Bachelor is also an absorbing coming-of-age tale that tells the story of finding one’s footing in love and art. If salvation can no longer be found in fame, can it still be found in romantic relationships? In an era in which reality TV can make two dozen women fall in love with one man in six weeks, where does entertainment end and reality begin? Why do we, season after season, repeat the same mistakes in love and life?
About the Author
Andrew Palmer is a writer who work has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement and McSweeney’s and online at Slate, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He has been a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and a resident at Ucross, the Anderson Center, and Yaddo. He grew up in Iowa and lives in Seattle with his partner and their dog. The Bachelor is his first novel.
“In a sense, The Bachelor is akin to Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2018 My Year of Rest and Relaxation (minus the constant, Ambien-induced haze) and The Idiot by Elif Batuman. Palmer’s novel features a quirky, aimless protagonist, with smart insights, dry humor and a character-driven narrative. But it’s all anchored in poignant, amusing, relatable observations of ‘The Bachelor’ and [John] Berryman.”—The Seattle Times
“Encountering fish in a barrel, Andrew Palmer opts not to shoot but to watch, really watch. His ridiculously good debut is an intelligent, tender, surprising, and earnest examination of American love and loneliness. I wanted the book, just like the TV show, to keep going and going.”—Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
“Andrew Palmer’s debut is a fantastically original chronicle of romantic mishap and artistic ambition. In its counterintuitive pairing of reality TV and confessional poetry, this book asks sneakily profound questions about the underlying structures of desire that dictate our lives. I loved it.”—Andrew Martin, author of Early Work
“Jane Austen might have written a book like this: a pitch-perfect story of the self-conscious agonies of searching for someone to marry, composed with a mastery of free indirect style; a piece of art as dizzying as the technological and cultural changes of its time, but in conversation with the works of the past. The Bachelor may be a satire, except that it is utterly sincere. The whole time I was reading it, I felt terrifically happy.”—Salvatore Scibona, author of The End and The Volunteer
“I will read anything Andrew Palmer writes. With shades of W. G. Sebald, Frederick Exley, and Ben Lerner, and a warmth and humor all its own, Palmer’s first novel shows the hidden currents that bind our culture in songs of longing and hope—from John Berryman to dating shows, Homo literatus to NBA basketball, high lyricism to winter in the suburban Midwest. It is the definitive (literary) word on our reality-television era.”—Greg Jackson, author of Prodigals
“The Bachelor is a thoroughly winning account of a young man’s intellectual and romantic missteps. It’s sharp and insightful, and also very, very funny. I gobbled it down. It’s not often that a book can make me feel less lonely, but this one did.”—Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites
“Intriguing, amusing, provocative, and insightful passages contribute to the book’s success as a novel equally concerned with the heart and the mind. A quietly accomplished and unusually constructed novel that marks the debut of a significant talent.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] quiet, meditative, and fascinating debut novel . . . Thoughtful, often very funny, and full of amazing passages that capture how engrossing reality television can be, this a sterling and moving debut.”—Booklist