As with his very popular Netherland, O'Neill plops his protagonist into an unfamiliar landscape, but this novel shares quite a bit in tone with Dave EAs with his very popular Netherland, O'Neill plops his protagonist into an unfamiliar landscape, but this novel shares quite a bit in tone with Dave Eggars's Hologram for the King. The Dog is longlisted for the 2014 Booker, and it will be interesting to see if it is chosen for the shortlist. Although it only runs 250 pages, it is dense, as are most interior monologues. Exceptionally literate and well written with much humor and detail, it does run slow at times, but picks right up again with the unnamed narrator diverging with almost Proustian regret over memories generated by current sensations. Recommended, with reservation....more
From the outside the Baileys are a well off, privileged family with a rascal of an older son, who continues to self destruct at every chance. How younFrom the outside the Baileys are a well off, privileged family with a rascal of an older son, who continues to self destruct at every chance. How younger brother Blake managed to carve his career as a well regarded biographer of literary figures is not addressed in this memoir.
The question is this: why read blood-letting memoirs such as this? What keeps us focused on the page when faced with such a downward spiral of lives, such waste of potential, such unmitigated selfishness. I must admit being dragged down and unable to read accounts of many of Scott's exploits, finding them intolerable. I also found myself losing patience with the delusional, well meaning parents who keep cutting him more and more slack holding out hope against reason that Scott would become a productive citizen. But I also realized that was unfair of me. This family continued loving their son despite it all, and they were the victims, not the perpetrators.
As a last note -- I wondered at the title. Initially it reminded me of Sean Wilsey's Oh The Glory of it All (which I haven't read yet), but ultimately it is perfect for this book since it addresses almost more than the content, the frustration of unfulfilled potential....more
Does intelligence drive imagination or is it the reverse? To me, Sweet Tooth is the culmination of Ian McEwan's work. In it he incorporates themes he'Does intelligence drive imagination or is it the reverse? To me, Sweet Tooth is the culmination of Ian McEwan's work. In it he incorporates themes he's explored before to heightened degrees. His integration of the destructive effect of obsessive love fueled by world events is combined with an unparalleled literary expertise. As in Atonement, calamitous events are set in motion by the slightest gesture which in is misinterpreted by another. Jealousy, revenge, deception -- all are taken to cleanly original places. On a personal level, it was fascinating to read this book shortly after finishing Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie's memoir which also makes considerable use of the London literary scene, and, despite a 20-year gap, several players appear in pages of both. The Man-Booker award, which McEwan has won and been nominated for multiple times, is brought in almost a a character, and I suspect that there are many inside jokes here that I am missing. But that did not take anything from my enjoyment of this novel that educates as well as entertains. The late 70's was a dark time for Britain, a fact nostalgia can overlook. There is so much meat on the bones of this book, I am afraid to overpraise its quality. ...more
This book starts strongly with well defined characters and an intriguing premise. But it soon gets bogged down in its own complexity. Under tragic cirThis book starts strongly with well defined characters and an intriguing premise. But it soon gets bogged down in its own complexity. Under tragic circumstances, Maria meets Luisa, a woman who has fascinated her for years. They have sat at adjourning tables in a Madrid cafe, Luisa with her seemingly perfect husband and life, and dissatisfied Maria who has what to many of us would be a dream job -- that of working for a publisher. When Luisa's husband is senselessly murdered (no spoiler, it's in the first sentence), Maria delivers her condolences, and while they don't become fast friends, they do attain a high level of communication. The plot advances in fits and starts, but most of the length of the book consists of extended existential ramblings that tend to be repetitious and ponderous. I wanted to like this book a lot and was sorry when I didn't. ...more
Henning Mankell is credited for being the first author of Scandinavian crime thrillers to reach an international audience (although he has credited MaHenning Mankell is credited for being the first author of Scandinavian crime thrillers to reach an international audience (although he has credited Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for his own inspiration). His Kurt Wallander series were notable due to his flawed and all-too-human detective with an incredibly strong backstory. Each novel in the series dispensed with the usual formula, and many had ties to other countries, several of them in Africa. Mankell's knowledge of and love for that continent run deep seeing as he spends half the year in Mozambique.
