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August 09 , 2009

I Am Jonathan Scrivener


"So remarkable in truth is this novel that I cannot understand why it is not universally known and admired." - Hugh Walpole 

"I Am Jonathan Scrivener remains a tantalizing, highly diverting philosophical novel of rare elegance and wit." - Michael Dirda 

James Wrexham is thirty-nine, lonely, and stuck in a dead-end job when he comes upon an advertisement for a position as secretary to Mr. Jonathan Scrivener. Much to his surprise, he is hired at a lavish salary despite never even meeting Scrivener, and he is told to take up residence at once in the flat of his new employer, who has suddenly disappeared. Mystified by Scrivener's strange conduct and desperate to learn something about him, it seems Wrexham will get the answers he seeks when Scrivener's friends begin to visit the flat: Pauline Mandeville, an ethereal beauty, Francesca Bellamy, a widow who may responsible for the death of her husband, Andrew Middleton, a disillusioned alcoholic, and Antony Rivers, a handsome playboy. But as each of them unfolds his story about Scrivener, it seems that none of them are describing the same person, though all are obsessed with finding him. Why has he hired Wrexham, and why does he seem to have thrust this unlikely group of people together? Is Scrivener engaged in an inscrutable experiment, or could he be laying some kind of trap? And will this enigmatic figure ever appear and say, "I am Jonathan Scrivener"? 

Popular in his time for his psychological thrillers, Claude Houghton (1889-1961) was admired by writers as diverse as P. G. Wodehouse, Henry Miller, Hugh Walpole, and Graham Greene, but has fallen into neglect in the past half-century. This new edition restores his masterpiece I Am Jonathan Scrivener (1930) to print and includes Walpole's introduction from the 1935 edition and an essay by Pulitzer Prize winning critic and Washington Post columnist Michael Dirda.

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