Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
From Publishers WeeklyA fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (ne the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
From Publishers WeeklyThe scrambled, heterogeneous sprawl of mixed-race and immigrant family life in gritty London nearly overflows the bounds of this stunning, polymathic debut novel by 23-year-old British writer Smith. Traversing a broad swath of cultural territory with a perfect ear for the nuances of identity and social class, Smith harnesses provocative themes of science, technology, history and religion to her narrative. Hapless Archibald Jones fights alongside Bengali Muslim Samad Iqbal in the English army during WWII, and the two develop an unlikely bond that intensifies when Samad relocates to Archie's native London. Smith traces the trajectory of their friendship through marriage, parenthood and the shared disappointments of poverty and deflated dreams, widening the scope of her novel to include a cast of vibrant characters: Archie's beautiful Jamaican bride, Clara; Archie and Clara's introspective daughter, Irie; Samad's embittered wife, Alsana; and Alsana and Samad's twin sons, Millat and Magid. Torn between the pressures of his new country and the old religious traditions of his homeland, Samad sends Magid back to Bangladesh while keeping Millat in England. But Millat falls into delinquency and then religious extremism, as earnest Magid becomes an Anglophile with an interest in genetic engineering, a science that Samad and Millat repudiate. Smith contrasts Samad's faith in providence with Magid's desire to seize control of the future, involving all of her characters in a debate concerning past and present, determinism and accident. The tooth--half root, half protrusion--makes a perfect trope for the two families at the center of the narrative. A remarkable examination of the immigrant's experience in a postcolonial world, Smith's novel recalls the hyper-contemporary yet history-infused work of Rushdie, sharp-edged, fluorescent and many-faceted. Agent, Georgia Garrett. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Roth almost never fails to surprise. After a clunky beginning, in which crusty Nathan Zuckerman is carrying on about the orgy of sanctimoniousness surrounding Clinton's Monica misadventures, his new novel settles into what would seem to be patented Roth territory. Coleman Silk, at 71 a distinguished professor at a small New England college, has been harried from his position because of what has been perceived as a racist slur. His life is ruined: his wife succumbs under the strain, his friends are forsaking him, and he is reduced to an affair with 34-year-old Faunia Farley, the somber and illiterate janitor at the college. It is at this point that Zuckerman, Roth's novelist alter ego, gets to know and like Silk and to begin to see something of the personal and sexual liberation wrought in him by the unlikely affair with Faunia. It is also the point at which Faunia's estranged husband Les Farley, a Vietnam vet disabled by stress, drugs and drink, begins to take an interest in the relationship. So far this is highly intelligent, literate entertainment, with a rising tension. Will Les do something violent? Will Delphine Roux, the young French professor Silk had hired, who has come to hate him, escalate the college's campaign against him? Yes, but she now wants to make something of his Faunia relationship too. Then, in a dazzling coup, Roth turns all expectations on their heads, and begins to show Silk in a new and astounding light, as someone who has lived a huge lie all his life, making the fuss over his alleged racism even more surreal. The book continues to unfold layer after layer of meaning. There is a tragedy, as foretold, and an exquisitely imagined ending in which Zuckerman himself comes to feel both threatened and a threat. Roth is working here at the peak of his imaginative skills, creating many scenes at once sharply observed and moving: Faunia's affinity for the self-contained remoteness of crows, Farley's profane longing for a cessation to the tumult in his head, Zuckerman delightedly dancing with Silk to the big band tunes of their youth. He even brings off virtuoso passages that are superfluous but highly impressive, like his dissection of the French professor's lonely anguish in the States. This is a fitting capstone to the trilogy that includes American Pastoral and I Married a Communist--a book more balanced and humane than either, and bound, because of its explosive theme, to be widely discussed. 100,000 first printing.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Friday, December 10, 2010
