Books

Winner of the 1989 National Book Award

A classic tale of a man, a boat, and a storm, Spartina is the lyrical and compassionate story of Dick Pierce, a commercial fisherman along the shores of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. A kind, sensitive, family man, he is also prone to irascible outbursts against the people he must work for, now that he can no longer make his living from the sea.

Pierce’s one great passion, a fifty-foot fishing boat called Spartina, lies unfinished in his back yard.  Determined to get the funds he needs to buy her engine, he finds himself taking a foolish, dangerous risk.  But his real test comes when he must weather a storm at
sea in order to keep his dream alive.  Moving and poetic, Spartina is a masterly story of one man’s ongoing struggle to find his place in the world.

“Possibly the best American novel…since The Old Man and the Sea, maybe even Moby-Dick.” —New York Times Book Review

“Vivid…Engrossing…Old-fashioned, full-bodied fiction with a vengeance…They do not make novels like this very much anymore.” —Time

“A wonderful novel…A tremendous achievement.” –Paul Theroux

Purchase Spartina

Want more Spartina? Read Supper at the Black Pearl, available here.

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In The Half-life of Happiness, National Book Award winner John Casey brings us a family portrait rendered with masterful precision–and unwavering compassion. On a spring afternoon in Virginia, progressive attorney Mike Reardon strolls downtown Charlottesville feeling terrific. He surveys the elements in his appealing life: filmmaker wife Joss, his clever and canny daughters, the bohemian characters that share his seven-acre haven on the Rivanna River.

But Mike’s blissful certainty is to be short-lived. A friend’s suicide and Joss’s affair with a mercurial woman turn Mike’s world upside-down. Then Mike discovers the erotic quicksilver of the political campaign and so begins a farcical run for office that consumes all their lives. Here too–through Casey’s brilliant rendering of Mike’s sensitive, perceptive daughters–is the story of two children who grow up painfully aware of their parents’ strengths and weaknesses. Superbly plotted, buoyed with humor and hope, The Half-life of Happiness embraces the accidents and choices that shape our lives and the lives of those we love.

“Riveting and beautifully written.”  —San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner

“A major novelist at the top of his form, Casey captures not only the texture of individual lives, but the shape and momentum of all lives that begin with the best intentions, then stray off course. . . . A wise and forgiving book as well as an entertaining one.” —Chicago Tribune

“Generous and indelible.” —The New Yorker

“Witty, wise, and generous…Wickedly sharp.” —the Boston Globe

“Marvelously insightful…It never slackens as it draws us steadily deeper into the psyches of Casey’s delightfully and excruciatingly recognizable men and women.” —People

“Riveting…A richly exciting exploration of that turbulent frontier where the personal intersects with the political.” –Amitav Ghosh

Purchase The Half-Life of Happiness 

Also available as an e-book

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In Testimony and Demeanor, A young intellectual is called into active duty and receives a rude awakening to the realities of military service. An Ivy League graduate is pressed casually into Intelligence work and encounters himself mirrored in his new-found friend–a Russian spy. An arrogant professor finds himself unable to resist the unschooled energy of a spunky female student. A lonely apprentice at a New York law firm is flattered by the attentions of two mentors–one a senior partner, the other an enchantingly extravagant woman–whose sophistication make his own naivety painfully apparent. Each story in this luminous quartet explorers an emotional turning-point, either toward or away from self-knowledge–that moment when a young man of privilege suddenly finds his carefully nurtured superiority crumbling. In Casey’s beautiful prose, the experiences of these solitary narrators resonate with remarkable power.

“A major novelist at the top of his form, Casey captures not only the texture of individual lives, but the shape and momentum of all lives that begin with the best intentions, then stray off course.” —Chicago Tribune

“Arresting and distinctive…Completely convincing…The four stories in this collection are extremely impressive.” —The Miami Herald

“Each of these stories contains small gems…The first, ‘A More Complete Cross-Section,’ is a masterpiece, beautifully written in every line.” –Joyce Carol Oates, The New Republic

“Wonderful…Written with intelligence, verve, suppleness, and lyric precision.” —The New York Times

Purchase Testimony and Demeanor

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John Casey’s love story An American Romance is a voluptuous novel about Anya and Max and their passionate, tumultuous relationship. Set against the backdrop of rural Iowa, An American Romance is a remarkable reading experience.

