What started out as a simple meta story became very League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mixed with something close to Harry Potter on acid spiked with pWhat started out as a simple meta story became very League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mixed with something close to Harry Potter on acid spiked with paranoia inducing meth. The book also reads like porn for English majors with lots of background information on classic author's and their works woven into the Tommy Taylor's story: the same villa that Mary Shelly conceived and wrote Frankenstein in is also the very same villa Milton spent time with one of his lifelong friends and may have conceived Paradise Lost in. Kipling, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and others are all characters in the story. The series is also, to put it mildly, an origins story for stories themselves. Great fun and I'm hooked. ...more
Early Murakami but still impressed with the skill the young writer displayed. His scenes move along swiftly and he doesn't belabor the points he is trEarly Murakami but still impressed with the skill the young writer displayed. His scenes move along swiftly and he doesn't belabor the points he is trying to make. Even here an unusual amount of restraint is displayed, a restraint that will become his trademark style in the later novels. For an early novel its strangely lacking in traditional first novel faux pas: he doesn't overwrite his scenes, he lets the characters carry the story forward. The characterizations are the strong points of the book. The Rat is miserable, opinionated, and anti-social: a stand in for the artist of a first novel if I've ever heard one. Except The Rat is a sidekick to the protagonist, who narrates the story. A narrator who even though he's suffered a traumatic experience is trying his best to just live a normal life. Its as though in this first novel Murakami just reversed audience expectations and did his best to write a novel about an ordinary person expected to live through an unusually painful experience and a novelist is struggling in the background to approach life. The Rat basically just drinks a lot and reads a lot. Good book. Enjoyed it. ...more
So my year of a themed reading of tricksters is off to a banging start with this one. Among the strengths of the novel was the intriguing prospect: whSo my year of a themed reading of tricksters is off to a banging start with this one. Among the strengths of the novel was the intriguing prospect: what happens when a trickster figure, a liar, cheater, womanizer, and hustler is paired with a genuinely good man who he is literally chained to? Does introspection follow? Some sort of change?
Yes and yes. But i think the story that follows is a sign of how well crafted and plotted out Mark Lawrence's novel is. Right at the beginning we get the spoiled prince in the bed of someone he shouldn't be in bed with and angry brothers in pursuit while he pulls on his pants after diving out of a window.. But the prince's days of wine women and song are numbered and he runs into Snorri, a huge viking with a conscience and a deep sense of honor and ethics.
As if this wasn't bad enough our prince has to contend with a good angel at his shoulder telling him daily what a bastard he is. Its a medieval world so we are spared him entering a 12 step program but it woudn't have been far off the mark to say this novel goes out of its way to show the trickster himself.
But does it really work? Do tricksters really change who they are, or do they chameleon like alter the perception of themselves to suit their surroundings? Im not going to give away any spoilers but i will say that i was intrigued enough to follow this story to its end and am looking forward to the next installment in the series.
This was my first Mark Lawrence novel and I was impressed with the author's restrained, dense style and well drawn characters. For a fantasy novel there were enough cool things on each page to make me want to read on, and though i get the world is a sort of alternate middle ages, or a post apocalyptic one, im not really sure, i will say that it is vividly imagined. There is a nice crossover with his earlier Broken Empire series and that bad ass of all bad asses Jorg.
Not the most serious review I've written on goodreads this year but...this one was definitely fun. I read Manga occasionally, having gotten into themNot the most serious review I've written on goodreads this year but...this one was definitely fun. I read Manga occasionally, having gotten into them thanks to a challenge from my students(for every chapter of Treasure Island they read I read a Bleach Manga. Turned out I actually liked the format and the story quite a bit). I picked this one up on a whim, intrigued by the premise. Lots of sarcastic ironic fun. Felt a bit like David Foster Wallace had written a Manga. ...more
The Mark and the Void is a novel about a banker getting a novelist to write a novel about his life and that story becomes the novel The Mark and the VThe Mark and the Void is a novel about a banker getting a novelist to write a novel about his life and that story becomes the novel The Mark and the Void.