A Treacherous Paradise is the latest of several historical novels that explain and illuminate his second home. Based on the thinnest of historical fact, that of the tax rolls of the town where his heroine owned a brothel in the early 20th century, Mankell delivers a saga of how Hanna came ashore in Laurenco Marques and found herself faced with unexpected reactions to racism and inequality. What she learns about herself and passes onto the reader is the result of Mankell's evocative prose and storytelling prowess. This is definitely the best of his African histories. ...more
We first meet Harry Sanders in Indochina in the early 60s. Young, somewhat idealistic, given the eponymous title by a lover. Harry could be a stand-inWe first meet Harry Sanders in Indochina in the early 60s. Young, somewhat idealistic, given the eponymous title by a lover. Harry could be a stand-in for American hubris, thinking diplomacy can make everything all right. Later, a more jaded Harry, likens his life in the diplomatic corps to Sisyphus and his rock. His wife, more pragmatic, objected to that point of view, "arguing that nothing was more idealistic than the pursuit of a doomed objective." Such is the baserock of this immersive novel. A surface reading could raise similarities to Graham Greene, but I found it to resemble one of my favorite books of recent years, Jane Gardham's Old Filth, with its similarities in theme, tone, and style. Not the least of which is Harry's relationship with his wife, May, very much like the couple in Gardham's book which evolved into a trilogy. Ward Just is much more economical in his prose, and his character study requires no further exploration. ...more
This book was entertaining in its debunking of the teaching of history in American schools. It was infuriating, emotional, and illuminating all at oncThis book was entertaining in its debunking of the teaching of history in American schools. It was infuriating, emotional, and illuminating all at once. Since it was written in the pre-digital age, pre G W Bush, 9/11 and Fox News, I feel I must read one of his later books in order to get an updated perspective of how he feels about today's world. The generation he is decrying as being misinformed is currently providing misinformation on its own. Yet his revelations about, say, Helen Keller are remarkable. ...more
To be honest, I almost gave up on this book, but was glad I didn't when I went back and read some other reviews that informed me this was based on anTo be honest, I almost gave up on this book, but was glad I didn't when I went back and read some other reviews that informed me this was based on an actual event when there was heated dispute between environmentalists and family over the removal of a body drowned in a river. The set up is intriguing, but the backstory really left me cold as did the characters. I've heard great things about this author, i.e., his history as a poet, but there is very little poetry in this prose. I will give him another chance since I believe he wanted to tell this story, but didn't use all his writing skills to do so....more
Ron Rash epitomizes the new southern writer, one writing about a south still showing the scars of the War Between the States from a deeper perspectiveRon Rash epitomizes the new southern writer, one writing about a south still showing the scars of the War Between the States from a deeper perspective. This novel is grounded in its portrayal of characters rooted in specific time and place, written without irony, old fashioned story telling, but uneven in its pacing. There were sections that took my breath away, and others that I had to struggle with to keep going. ...more
This book is so well written, so lyrical and evocative, with descriptions of nature and natural metaphors. It presents a picture of everyday life in JThis book is so well written, so lyrical and evocative, with descriptions of nature and natural metaphors. It presents a picture of everyday life in Japan that is recognizable to Western readers since despite the cultural differences, the situations depict universal experience. The relationships between the family members are familiar. The central figure, a man approaching his twilight years, is contemplative, having lived a quiet life, he finds himself dwelling on matters of mortality inspired by the increasing numbers of deaths of his friends. It was difficult at first to get oriented as to the time this story is taking place. The book, written in 1970, refers to the War Years as if they were closer than 30 years previous. The optimistic tone throughout is ironic given that despite winning the Nobel Prize in 1968, Kawabata committed suicide 2 years after the publication of this book....more