“Wonderfully, beautifully written…funny, really funny. And sexy; it is very sexy indeed.” –Alice Adams, San Francisco Review of Books

“This book scares me. It is so frighteningly real and so dastardly well executed that its honesty is as intimidating as it is rewarding. It is the story of Mac and Anya, who meet on a mountain-climbing weekend, catapult themselves into a partnership of convenience and erupt on a Freudian odyssey in Iowa. The writing and imagery is so compelling and the cast of characters so entertaining that it is impossible not to follow them to the final page–and even beyond. Casey is a damn fine craftsman, and his ability to involve the reader is awesome.” –Chris Van Ness Los Angeles Times

“A real love story for grown-up twentieth-century people, at last. Anya and Mac are marvelous, lovable people, running on all of their sexual and mental energies. I read An American Romance straight through with much pleasure…and awe.” –Gail Godwin

“He has not only made his people real, he has nearly made them breathe.” –Harry Middleton, Philadelphia Inquirer

“It respects characters. It swims in the language. It is knowing and rich…Mr. Casey in his lavish way makes me feel better about the future of the novel.” –John Leonard, The New York Times

Purchase An American Romance

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Supper at the Black Pearl

It is in this novella that we first meet Elsie Buttrick and her sister, characters who return in Spartina and in Compass Rose.

Purchase Supper at the Black Pearl

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You’re an Animal, Viskovitz!

This very funny, very Italian book is a cross between Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Mad Magazine.

Translated by John Casey.

“In this delightful, clever debut collection of interrelated tales, Boffa employs a variety of living creatures to demonstrate human foibles and folly. Rapidly morphing from larva to ant to Buddhist police dog, Viskovitz, the book’s charming protagonist, enjoys a variety of incarnations that allow him to thoroughly explore the human condition…Boffa’s writing crackles with humor (What was daddy like? Crunchy, a bit salty, rich in fiber) and wonderfully worded descriptions, lovingly translated by Casey (author of Spartina, winner of the 1989 National Book Award for fiction).” –Cahners Business Information (c) 2002

Purchase You’re an Animal, Viskovitz!

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Enchantments

Enchantments looks back at the fairy-tale world that its narrator lived in…and celebrates the bittersweet wonder of having grown up in her own family…Ferri handles the subject sure-handedly and gracefully.” —The Washington Post

Translated by John Casey.

Purchase Enchantments 

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Compass Rose

It’s been more than two decades since Spartina won the National Book Award and was acclaimed by critics as being “possibly the best American novel . . . since The Old Man and the Sea” (The New York Times Book Review), but in this extraordinary follow-up novel barely any time has passed in the magical landscape of salt ponds and marshes in John Casey’s fictional Rhode Island estuary.

Elsie Buttrick, prodigal daughter of the smart set who are gradually taking over the coastline of Sawtooth Point, has just given birth to Rose, a child conceived during a passionate affair with Dick Pierce—a fisherman and the love of Elsie’s life, who also happens to live practically next door with his wife, May, and their children. A beautiful but guarded woman who feels more at ease wading through the marshes than lounging on the porches of the fashionable resort her sister and brother-in-law own, Elsie was never one to do as she was told. She is wary of the discomfort her presence poses among some members of her gossipy, insular community, yet it is Rose, the unofficially adopted daughter and little sister of half the town, who magnetically steers everyone in her orbit toward unexpected—and unbreakable—relationships. As we see Rose grow from a child to a plucky adolescent with a flair for theatrics both onstage and at home during verbal boxing matches with her mother, to a poised and prepossessing teenager, she becomes the unwitting emotional tether between Elsie and everyone else. “Face it, Mom,” Rose says, “we live in a tiny ecosystem.” And indeed, like the rugged, untouched marshes that surround these characters, theirs is an ecosystem that has come by its beauty honestly, through rhythms and moods that have shaped and reshaped their lives.

With an uncanny ability to plunge confidently and unwaveringly into the thoughts and desires of women—mothers, daughters, wives, lovers—John Casey astonishes us again with the power of a family saga. (Knopf)

Purchase Compass Rose

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