Though the above summary sounds absurd and incomprehensible, be assured that Paul Murray's new novel, The Mark and the Void, is not It is a rare book. One that manages to satire the world of high finance banking while simultaneously make some deep and intriguing claims about the role of art and literature in the daily lives of everyday people.
The novelist Paul Murray manages to do all this without sentimentalizing his characters nor lapsing into polemics. In his previous novel Skippy Dies Murray showed his ability to deftly write about sensitive subjects such as child abuse, alongside couples conflicts and domestic problems, while at the same time writing comedic scenes that made me giggle insanely in public.
This novel is set in Dublin, not long after the collapse of the Irish boom economy, referred to as the Celtic Tiger. The main protagonist Claude, is a French investment banker and speculator who takes a job at a multinational investment firm that managed to survive the crash and is actually profiting from the government 'rescue' of the banks.
Claude is a person without an interior, who likes the abstractness of his job, who prefers 80 hour work weeks and to avoid meaningful contact with others except for "weekend romances between 5pm on Friday and Monday at 7am."
Claude's life though changes when he is contacted by the novelist Paul Murray(yes, he embraces the whole metanarrative/postmodernist approach and then proceeds to choke the living shit out of it), who says he is writing a novel about the "human face of bankers," and wants to study Paul's daily routine.
Due to his coworkers promptings Claude agrees to the proposition and becomes involved with Paul's life, and the world of fiction and publishing. What follows are some picaresque adventures in which the two mismatched temperaments learn a great deal from each other about art, life and banking.
The novel excels as satire because the author has done his homework. It would have been an easier route to have just done character studies of the horrible personalities involved in banking and let that speak towards the dehumanizing effects of what modern casino capitalism does. He does do this, and we see that most of the high finance people involved are not so much banally evil as Hannah Arendt famously described Adolf Eichmann, but rather incurably adolescent. They spend their days destroying whole cities and peoples and economies for profit without a hint of shame or even guilt, rampage through the economic system like a herd of Godzillas on meth, and high fiving each other as they do so.
But Murray goes in depth as to how a modern investment firm works, what it actually does during the day, and how the people who work their do their jobs.
In fact, he does this so well, and understands it so well, he often times just steps out of the way and lets the absurdities and contradictions in the casino capitalist system speak for itself:
"We've had a technology crash, a housing crash, not to mention a financial crash that nearly sent the world back to the Stone Age. Oil, gold collapsing. Eurpoe coming apart, even the Swiss franc can't be trusted. Where does the smart man invest in investment doesn't work anymore? What's the one reliable area of growth in the 21st century?' 'Technology?' says Kevin. 'Inequality,' I say. 'Bingo,' Howie wags his cigar at me. 'You know what the Gini coefficient is Junior?' 'Its, ah, what they use to measure the gap,' Kevin stammers. 'Between rich and poor.' 'Right. And its ging through the roof…a tiny number of very rich people, including fat-cat bankers like us, are sucking up a bigger and bigger percentage of the wealth. And that gap will continue to widen, because with all our extra capital we go and buy up all the assets, so that for instance when Chang working down there in Spar needs somewhere to live, he has to rent his house from me, meaning that I'm getting most of his wages too.' He pauses, puffs on his cigar; the coal glows brazier-bright, everything around it seeming to grow commensurably darker. …."there's not much you can sell to a world full of poor people, Crazy. So instead you make them the product…these millions of Americans who were shit poor but who nobody trusted enough to loan money to. They saw that if they could get these deadbeats into the debt market-well, its like the oil under Alaska, right? Billions and billions of dollars just waiting to be release…"
But as a modern novelist Murray also has a lot to say about art and literature. Claude realizes he is 'a person without a story,' and much of the novel sees him trying to get Paul to help him effectively craft his own life story. Something meaningful.
And there follow picaresque adventures of the two of them involving literary critics who double as strippers, eastern European pimps, talk show hosts, Greek refugees, French Existential philosophers and an island full of natives in the south pacific.
