With great narrative inventiveness and emotional amplitude, Allan Gurganus gives us artistic Manhattan in the wild 1980s, where young artists--refugees from the middle class--hurl themselves into playful work and serious fun. Our guide is Hartley Mims Jr., a Southerner whose native knack for happiness might thwart his literary ambitions. Through his eyes we encounter the composer Robert Christian Gustafson, an Iowa preacher's son whose good looks constitute both a mythic draw and a major limitation, and Angelina "Alabama" Byrnes, a failed deb, five feet tall but bristling with outsized talent. These friends shelter each other, promote each other's work, and compete erotically. When tragedy strikes, this circle grows up fast, somehow finding, at the worst of times, the truest sort of family.
Funny and heartbreaking, as eventful as Dickens and as atmospheric as one of Fitzgerald's parties, Plays Well with Others combines a fable's high-noon energy with an elegy's evening grace. Allan Gurganus's celebrated new novel is a lovesong to imperishable friendship, a hymn to a brilliant and now-vanished world.