Adrian Nathan West

My Father’s Diet

In a broken-down Middle American town, the disintegration of a struggling family – its ambitions and emotions worn thin – is laid bare through the cold eyes of its only son. While studying at the local community college to finish his degree, he works what his divorced parents deem to be menial jobs and tries to stay out of their way, keeping his pitiless observations about their lives to himself. He says nothing about his semi-estranged father’s doomed attempts to find meaning in strip-mall spirituality. He says nothing about his mother’s willingness to subjugate herself to men he deems unworthy. He says nothing about the anonymity and emptiness to which their social classes and places of birth seem to have condemned everyone he knows, robbing them of even the vocabulary to express their grievances. He says nothing about his own pity, disgust, compassion, tenderness, and love – and when his father enters a bodybuilding competition, he swallows his scorn and agrees to help.

Instantly relatable, impeccably realized, and grimly hilarious, My Father’s Diet is equal parts Kierkegaard, This Side of Paradise, and Pumping Iron: an autopsy of antiquated notions of manhood, and the perfect, bite-sized novel for a world always keen to mistake narcissism for introspection.

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Adrian Nathan West has been awarded the 2022 Arts and Letters Awards in Literature for honouring exceptional accomplishment in any genre.

Print status: Available
Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 1 February 2022
ISBN: 9781913505226
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505233
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 176


Christopher Shrimpton
The Guardian

‘My Father’s Diet, Adrian Nathan West’s debut novel, is slim, sad, comic and sharply observed . . . West’s achievement, in this subtle and delightful book, is to have rendered failure in strikingly handsome terms.’

Sam Sacks
Wall Street Journal

‘This debut offers an acute, painfully funny front-row view of a midlife crisis in action.’

Patrick Nathan
New York Times Book Review

‘Compact and stirring, [ . . . My Father’s Diet] showcases the recognizable confusion of a changing world.’

Alastair Mabbott
The Herald

Our narrator is a product of malls, low-status jobs and faded dreams, and West’s wry, precise tone captures the monotony and inertia of his daily life. But what could have been a cruel satire is elevated by his empathy for his characters and an outlook that’s compassionate rather than condescending.’

Lamorna Ash
Literary Review

‘West’s writing is acute and at times brilliant. His descriptions of bodies that have been transformed into objects of devotion, especially, are luminous and imaginative, often humorous too . . . [My Father’s Diet] is a book of subtle wit and poignancy, the scope of which is far greater than its brief length would suggest.’

Joshua Rees

‘West has a sharp pen, capable of saying a lot with small details, and the characters feel like fully realised human beings.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Tender, sardonic, and endearingly grotesque, this coming-of-age body horror makes easy work of the heavy lifting.’

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

‘West’s dark, slim, emotionally precise debut novel is…consistently poised on a very narrow line between blackhearted contempt for these characters and comic mockery of them. But because he never slips off that line, he generates a certain affection for his characters, even if it’s clear how that body-transformation scheme is going to go.’

Jeremy Lybarger

‘Being mindful in America, West suggests, is not to invite wisdom, but to cultivate a boredom that turns even the nation’s lunacy into something as rote as weather.’

Callum Churchill, Mr B’s, Bath

‘My uncle once became obsessed with the gym and started eating 12 boiled eggs a day, so naturally I had to read this book. My Father’s Diet didn't disappoint; Adrian Nathan West wields a conductor’s control over pathos and humour throughout, perfectly evoking the aimlessness and dissatisfaction that is endemic of a decaying American dream.’

Alex Thornber, Waterstones, Brighton

'My Father’s Diet is un-indulgently bleak, darkly hilarious, and has a truly wholesome heart. Picture a less insufferable Holden Caulfield moving through a modern Turgenev story set in small-town America. It’s a precise dissection of the antiquated ideas of manhood. Brilliant.'

Ben Pope, Review, Peckham

‘My Father’s Diet by Adrian Nathan West is funny and delightfully crafted and good. It's got everything: masculine crisis! Americana! Family drama! Body building!’

Alice Fisher, The Portobello Bookshop Edinburgh

‘Very sardonic, insightful and surprisingly tender.’

Lauren Groff

My Father’s Diet is a wry and blisteringly honest indictment of American grotesquery. It is also – miraculously – tender about the unwinnable game of masculinity in this country. I loved this book for its humour, its clarity, its wicked prose. Adrian Nathan West is a star.’

Joshua Cohen

‘Adrian Nathan West, one of our best translators, is also one of our best novelists. He gives such solemn care to such mundane American pap and crap even while denying any redemptive power to the effort and it's that denial – sorrowful, but without anger, without delusion – that constitutes his brilliance. My Father's Diet is among the most ruthlessly true chronicles of the culture – of the patrimony – that we, all of us, have ruined.’

Lauren Oyler

My Father's Diet is a strange, funny, sad, and wonderful novel. With the precision of a translator who has very good taste, West captures the bizarre vividness of America better than anyone I've ever read.’

William Giraldi

‘In My Father’s Diet, Adrian Nathan West does what the giftless memoirists cannot: he alchemizes experience into art. Here is a rare book not only for sons and their fathers but for any reader who still cares about the reach of sentences well made.’

Edmund White

‘Imagine a precise, refined eye looking at all the grotesque realities of mall life in Middle America and you’ll have a sense of My Father’s Diet. It’s as if the Joyce of Dubliners were looking at Akron.’

Praise for Adrian Nathan West

‘[The Aesthetics of Degradation]  is a brief, punchy provocation, informed by a strong sense of human compassion—an incitement to readers to think deeply and honestly about a question of profound social importance.’ Houman Barekat, Los Angeles Review of Books