Stephen McCauley - official web site
Books & Other Writing

Books & Other Writing | The Man of the House (1996)

Man of House

When Clyde Carmichael isn't teaching at a posh but flaky adult learning center, devouring biographies in search of a design for living, or obsessing about his ex-lover, Gordon, he's dodging his insecure sister and impossible father, who may or may not be at death's door. At thirty-five, Clyde's in danger of becoming too much like Marcus, his handsome (and unswervingly straight) roommate, who's spent the past ten years not writing his dissertation and not falling in love with a string of beautiful women.

Enter Louise Morris. Clyde's old friend and Marcus' onetime lover is a restless writer and single mother who arrives in Cambridge with her son, Ben, and a neurotic dog in tow. The looming question of Ben's paternity nudges Clyde back into the orbit of his own father—and propels all of the characters into bittersweet emotional terrain.

Praise for The Man of the House

"A wry, bittersweet look at the importance and impossibility of father-son relationships. The writing is seamless, the story never lags, and it is filled with eccentric characters and observations you'll find yourself reading aloud."

USA Today

Words from the author...

"My father and I had an...umm...uneasy relationship. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I imagined we'd talk through our problems and resolve our difficulties. But the last thing he said to me before slipping into unconsciousness was: "Get a haircut." And the last thing I said to him was: "No."

"For a long time after he died, I was plagued by the thought that our unfinished business would stay unfinished forever, that the final chapter, in a sense, would be forever unwritten. But of course that wasn't the case at all. There had been a clear ending to things, just not one in which everything got resolved as I'd fantasized. I'd always been as unyielding as he was, so our final conversation was inevitable. Even perfect.

"The central theme in this novel is father-son relationships, and not everything in it gets worked out as neatly as the characters would like. But it ends on what I hope is a positive, optimistic note, even if it isn't a completely happy one.

"There are recipes in this book for things like "Corn Flake Balls" and "No-Bake Meatloaf" and "Candied Potato Chips". These are only slight exaggerations of actual recipes I've read in self-published cookbooks, which I collect. Even so, I don't recommend making any of them."