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My Face for the World to See

My Face for the World to See

by Alfred Hayes, introduction by David Thomson

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Alfred Hayes is one of the secret masters of the twentieth century novel, a journalist and scriptwriter and poet who possessed an immaculate ear and who wrote with razorsharp intelligence about passion and its payback.

My Face for the World to See is set in Hollywood, where the tonic for anonymity is fame and you’re only as real as your image. At a party, the narrator, a screenwriter, rescues a young woman who staggers with drunken determination into the Pacific. He is living far from his wife in New York and long ago shed any illusions about the value of his work. He just wants to be left alone. And yet without really meaning to, he gets involved with the young woman, who has, it seems, no illusions about love, especially with married men. She’s a survivor, even if her beauty is a little battered from years of not quite making it in the pictures. She’s just like him, he thinks, and as their casual relationship takes on an increasingly troubled and destructive intensity, it seems that might just be true, only not in the way he supposes.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590176672
Pages: 152
Publication Date:


An exciting, engrossing work, written with beautiful economy and the sure skill of an artist who knows what he is doing.... Mr. Hayes has created characters that are the essence of human hopes and frailty.
The New York Times Book Review

Hayes is a master of the withheld detail...This is an insider's manual for all those who would aspire to fame, the ghostly glamour of the movies, and believe they are entitled to it.
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Hayes’s plots are deceptively simple. In My Face for the World to See, a married screenwriter, alienated from his own apparent success…saves a penniless aspiring actress from drowning at a beachfront party. Their brief, poignant affair, as unsentimental as it is inevitable, unfolds like a noirish romance.
—Brian Patrick Eha, City Journal

All of Alfred Hayes's writing has been marked by a fine grace and finish; and My Face for the World to See is like his earlier books in its quiet control of words and effects. Grace, finish, control—or plain style—are all rare qualities in the generally verbose weather of contemporary prose; and when they appear they must be greeted with honest gratitude and praise.
Chicago Daily Tribune

Hayes writes luminously about people who can't help themselves, who can't resist the temptations that are set to destroy them.... Hayes has done for bruised men what Jean Rhys does for bruised women, and they both write heartbreakingly beautiful sentences.
—Paul Bailey, The Guardian

Elegant in its hopelessness, or hopeless in its elegance: a real find.
—Michael Hoffman, The Times Literary Supplement

The most vivid picture of Hollywood since Nathanael West's Day of the Locust.
—Nelson Algren

A constant tug back to the LCD of raw humanity is one of the most striking features of Mr. Hayes's superficially sophisticated writing.... This is an insidious, nasty, nagging book, with a bitter after-taste: but there is no doubt in the world that Mr. Hayes knows what he is about.
The Irish Times

In it is captured the essence of Hollywood, the bitterness which lies beneath the pleasant aroma of success and fame.... In the compass of this novel, Hayes, who is one of the best novelists writing today [1958], has captured the ineffable sadness which marches in the van of success, has touched the corrupting qualities of Hollywood which have escaped most of those who have written about this fabled town.
Los Angeles Times

Deeply moving.
New York Herald Tribune

A small jolting shot of bitter wisdom.

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