Want Not

A New York Times NOTABLE BOOK • A Kirkus Reviews “BEST BOOKS OF 2013” selection • A Washington Post NOTABLE FICTION OF 2013 selection •   A Wall Street Journal FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013 • A Chicago Tribune NOTABLE BOOK • A bookish.com BEST NOVELS OF 2013 choice • A bookriot.com and litReactor.com BEST BOOKS OF 2013 selection • Finalist for the 2014 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters AWARD IN FICTION

“I loved this book…the work of a fluid, confident, and profoundly talented writer…it’s a joyous book, a very funny book, and an unpredictable book, and that’s because everyone in it is allowed to be fully human.”

Dave Eggers, the New York Times Book Review

wantnotWith his critically acclaimed first novel, Dear American Airlines, Jonathan Miles was widely praised as a comic genius whose fiction, as Richard Russo noted on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, was “not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding.”

Now, in Want Not, Miles takes a giant leap forward with this highly inventive and corrosively funny story of our times, a three-pronged tale of human excess that sifts through the detritus of several disparate lives, all conjoined in their come-hell-or- high-water search for fulfillment. As the novel opens on Thanksgiving Day, readers are telescoped into the worlds of a freegan couple living off the grid in Manhattan, a once prominent linguist struggling with midlife, and a New Jersey debtcollection magnate with a second chance at getting things right. Want and desire propel each one forward on their paths toward something, anything more, but when their worlds collide, briefly, randomly, yet irrevocably, the weight of that wanting ultimately undoes each of them, leaving them to pick up the pieces from what’s left behind.

With a satirist’s eye and a romantic’s heart, Jonathan Miles captures the morass and comedy of contemporary life in all its excess. Bold, unblinking, unforgettable in its irony and pathos, Want Not is a wicked, big-hearted literary novel that confirms the arrival of a major voice in American fiction.