From Publishers WeeklyThe sea change has invigorated Rushdie. His new novel is very much an American book, a bitingly satiric, often wildly farcical picture of American society in the first years of the 21st century. The twice transplanted protagonist (Bombay born, Cambridge educated, now Manhattan resident) Prof. Malik Solanka is an unimaginably wealthy man, transformed from a philosophy professor into a BBC-TV star, then into the inventor of a wildly popular doll called Little Brain. Compelled to relinquish control of the doll when it metamorphoses into an industry, the furious Solanka flees London for an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. His prose crackling with irony, Rushdie catches roiling undercurrents of incivility and inchoate anger: in cab drivers, moviegoers and sidewalk pedestrians; in ethnic antagonisms; in political confrontations; and in Solly himself, as he tries to surmount his guilt over having abandoned a loving wife and three-year-old son in England, and as he becomes involved with two new women. Rushdie's brilliantly observant portrait of "this money-mad burg" is mercilessly au courant, with references to George Gush and Al Bore, to Elian and Tony Soprano, and to "shawls made from the chin fluff of extinct mountain goats." The action is helter-skelter fast and refreshingly concise; this is a slender book for Rushdie, and his relatively narrow focus results in a crisper narrative; there are fewer puns and a deeper emotional involvement with his characters. Still, his tendency to go over the top leads to some incredulity for the reader; it's a bit much that short, unprepossessing Solly is a magnet for gorgeous, articulate women, who all tend to speak in the same didactic monologues. On the whole, however, readers will nod in acknowledgement of Rushdie's recognition that "the whole world was burning on a shorter fuse." Rushdie remains a master of satire that rings true with unsettling acuity and dark, comedic brilliance. Agent, Andrew Wylie. 8-city author tour. (Sept. 11)Forecast: Rushdie has never been so sharply observant of the American psyche and the contemporary scene, and thus so relevant to U.S. readers. His increasing visibility after the isolation of the fatwa years should create a buzz of interest in this novel.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Review by Guardian
It is tempting to see Ballard as the seer of Shepperton, the self-styled suburbanite who carves out grim dystopias of technology, corruption and perversion from the safety of the sofa. Or indeed as the child internee of Empire of the Sun, who transforms every social space into a prison in which savagery is the necessary corollary to survival. Neither of these descriptions is particularly untrue, but in Super-Cannes - in many ways a companion piece to Ballard's previous novel, Cocaine Nights - we might identify the author of other kinds of fiction, the detective novel, the tender travelogue and the supremely subtle parody also jostling for attention.
The hero of Super-Cannes is a typically Ballardesque character, the ex-RAF pilot who finds himself cut asunder from modern life and stands on the sidelines patiently attempting to unravel its message and find the key to his own alienation. But the novel also has a powerful anti-hero, the sick psychiatrist Wilder Penrose, whose description on the first page as an "amiable Prospero" fits his creator equally well. Penrose is the Lord of Misrule who presides over his territory with unnerving sang-froid, winding up his charges then fondly regarding the havoc they create.
Penrose's "ideas laboratory for the new millennium" is the grandly named Eden-Olympia, a monstrously hi-tech business park nestling in the hills above the French Riviera which plays home to the new elites. Here, absorption in work has eclipsed the need for play, and the ornamental ponds, sports centres and cafes that landscape the complex stand deserted as the executives of Siemens, Mitsui and Unilever move silently from glass-fronted office buildings to sleek chauffeur-driven cars. Social life, in its broadest sense, has been dispensed with, and there is no place among the smooth planes and surfaces for the church, the council house or the police station. Monitored by surveillance cameras and guarded by an under-employed security force, the community polices itself; all that matters is the quiet accretion of wealth and the dedicated pursuit of commerce.
