“Like A Fiery Elephant” is the best biography ever written about the life of Bryan Stanley Johnson, but I immediately know what you’re thinking; who?
From the introduction, where Coe explains how he first encountered the work of B.S. Johnson and declares:
“It seems, nowadays, that literature is discussed more than ever before; but at the same time, it has never been less valued.”
to the chilling reveal in the closing chapter of the book titled “Coda,” Coe creates a vivid portrait of who Johnson was both as a novelist and a person.
For those unfamiliar with Johnson’s literary work, he was an experimental novelist and poet who drove his agents, editors, and publishing houses mad.
In his 1964 novel “Albert Angelo” Johnson insisted that holes be cut in the middle of several pages so that the reader could see forward to a future event. He also broke character and inserted his own voice near the book’s finale to rant and finally proclaim that “Telling stories is telling lies.” He then continued by tacking on an ending to the story because he knew that his readers would want some form of closure for what they’d invested time in reading.
His 1969 novel “The Unfortunates” was published as a book in a box in which each of the twenty-seven chapters was separately bound. The first chapter and the last chapter were clearly marked, but the other twenty-five were left to be read in any random order the reader saw fit.
Perhaps his most famous work, 1973’s “Christie-Malry’s Own Double-Entry” tells the tale of man who applies double-entry bookkeeping to his life, crediting himself against others’ perceived debits in more and more violent ways.
“Like A Fiery Elephant” is far from just a study of the works of B.S. Johnson though. It is a true biography of the man’s life from his early days and his separation from his family as a child through his adult years and his unfortunate suicide.
No one had ever been able to piece together the final forty-eight hours leading up to the end of Johnson’s life, but here Coe presents a compelling argument for what may have actually taken place.
Another mystery Coe gets to the bottom of his Johnson’s strange fascination with Robert Graves’ idea of the White Goddess and how Johnson applied this theory to himself and his craft.
Coe’s detective work and writing are both excellent. I went into the this book as an experiment only because it was written by one of my favorite authors figuring that at best it would be mildly interesting and at worst it would be boring, but I could check it off my list of things I’d read read that were written by Coe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he paints a great picture of a larger than life man as seen through the eyes of those who knew him. He only inserts his own thoughts or comments when they are relevant or to clear up anything perceived as an inaccuracy.
Coe spent years putting this biography together and his passion for his subject clearly shows and has left a lasting impression on him. In the years following the completion of the biography Coe would weave pieces from Johnson’s real life into his own fictional work, most notably with “The Rain Before it Falls,” which I read before reading this biography and “The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim,” which I read after.
If you’re looking for a great, gripping biography, not just one that happens to be about an obscure British author, this is it....more
Surprisingly good, though none of the stories here are truly strangers than fiction, at least not Palahniuk's brand. I enjoyed the final 2/3 of the boSurprisingly good, though none of the stories here are truly strangers than fiction, at least not Palahniuk's brand. I enjoyed the final 2/3 of the book much more than the first 1/3. Stand outs include an interview with Juliette Lewis and pieces about the filming of Fight Club....more
Listened to this today with Olivia. She really enjoyed "The Wolves In The Wall" and I dug "The Day I Swapped My Dad". The bonus bit with Neil's daughtListened to this today with Olivia. She really enjoyed "The Wolves In The Wall" and I dug "The Day I Swapped My Dad". The bonus bit with Neil's daughter interviewing him was fun as well....more
Nice and quick setup, although a little too close to 28 Days Later territory. Much quicker pace than the first episode of the AMC series and a few minNice and quick setup, although a little too close to 28 Days Later territory. Much quicker pace than the first episode of the AMC series and a few minor differences. It will be interesting to see how the show differs over time. Not a lot of horror here, much more focus on character development, which is how this sort of thing should work. Zombies are horrific enough without added violence or gore just for the sake of being brutal and graphic....more
Where volume one felt clunky in its attempt to establish both the current situation and the characters involved, volume two finds the series hitting iWhere volume one felt clunky in its attempt to establish both the current situation and the characters involved, volume two finds the series hitting its stride. It will be interesting to see if the AMC series continues to follow along closely with the original material. If the producers are smart, they will.
As I previously stated, the main issues I had with volume one had to do with the way the zombie epidemic was introduced. Helllllllo 28 Days Later and the way the characters were introduced, including spending a lot of time on two characters who haven’t been heard from since, but as far as we know haven’t been eaten. Will they return? I guess I’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Volume two picks up right were volume one left off and introduces some great new challenges for our beloved band of survivors. It also sets up what feel like some major plot points to move forward from.
Yes, the zombies in this series are classic Romero, there’s nothing new or special being added to the mythology, but that’s the point. The Walking Dead is to zombies as Buffy is to vampires. It isn’t a series about monsters; it’s a series about how human beings react to being thrust into an extreme situation and every thing that goes along with trying to survive. They need one another, yet they are all tragically flawed. If you’re looking for wall to wall bloodshed, gore, and zombie brain mashing, then you’re in the wrong place.
Overall, I’m really enjoying the series, but I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of the art work and as such I’m beginning to confuse characters. Switching from reading a novel to reading a graphic novel is apparently a skill I still haven’t quite mastered as I’m much more focused on the text bubbles then I am on the pictures that accompany them, That’s not to say the artwork is bad, it isn’t, it’s squarely my problem. ...more