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The publication in one volume of Gilbert Rogin’s novels, What Happens Next? and Preparations for the Ascent, will bring to a new generation the comedy, pathos, and incisive observation that made him a favorite contributor to the New Yorker, where he published thirty-three stories in the 1960s and ’70s. Hailed by the New York Review of Books for the “grace and intelligence” of his writing, Rogin’s work nevertheless fell out of print for two decades—and yet seems astonishingly fresh to 21st-century eyes. Contemporary readers will find in him an antic genius in the manner of Larry David, and a literary stylist who “often writes with the humor and sensitivity of the best work of Saul Bellow” (Newsweek).

Rogin’s dyspeptic protagonist—who appears under different names in the two novels, but bears the same quirky sensibility—roams the streets and bedrooms of Manhattan (with side trips to Florida and California), dispensing his unique brand of laugh-out-loud wisdom on the faults of psychotherapy, the folly of marriage, and the foibles of family life. Rogin’s Everyman is the trenchant commentator on the human comedy that we all wish we could be. Drowning in the indignities thrust upon him by his ex-wife, his parents and his girlfriend (known only as the Human Dynamo), he nevertheless rises above the surface with flights of empathy and poetry to anchor himself in our affection.

Elegantly written and very funny, these novels confirm Rogin’s place alongside not just his literary contemporaries John Updike and Philip Roth, but also next to Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld as one of the great comic minds of his time—and our own.