Into this capitalist paradise glides an antique Jaguar bearing Paul Sinclair - an aviation buff deprived of his pilot's licence and the use of a knee following a bungled take-off - and his wife Jane, a youthful paediatrician whose bolshieness and taste for the occasional recreational drug marks her out from the beginning as a character likely to end up in trouble. Indeed, their arrival - ushered in by a beaming Penrose - is already tainted; Jane is to replace David Greenwood, a clinician who some months earlier had rampaged through the cool green spaces and mirrored offices of Eden-Olympia, taken a rifle to 10 people and then slaughtered himself. Becalmed by the curse of enforced leisure - "a new kind of social deprivation" - and intrigued by the teasingly casual response of the business park's senior personnel, Paul sniffs conspiracy and turns sleuth.
The remainder of the novel is vintage Ballard, a gripping blend of stylised thriller and fantastic imaginings rendered in deceptively bland, unruffled prose. One of its virtues lies simply in its compulsive readability; as the story unfolds, the reader is engaged at the level of pure plot, infected by Sinclair's quest to penetrate the mystery behind Greenwood's "dance of death". Yet Ballard's flair for the surreal and the sinister dictates that neither Sinclair nor the reader will remain untouched by the world they behold. For Sinclair, the process of collusion with the criminality that underlies life at Eden-Olympia begins early, with a cheery piece of vandalism on Penrose's car and a sexual fillip after his wife shoplifts a copy of Paris-Match.
By the time he has uncovered the serious programme of violence designed by Penrose to counteract executive stress - a leather- jacketed "bowling club" whose forays into the outside world leave Arab pimps and Senegalese trinket merchants bleeding in the gutters - Sinclair is as compromised as he is appalled, and feels a reluctant admiration of the ruthless rationale behind the businessmen's therapeutic games. Pricked by his conscience yet drawn into the community's bizarre sexual games, Sinclair is caught in a double bind of resistance and attraction; seduced by the drama of what he witnesses he is unable, despite his instincts, to tear himself away.
"It's irritating to be reminded of the contingent world", remarks Penrose as he outlines his plans for the "intelligent city" he is creating. At first sight, that intelligence takes the form of advanced health screening, up-to-the-minute gadgetry and the replacement of the civic by the commercial. But as the novel progresses, his vision is seen to be far more concerned with the accommodation and encouragement of baser instincts. "A controlled psychopathy is a way of resocialising people and tribalising them into mutually supportive groups," he explains in defence of the violent "special actions" carried out by the bowling club. "The consumer society hungers for the deviant and unexpected - psychopathy is the only engine powerful enough to light our imaginations, to drive the arts, sciences and industries of the world."
All the best madmen make a certain kind of sense, and Penrose's development of homeopathic violence - "microdoses of madness like the minute traces of strychnine in a nerve tonic" - holds Eden-Olympia in a "state of undeclared war", its occupants beguiled into an inhuman and unnatural state of hyper-effectiveness. Ballard's grotesqueries also hold the reader in their sway, thrown into relief by the lovingly evoked ambience of the old Riviera and a vanished cultural life hinted at by references to Saint-Exupéry and Graham Greene. That world is gone, replaced by identikit versions of Silicon Valley reproducing themselves across the globe, self-contained communities free to create their own morality. It is a form of madness that only madness can combat, and as Paul Sinclair sinks further into his own "dream of death", the reader can only just cling on to the hope that he will wake up.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
From Publishers Weekly
As swift as a lethal bullet and as timely as current headlines, McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel is a mordantly clever?but ultimately too clever for its own good?exploration of ethical issues. Two longtime friends meet at the cremation of the woman they shared, beautiful restaurant critic and photographer Molly Lane. Clive Linley, a celebrated composer, and Vernon Halliday, the editor of a financially troubled London tabloid, could never understand Molly's third liaison?with conservative Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony, who is angling to be prime minister, or her marriage to dour but rich publisher George Lane. Mourning the manner of Molly's agonizing death, which left her mad and helpless at the end, each man pledges to dispatch the other by euthanasia should he be similarly afflicted. Immediately afterwards, both Clive and Vernon are enmeshed in a crisis: Clive