He satirizes writers and critics alike, and we see that they are every bit as self involved as the investment bankers and no one has a real moral authority in the book. There are some funny exchanges over the nature of lit and genre. For example, this one that takes a look at the conventions of romance novels: "Ish makes an oar of her finger, scoops it along the inner rim of her cocktail glass, which is frosted with cream. "No, because I just thought I mean in a book, when the guy's in love with someone out of his league or whatever and it doesn't work out, what often happens is he realizes he's had feelings for someone else all along.' 'Someone else?' 'Yeah, except, you know, he only realizes now?' I give this some thought. 'Does this happen in books?' 'It does in the ones I read,' she says, a little defensively. 'To me the scenario does not sound plausible. How does he only realize now? Love is not like an illness, gestating in your body before you begin to feel sick. In my experience, if you are in love, you know it straight away.' 'Yeah that's true I suppose,' Ish says. 'Attraction is a conscious thing. If you're attracted to somebody, you are aware of it.' 'Right, fair point,' she says. 'If you have not thought about this person in that way before, its because you are not attracted-' 'Might just pop up to the bar,'Ish says, jumping to her feet. 'You want anything?" The book goes on to search for the 'story' of each of the characters, as they try to create lives.
Murray does an excellent job of moving between the high finance world with its glitter and the homeless and economically destroyed poor of Dublin. The book is much a way of searching for connection, for understanding. In a sense, not just novelists need to seek for their stories, it is shown to be revealed the job of everyone. ...more
As always the Fables series continues to surprise. This one went to some pretty dark places (as befits a classic noir) and came up with some intriguinAs always the Fables series continues to surprise. This one went to some pretty dark places (as befits a classic noir) and came up with some intriguing connections across story lines. If i wasn't already deep into the fables universe this story might have been hard to follow. As an intro to the fables universe i dont think this is a good starting point. For fans of the series this richly rewards a reading and you get to enjoy the tension between Bigby and Snow. Im amazed the universe manages to stay so tight and well plotted and thought out. Now that the main sequence has ended I think there will be plenty of room for spin off story lines.
PS I know this was a game for the xbox 1 but there were so many glitches i gave up on it. Im glad i did. This was a much more enjoyable format. ...more
Manages to not only inspire the reader to take on Moby Dick without being preachy or taking a lecturing tone, but genuinely conveys the love and enthuManages to not only inspire the reader to take on Moby Dick without being preachy or taking a lecturing tone, but genuinely conveys the love and enthusiasm of the author. Philbrick is a lifelong student of the book and as such his insights, collected esoterica concerning Moby Dick and Melville combine to produce not just a fanboy gushing over his favorite book, but a reading that shows how we are never far away from this book in our national and social concerns as Americans. From the mechanisms and stage tricks of Tyrants like Ahab who can be compared to a Nixon (or a Trump), to the way Melville addresses complex issues of slavery and our collective guilt, the book is a wonder and a genuine joy. ...more
This book is the product of a blog: The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, but is not the reproduction of that blog. Instead the author, a twenty four yearThis book is the product of a blog: The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, but is not the reproduction of that blog. Instead the author, a twenty four year old, has shaped the narrative to center on the moment that began to define her new existence. A scene that a seasoned novelist would read with envy, so skillfully crafted was it. The day when she gathered her belongings from her mother’s house, boxed what she had room to take with her, donated to goodwill what she couldn’t, boarded her trailer, and drove away into a darkening street to live in a Walmart parking lot. She describes the fear of the unknown, potential predators, and how she would adjust to life without electriiciy, water, or heat. . She surveys her new surroundings and with a powerful exisistential shock realizes she is now technically homeless, and has joined the ranks of the invisible, unwanted, unknown ones. People her parents would scorn on the street, and society in general considers worthless. She was now one of the worthless. After this moment of existential angst she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly: “But then, its not really enough to tell you that I’m homeless, is it? You want to know who the hell I am and how I got here.” The image at the beginning of the book resonates, and develops a power as the book goes on. Brianna’s story is one of many of