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The Material: A Novel (Hardcover)

The Material: A Novel By Camille Bordas Cover Image
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“A novel about an MFA program for stand-up comics better be damned funny, and The Material is definitely that. It’s also profound, deeply engrossing, dark, and generous, a great novel about humans making art right now.”—Sam Lipsyte, author of No One Left to Come Looking for You

“Brilliance is on display here.”—Percival Everett, author of James and The Trees

Can comedy be taught? Someone, at some point, seemed to think so. The Chicago Stand-Up MFA program has enrolled young comedians for nearly a decade.

Its teachers and students all know how bits work—in theory, at least. They know that there’s a line between sharp and cruel, that sad becomes funny at the right angle, that the worst is the best, the truth is the worst, and any moment of your life that isn’t a punch line will either get you to a punch line or force you to be one.

They’re all afraid to be one.

Artie may be too handsome for standup, Olivia too reluctant to examine her own life, and Phil too afraid to cause harm. Kruger may be too vanilla to command his students’ respect, Ashbee too detached. And then we have Dorothy—the only woman on the program’s faculty—who though preparing to launch a comeback tour can’t tell if she’s too abiding, too ambitious, or too ambivalent.

Whether a visiting professor—the high-profile, controversy-steeped comedian Manny Reinhardt—will do more to help or harm their cause remains to be seen. But he’s on his way. He’ll be arriving sooner than anyone thinks.

Riffing keenly across a diverse array of precision-cut perspectives, The Material examines life through the eyes of a reluctantly assembled ensemble, a band of outsiders bound together by the need to laugh and the longing to make others laugh even harder.

About the Author

Camille Bordas is the author of three prizewinning novels. The most recent, How to Behave in a Crowd, was the first she wrote in English. The earlier two, Partie Commune and Les Treize Desserts, were written in her native French. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She has been named a Guggenheim Fellow. Born in France, raised in Mexico City and Paris, she currently lives in Chicago.

Praise For…

“Bordas seamlessly weaves together the neuroses, insecurities, and egos of her characters, yielding a novel that both skewers the comic impulse to turn everything into ‘material,’ and manages to live up to the humor of its subject.”—Bustle

“Entertaining and perceptive.”—The Chicago Tribune

“With an emotional pendulum that can swing between pathos and bathos, [The Material] a high-wire act and masterclass in tone, observation and the beneath-the-surface substance.”—Style Weekly

“Sinuous, intelligent.”—Literary Review

“Brimming with insecure characters, clever repartee, dark jokes and funny riffs. . . Bordas makes a case that [emotion and comedy can] coexist.”—The Wall Street Journal

“[The Material] is a stream of neurotic consciousness flowing from person to person, an extended ‘take my smartphone — please’ routine, and an impressive piece of Q3 reading.”—The New York Times

The Material is laugh-out-loud funny and offers an incisive look at the deep sadness of trying to find a laugh when you need it the most.”—The Chicago Review of Books

“A knockout.”—Publishers Weekly

“Skillful, engrossing.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Marvelously engaging and entertaining . . .”—The Independent

“Bordas is alert to the pitfalls [of writing about humor]—indeed, like the best comedians, she incorporates them into her set.”—Sunday Times

“Camille Bordas has exposed the ‘material’ of stand-up by making stand-up her material. Writing comedy is difficult enough, but writing comedy bits that fail and comedy bits that succeed requires some brilliance. That brilliance is on display here.”—Percival Everett, author of James and The Trees

“Bordas’s novel is a deep and illuminating pleasure, full of insights about stand-up comedy, group dynamics, and the inner lives of artists.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Tracy Flick Can’t Win

The Material is [damned funny]. It’s also profound, deeply engrossing, dark and generous, a great novel about humans making art right now.”—Sam Lipsyte, author of No One Left to Come Looking for You

“What begins as a clever conceit becomes an interrogation of sadness itself. Almost suspended in time, the novel elucidates the irreconcilability of learning and living, of performance and being.”—Rachel Cusk, author of Second Place

The Material is not only very funny but also incisive and insightful. . . . Come for the laughs, stay for the observations so deadpan and accurate that you may be blinded by your own reflection.”—Ling Ma, author of Bliss Montage and Severance

“[The Material] is funny—fast and fizzy and dangerous . . . Beneath the laughs and digressions lies a surprisingly profound book about the costs and consolations of art.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593729847
ISBN-10: 0593729846
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English
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