must finish his commissioned Millennium Symphony so it can premiere in Amsterdam, and Vernon must grapple with the moral issue of publishing photos of Julian Garmony in drag that George has discovered with Molly's effects. The clash between whether the demands of pure art are more valid than political accountability and financial solvency soon assumes a larger dimension that turns Clive and Vernon into bitter enemies and inspires each of them to seek revenge by the same means. McEwan spins these plot developments with smooth alacrity and with acidulous wit, especially focused on the way shallow and mediocre people can occupy positions of power and esteem: "In his profession, Vernon was revered as a nonentity." His ability to sculpt a scene with such arresting visual detail that it assumes a physical dimension for the reader (most memorably in the opening of Enduring Love but also evident here as Clive observes a woman being accosted by a rapist, and as Vernon watches a TV interview that signals the end of his career) are undiminished. But when, in the last third of the book, McEwan manipulates the plot to achieve a less than credible symmetry, it is obvious that, despite the Booker recognition, this is far from McEwan's best novel. That said, however, it will undoubtedly hit the bestseller charts, for McEwan, even when not quite at the top of his form, is a writer of compelling gifts. Major ad/promo; author tour.Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
D O W N L O A D
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Set during the 1990s in an overcrowded and politically corrupt Bombay, Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters depicts a family being torn apart by lies, love, and its unresolved demons of the past. Nariman Vakeel is an aging patriarch whose advancing Parkinson's disease and its related complications threaten to destroy his large Parsi family. When Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his two stepchildren turn his care over to their half-sister, Roxanne, who lives in a two-room flat with her husband and two sons. What follows is each character's reaction to this situation, from Roxanne's husband's struggle to provide for his family without neglecting his conscience to their sons' coming of age in an era of uncertainty. Expertly interspersed between these dilemmas are Nariman's tortured remembrances of a forbidden love and its inescapable consequences ("no matter where you go in the world, there is only one story: of youth, and loss, and yearning for redemption. So we tell the same story, over and over. Just the details are different"). Family Matters is a compelling, emotional, and persuasive testimony to the importance of memories in every family's history. In a poetic style rich with detail, Mistry creates a world where fate dances with free will, and the results are often more familiar than anyone would ever care to admit. --Gisele Toueg
From Publishers WeeklyWarm, humane, tender and bittersweet are not the words one would expect to describe a novel that portrays a society where the government is corrupt, the standard of living is barely above poverty level and religious, ethnic and class divisions poison the community. Yet Mistrys compassionate eye and his ability to focus on the small decencies that maintain civilization, preserve the family unit and even lead to happiness attest to his masterly skill as a writer who makes sense of the world by using laughter, as one of his characters observes. Bombay in the mid-1990s, a once-elegant city in the process of deterioration, is mirrored in the physical situation of elderly retired professor Nariman Vakeel, whose body is succumbing to the progressive debilitation of Parkinsons disease. Narimans apartment, which he shares with his two resentful, middle-aged stepchildren, is also in terrible disrepair. But when an accident forces him to recuperate in the tortuously crowded apartment that barely accommodates his daughter Roxana, her husband and two young boys, family tensions are exacerbated and the limits of responsibility and obligation are explored with a full measure of anguish. In the ensuing situation, everyones behavior deteriorates, and the affecting secret of Narimans thwarted lifetime love affair provides a haunting leitmotif. Light moments of domestic interaction, a series of ridiculous comic situations, ironic juxtapositions and tenderly observed human eccentricities provide humorous relief, as the author of A Fine Balance again explores the tightrope act that constitutes life on this planet. Mistry is not just a fiction writer; he's a philosopher who finds meaning-indeed, perhaps a divine plan in small human interactions. This beautifully paced, elegantly expressed novel is notable for the breadth of its vision as well as its immensely appealing characters and enticing plot.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly re-imagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.