thousands, cast out in the street by the 2008 meltdown. Her story is equal parts unique, equal parts representative. The book then launches into her past and she begins the tale of a truly horrible, abusive family and her efforts to cope with them. A bipolar mother, a docile and spineless stepfather cowed by his wife, a sister mentally screwed up by the family religion of jehovah’s witness. In fact, the opening scene would have served equally well as the end of the story of her managing to extricate herself from her horrible, soul crushing family. A family that she nevertheless loves but eventually recognizes her inability to save or deal with. “I haven’t had any contact with my family in nearly two years at this point, and I don’t expect that I will anytime soon. I still love them very much, as I suspect I always will. But I realize and accept that they are not going to change, and I cant force my will or perspective on them. As a result, we are destined to live separate lives.” The past wrongs, the ravings of her mother who also repeatedly beats her senseless, the father who molested her, and the insane logic of the jehovah’s witnesses mount as she continues her narrative of the past. By the midpoint of the book the reader is convinced of Brianna’s courage in leaving. But s I said, though the opening scene would have served equally well as the end of her story, her story continues, despite difficult circumstances. Prior to the homelessness, she had made a good living as an administrative assistant, earning over 50,000 a year, having put herself through college. She details her adolescence, where she would often work three jobs, and pursue her degree. She had, in 2008, acquired a house, a dog, an off and on again boyfriend, and a horse. Yes , a horse. Having escaped her past horrors and having her success and freedom yanked so brutally away, its shocking that she doesn’t simply give up, descend into addiction, or just live in a cardboard box. But Brianna endures and continues to work hard. She installs herself at the local starbuck’s where she uses the wifi to spend 8 to 10 hour days job searching. In between for sanity sake she continues chronicling her life in her blog, but never descends to self pity. She does not though lose all feeling and compassion. She instead joins a group of other bloggers and reaches out to people. She becomes an informal ambassador for the homeless, correcting misunderstandings and prejudices. She actually makes an appearance on the today show, wins a high profile competition to apprentice at Elle magazine, and is interviewed on NPR. Her life gets better, but not always easier, she is dogged by vengeful Walmart employees, vindictive managers, and more often than not the absolutely brutal indifference of those who retained their status and things, or refuse to change their narrow minded views. If this were the whole story it would be enough. Impressive in its own right, as legitimate a document for our times of the dangers of freefall in a capitalist system as Down and Out in Paris and London. And what follows has caught some criticism from her reviewers on Goodreads and other sites, but the second half of the book for me only validates her struggles to keep mind body and soul alive, and to fulfill that most basic of human needs: happiness. She meets a guy online. Matt. Not in a pick up site but on a homeless blog group. He has his homeless story to share, and works to spread awareness and support groups. Brianna begins a long distance relationship with him. They eventually meet and make plans for the future. She is faulted for this but I simply can’t agree. The search for love and happiness is seldom relegated to those who are financially stable. What is revealed in these pages is a simple basic human need. Brianna may be destitute, may be struggling to survive a difficult future, but she never stops being a human being. She never stops wanting to love someone, and wanting love in return. The rest of the book is taken up with this story and it does not read like a teenage chick lit story. Its brutal in parts, complications ensue, and you marvel at this girl’s refusal to say no to life. More significantly for me, I found the comparisons between Matt’s English existence and Brianna’s American one acute. The English universal health care and social welfare system, in place since World War 2(watch Michael Moore’s Sicko for ideas on how this was achieved) saved thousands of people from the despair and loss of life that happened in America. As Matt says at one point to Brianna “In England we actually care about people.” At the end of the book we can see his point. ...more
Quite possibly best novel of the year. I thought at first the visuals were a gimmick but I was wrong. The author is very much in command of all aspectQuite possibly best novel of the year. I thought at first the visuals were a gimmick but I was wrong. The author is very much in command of all aspects of the book and his use of fonts color and illustrations created a unique reading experience. Unfortunately I feel a bit like I do when I finish the first book in a series: now I have to wait. 26 more volumes go.. ...more