Ideas swirl about on every page…Want Not does all this in gorgeous passages that occasionally border on genius…if there is a modern book that more artfully allegorizes the desperation and anxieties of the human condition through the lives of normal people, this reviewer hasn’t come across it.- The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Want Not” leaps nimbly from topic to topic, each sentence providing a miniature window into its author’s energetic and wide-ranging mind…Sitting down with “Want Not” is like finding yourself opposite the most interesting person at a dinner party. It pulls you in immediately; makes you shake your head in wonder and delight at your new companion’s wit, originality, and compelling turns of phrase; and, best of all, surprises you into laughter. But “Want Not” isn’t merely entertaining. Much like that same party guest after a couple of cups of coffee, the book has a more sober register: it can jolt you into pain just as easily as laughter…The underlying theme of “Want Not,” a book glutted with fascinating ideas, is human mortality. What is life for? How can we be happy? How can we be good? Is it possible to be both? And, arguably, the biggest question of all: If we’re going to die, then what’s the point of it all? Jonathan Miles doesn’t have any more or better answers to these questions than the rest of us, but he’s written a novel of uncommon grace and beauty in an attempt to find them out.- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Terrific…complex, often hilarious, ultimately moving…Even as “Want Not” paws through the bones of pre­history, the wasteland of our modern economy and the ashes of the future, Miles’s elegant and thoughtful voice suggests that all is not lost. The novel may begin with prickly satire, it may dig deep into America’s disposable lifestyle, but it ultimately pivots to scenes of surprising tenderness. Despite our extravagant waste, despite our carelessness with each other, despite that temptation to despair that everything is flotsam and jetsam, Miles offers a heartfelt affirmation of human value. That’s what makes this a novel to hoard.- Washington Post
With a light Midas touch, Miles turns all the glut and ache of late America into pure gold. If you’re in that soul-hunt up the food chain and down the dial for something more satisfying than the hollow abundance of our contemporary lives, read this book. It is warm, complex, comic, honest, and never flinching. Want Not wastes not a word, while its pleasures are endless.- Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End
Immensely satisfying…while [Mr. Miles] is presumably capable of writing a bad sentence, he doesn’t do so here, despite the big swings he often takes with his prose…What happens [in “Want Not”] is the kind of thing you may have read or heard about more than once and yet found very hard to imagine — and Mr. Miles has imagined it, fully, convincingly, with devastating effect…gripping and memorable.- New York Times
For readers who relish extravagant language, scathing wit and philosophical heft, Want Not wastes nothing.- Kirkus (Starred Review)
Flowing around the flashes of hard-edged DeLilloesque passages is the novel’s dominant prose style—sinuous, imaginative, and pitch-perfect…Miles’ first novel was acclaimed for its comedic punch, and rightfully so: He is a brilliant humorist. In Want Not, however, the humor is dialed down, with Miles proving he can deal with tragedy, big ideas and even horror just as skillfully as comedy….augurs a brilliant literary career.- The Rumpus.net
So luminous and so resonant…packed to the gills with heady themes and fierce writing.- Portland Oregonian
Every generation or so an American novel appears that holds up a mirror to our lives and shows us exactly who we are right at this moment. Want Not is that book right now — a searing but compassionate look at modern Americans and their STUFF. A book about garbage and consumption and accumulation and disposal…but most of all about humanity. Simply put, the best book of the year.- Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Signature of All Things
Extraordinary talent..Miles presents such fully developed characters, you come to know their essences.- Newark Star-Ledger
An unrelenting vivisection of our habits, concerns, stuff and our taste…brilliantly hilarious…filled with many playful and keenly observed digressions…Read it and relish its pleasures now.- San Francisco Chronicle
Compulsively creative…it’s classical, it’s ecological, and it’s echoic…highly rewarding.- Bloomberg News
An impassioned work of fiction…the novel is a success. Miles has a message to preach, but is such a clever stylist that the preaching is minimized in impact by the torrent of beautifully constructed sentences. Reading the novel is akin to listening to a song on the radio about the end of the world through the use of nuclear weaponry, singing along cheerfully because the tempo is upbeat and the instrumentation is jangly.- The Dallas Morning News
Shrewd, funny, and sometimes devastating…What Want Not does best [are] portraits of humanity: the small epiphanies and private hurts of every person whose life, like the detritus they produce, is as beautifully mundane and unique as a fingerprint.- Entertainment Weekly
Jonathan Miles pulls out all the stops for an amazing read: humor so dark you’re shuddering and laughing at the same time, a cast of characters drawn with Dickens’s own pen, and head-on collisions with questions that matter and answers that come in fierce but roundabout ways.- Book Reporter
A book that encompasses national tragedies and the limits of material satisfaction…rapturous prose…a novel that’s sharp and occasionally breathtaking.- Time Out New York
Brilliantly written, painfully truthful, and bitingly funny.- Biloxi Sun-Herald
Thought-provoking…riveting storytelling.- Chicago Tribune
With forthright wit and stunning intimacy, Miles doesn’t hesitate to broach the uncomfortable consequences of unchecked abundance and desire. The result is a wild tangle of high-octane, entertaining prose, an astonishing leap for this accomplished novelist.- Booklist
Spectacular…the novel stuns with a remarkable array of characters.- Library Journal
In this powerful, blisteringly funny novel, Jonathan Miles makes a startling discovery: We are what we throw away. It’s in our castoff goods, edibles, chances and people that our authentic selves are revealed; or, as one of his many memorable characters puts it, “garbage [is] the only truthful thing civilization produced.” Miles mines the depths of waste so artfully that by the end of this extraordinary novel, we’re left with the suspicion that redemption may well be no more, and no less, than an existential salvage operation.- Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Want Not, Jonathan Miles brilliant and original take on a culture—ours—that mindlessly seems to squander all that is dear, is as witty as it is mind-blowing and eye-opening. The combination of high-octane prose and Miles’ compassion for his characters make for a novel that stirs the collective conscience. A clear-eyed, exuberant entertainment.- Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life


Want Not