As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance–and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro's finest work.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy—the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth—both push Coetzee—on to the bittersweet conclusion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The Sea is where Max Morden, a middle-aged art historian, retreats after his wife dies of cancer. Max goes to the Irish seaside village of Ballyless where he once spent a holiday as a boy. While there, he alternately remembers his life with his wife and that summer holiday where he became infatuated with the wealthy and sophisticated Grace family, first with the mother, and then with the daughter. These relationships with these three women were the uneasy mess of life that helped define who he has come to be. Even now in retrospect, Max must remember even the most difficult truths if he is to find solace in them. John Banville's novel has received mostly positive reviews with The Scotsman saying, "This is a novel in which all Banville's remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, disturbing, beautiful, intelligent, and in the end, surprisingly, offering consolation."
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
From the Reviews:
- "(T)hough it will leave his long-term fans feeling slightly disappointed, there's no reason to suspect that the dauntingly prolific Murakami is in danger of going permanently off the boil. (...) Philip Gabriel's English-language text is also pretty clunky in places" - Christopher Tayler, Daily Telegraph
- "Kafka on the Shore is undoubtedly a very readable book. Although the resolution is weak, Murakami builds suspense skilfully and draws you inexorably into a convoluted, fantastical storyline. (...) It may seem idiotic to complain about lack of plausibility in a meandering narrative featuring talking cats and ghostly spirits, especially one featuring a running commentary about metaphor and allegory -- but that is Kafka on the Shore’s main flaw, and one that makes it a more insubstantial experience than its weighty appearance suggests." - Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times
- "Die Mysterien und die rätselhaften Beziehungen nehmen kein Ende. Murakami spielt mit dem Mythos-Material, und man spürt, welche Freude er daran hat. Er ist ein freundlicher Erzähler. Selbst die Toten sind glückliche Tote. Das Böse ist eine dunkle Macht, die besiegt werden kann, und wir, die Leser, sind auch dann auf der Seite des Guten, wenn wir nicht verstehen, was vor sich geht." - Jörg Magenau, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- "Unless I am being particularly dim-witted, loose ends remain far looser than in any Murakami novel to date. (...) The mythic motifs also remain frustratingly shady. (...) Murakami's style is rarely less than seductive and I read Kafka on the Shore in one non-stop feeding frenzy. (A second reading, with more reviewerly table-manners, was necessary.) For sheer love of a thumping narrative, the novel delivers gloriously." - David Mitchell, The Guardian
- "Kafka on the Shore contains more than enough mystery to delight fans, and will also entrance newcomers. Murakami has suggested it is a book that needs more than one reading to comprehend fully, and it may also be true that some scenes that will seem baffling to a Western audience make more sense to Japanese readers. If you return to the beginning of the book after completing it, the prologue actually works best as an epilogue." - Matt Thorne, The Independent
- "Brilliantly conceived, bold in its surreal scope, sexy, and driven by a snappy and often comical plot, Murakami's new work delves into the congested inner workings of our selves with characteristic brio. I would recommend it to anyone, but with a word of caution for the uninitiated. If you have not read Murakami before, you will enjoy this doorstop of a novel a whole lot more if you start, like this novel's protagonist, with a bit of circuit training from this author's earlier work." - James Urquhart, Independent on Sunday
Friday, November 12, 2010
From Publishers WeeklyThe ghost of what historian Peter Gay calls "the bourgeois experience," molded in the liberalism and neurasthenia of the 19th century and destroyed in the wars and concentration camps of the 20th century, haunts W.G. Sebald's unique novels. His latest concerns the melancholic life of Jacques Austerlitz who, justifiably, exclaims, "At some point in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life." The unnamed narrator met Austerlitz, an architectural historian, in Belgium in the '60s, then lost track of his friend in the '70s. When they accidentally run into each other in 1996, Austerlitz tells the story that occupies the rest of the book the story of Austerlitz's life. For a long time, Austerlitz did not know his real mother and father were Prague Jews his first memories were of his foster parents, a joyless Welsh couple. While exploring the Liverpool Street railroad station in London, Austerlitz experiences a flashback of himself as a four-year-old. Gradually, he tracks his history, from his birth in Prague to a cultivated couple through his flight to England, on the eve of WWII, on a train filled with refugee children. His mother, Agata, was deported first to Theresienstadt and then, presumably, to Auschwitz. His father disappeared in Paris. Austerlitz's isolation and depression deepen after learning these facts. As Sebald's readers will expect, the novel is filled with scholarly digressions, ranging from the natural history of moths to the typically overbearing architecture of the Central European spas. In this novel as in previous ones, Sebald writes as if Walter Benjamin's terrible "angel of history" were perched on his shoulder. B&w photos. (Oct.)Forecast: Gambling (safely) on Sebald's progress from cult favorite to major figure, Random House has picked up the author from former publisher New Directions and is sending him on an author tour. Though his latest isn't as startling and exciting as The Emigrants or The Rings of Saturn, it is a significant achievement, and Sebald should continue to attract ever more attention.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
From Publishers Weekly
At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New YorkerMitchell's virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel's themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell's characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to "no more than one drop in a limitless ocean," he asks, "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.
Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Lee offers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman to overcome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standing up for what he knows is right; and finally in Scout's hard-won understanding that most people are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations, and deserves to be reread often. --Alix Wilber
Monday, November 8, 2010
"The Book of Laughter and Forgetting calls itself a novel, although it is part fairy tale, part literary criticism, part political tract, part musicology, and part autobiography. It can call itself whatever it wants to, because the whole is genius." -- John Leonard, New York Times
"An absolutely dazzling entertainment....Arousing on every levelpolitical, erotic, intellectual, and above all, humorous." -- Newsweek
"Deeply and impressively subversive, in more ways than one....Kundera's condemnation of modern life is broad, but his sympathy for those who create and suffer it is deep." -- Paul Gray, Time
"This book, as it bluntly calls itself, is brilliant and origin, written with the purity and wit that invite us directly in. " -- John Updike, New York Times Book Review
D O W N L O A D
Sunday, November 7, 2010
As Clarissa Dalloway walks through London on a fine June morning, a sky-writing plane captures her attention. Crowds stare upwards to decipher the message while the plane turns and loops, leaving off one letter, picking up another. Like the airplane's swooping path, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa and those whose lives brush hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness.
As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Bruton (who, Clarissa notes anxiously, gives the most amusing luncheons). Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton.
Woolf then explores the relationships between women and men, and between women, as Clarissa muses, "It was something central which permeated; something warm which broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together.... Her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?" While Clarissa is transported to past afternoons with Sally, and as she sits mending her green dress, Warren Smith catapults desperately into his delusions. Although his troubles form a tangent to Clarissa's web, they undeniably touch it, and the strands connecting all these characters draw tighter as evening deepens. As she immerses us in each inner life, Virginia Woolf offers exquisite, painful images of the past bleeding into the present, of desire overwhelmed by society's demands. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland
It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century. -- Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Mrs. Dalloway ... contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English ... -- Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
In J. M. Coetzee's novel, Elizabeth Costello is a aging Australian writer, famous for a book she'd written years ago and now traveling the lecture circuit, although she's a poor public speaker. Through her speeches and interactions with her family members, Elizabeth Costello is more of a series of essays contained within a fictional outline. Coetzee examines themes such as animal rights, the Holocaust, humanism, rationalism, as well as how a writer imparts his beliefs through his fiction. Nominated for the Booker Prize, The Telegraph says of this novel, "In the end, as his heroine confronts death, he has been able to raise the deepest questions through some fictional safeguards -- without settling on answers, or defending all the arguments as his. But this is fine, because the attentive reader will have been badly jolted. It is why Coetzee is famous: Elizabeth Costello is no cheap shock. It is a serious one."
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon. It won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. Its title is a quotation of a remark made by the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1894 short story "Silver Blaze".
The story is written in the first-person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy with autism living in Swindon, Wiltshire. Although Christopher's condition within the autism spectrum is not stated explicitly within the novel, the summary on the book's inside cover or back cover (depending on the edition) describes it as Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism, or savant syndrome. In July 2009, Haddon stated on his blog that the book is not specifically about Asperger Syndrome and that he is not an expert on the subject.
