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