An unsung masterpiece squatting in the ashes of the sixties, The Nenoquich is the diary of a seducer hammering on the walls of his own loneliness.
One day, eavesdropping on a phone call, Harold Raab, a writer with nothing to write, hears his roommate refer intriguingly to a woman Harold has never met. Curiosity leads to obsession and to an affair with the married Charlotte Cobin, all of which Harold faithfully records in the notebook that becomes his deeper obsession. As the relationship with Charlotte complicates and darkens, Harold’s poisons emerge. He’s discovered a subject he can write about, but now reveals himself as someone whose intelligence, wit, and sexual delirium mask a terror of human connection. Adrift in the ruins of 1970s Berkeley, he is—like the dark hero of a nineteenth century romance—disastrously unprepared for actual love, and even for life.
Originally published in 1982 under the title False Match, and long out of print, The Nenoquich is an unsparing, painful, and often very funny story of fading illusions. It captures a generation at sea, and a seducer out of his depth. This edition includes a new preface by the author.
About the Author
Henry Bean’s screenplays include Internal Affairs, Deep Cover, and Basic Instinct 2. He wrote and directed the films The Believer and Noise, and collaborated with Chantal Akerman on several of her films. He has written for K Street (HBO) and The OA (Netflix). He has published short fiction in McSweeney’s, Black Clock, and other places. The Nenoquich remains his only novel.
"Bean writes erotic scenes with a frankness and gusto uncommon in literary fiction today . . . A chronicle of sex and death in youth and a portrait of the baby boom generation at a turning point — between political radicalism and the path of temptation, fulfillment and disappointment that came to define it." — Christian Lorentzen
“The recent reissue of Bean’s novel, The Nenoquich, makes one wish he had kept writing books . . . It’s mordant, dark, and funny, written with an eye for the telling detail, through which an entire personality unfurls itself before our eyes, fully formed. It is disturbing and unsettling in the way of great writing. It even has a plot . . . It’s a disturbing enough premise, somewhere at the nexus of Highsmith, Nabokov, and Sentimental Education, but the grimness of it is leavened by Harold’s charm. He’s funny and beguiling . . . The book is remarkable . . . It will be particularly useful to young writers wondering how to capture the weft and warp of a deeply political time—to portray characters with political convictions—without writing a pat political novel, or abandoning psychological complexity, thematic ambition, form, and humor. — Christopher Carroll
"This debut, or better say rebut, is our first masterpiece this decade—and it was written in 1982 . . . It is a gift—a literary phenomenon of the first order—that The Nenoquich comes to us intact, skirting the Odyssean challenges of today’s publishing-industrial complex." — Vincenzo Barney
“A profound and disturbing riff on the solipsistic confusion between art and life; at the same time an exacting portrait of a moment when a counterculture’s illusions are being laid bare. I’ve never been able to pick it up without being swept again, by its unique descriptive velocity and attitude, to the cataclysm of its finish. There’s something of Charles Willeford here, and something of Ingmar Bergman, and maybe a kind of Berkeley version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Under any title, a masterwork.” — Jonathan Lethem
"Screenwriter Bean’s marvelous novel, first published in 1982 as False Match, is about a nenoquich—the ancient Mexican word for a lifelong loser, born under a bad sign . . . Rediscovered, this stands as one of the great novels of adulthood’s losing battles." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novel that so consistently got things right: often, things you never thought mattered, never thought of at all, things that matter only because Henry Bean has singled them out and made lives turn around them . . . A terrific novel, the best fiction I've read in 1982." — Greil Marcus
"Such a dark and devious first novel, so steeped in a man's manipulation of another life, so full of the self-loathing that is unloving loving - and yet so strong, so close to the new human nature . . . Erotic, hard, even mean, [The Nenoquich] is adult reading. The redeeming social virtues are in manner and meaning.” — Art Seidelbaum
“There's a Nabokovian cunning in this first novelist’s careful portrayal of his creepy protagonist, Harold Raab, a dropout from the 1960s who can only connect with the world around him through the exercise of fantasy . . . Its steely concentration and understated emotional force make [The Nenoquich] a thoroughly successful experiment.” — Bruce Allen
“Believe me, you’ve never made this trip before. For Henry Bean’s extraordinary first novel accomplishes what great literature is meant to do: It rediscovers within all the chaff and flash of contemporary life enduring and, in this case, terrifying truths . . . Rarely has the physical act of sex, as a barometer of someone's psychological state, been described so well . . . Buy this disturbing book—if only as a hedge against spiritual inflation. For [The Nenoquich], unlike most fiction of the day, will not lose its value. Literature lasts.” — David Bosworth