Monday, November 1, 2010
In The Light of Day, Booker Prize-winning author Graham Swift takes readers into the mind of an ex-cop turned private investigator, who mulls over his relationship with a former client jailed for murdering her husband. In classic noir fashion, Webb has fallen for his client and anxiously awaits her release. Moreover, Webb had been called in to track the husband's affair, and Webb's role in the crime remains dubious. Swift's novel is somewhat in the vein of stream-of-consciousness style; Webb's thoughts are described, as they take place throughout a single day, in no particular order and without adhering to any strict plot structure. The novel's strength is indeed its structure: it is based not on chronology but as if on a sort of emotional resonance, with Webb's thoughts and preoccupations providing the novel with a depth not normally found in traditional detective novels. As an example, Swift writes of Webb's recollection of tailing the husband, after he had ended the affair and put his ex-lover on a plane:
He headed back towards the car park. In his shoes what would I have done? Found some spot that looked out on the runways? Pressed my nose against cold glass? All those taxiing lights. All those trundling planes, the people inside them like mere possibilities. At night it's hard to follow....Webb is a fallible gumshoe who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but, thanks to Swift's deft prose, has the range of his emotions revealed as he looks toward the future and contemplates his past actions in The Light of Day. --Michael Ferch
From Publishers WeeklyGeorge Webb, a divorced ex-cop and the narrator of this fine novel, works as a private investigator in London specializing in "matrimonial work": finding evidence of philandering. Some of the tearful women who enter his office become lovers (one, Rita, becomes his heart-of-gold assistant), but Sarah Nash becomes something altogether different. A language teacher and translator, she wants Webb to follow her husband and his lover, Kristina Lazic, a refugee taken in by the Nashes, to the airport "to see if she really goes"-alone-back to Croatia. Sarah knows the truth of the affair already; she's just looking for a sign that her husband can love her again. But the story belongs to Webb, through a masterful interior monologue that links the action of the present with a meditation on the past. Webb's movements on a particular day in November furnish the opportunity to learn about his childhood, his failed marriage, his career as a policeman terminated by a minor scandal and his constrained and lonely life. Sarah becomes Webb's opportunity for a second chance at happiness and redemption. But that reality will have to wait until her release from prison (it's not giving away the plot to note her crime: the murder of her husband). While this story sounds a bit like an American noir thriller from the 1930s (and Swift's title may be a nod to the noir fascination with night and shadow), the Booker Prize-winning author (for Last Orders) is after bigger themes: the weight of history, the role of fate, the inexplicable vagaries of love. Though perhaps not at the level of Last Orders, this beautifully written novel is a worthwhile addition to the Swift canon.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Adult/High School-Set during the seemingly idyllic summer of 1935 at the country estate of the Tallis family, the first section of this thought-provoking novel ambles through one scorchingly hot day that changes the lives of almost everyone present. The catalyst is overly imaginative 13-year-old Briony, who accuses Robbie, her sister's childhood friend and their housemaid's son, of raping her cousin Lola. The young man is sent to prison and Cecilia, heartbroken, abandons her family and becomes a nursing sister in London. In the second part, McEwan vividly describes another single day, this time Robbie's experiences during the ignominious British retreat to Dunkirk early in World War II. Finally, readers meet Briony again, now a nursing student. She is aware that she might have been wrong that day five years earlier and begins to seek atonement, having clearly ruined two lives. In a story within a story, McEwan brilliantly engages readers in a tour de force of what ifs and might have beens until they begin to wonder what actually happened. The story is compelling, the characters well drawn and engaging, and the outcome is almost always in doubt. The descriptions of the retreat and the subsequent hospitalization of the soldiers are grim and realistic. Readers are spared little, yet the journey is worth the observed pain and distress. Well-read teens will find much to think about in this novel.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA