Nathan has gone to Chaya's place naked in the middle of the night, sort of a dare by his equally juvenile mates.
"Are you a virgin, Nathan?" she said,
...more Nathan has gone to Chaya's place naked in the middle of the night, sort of a dare by his equally juvenile mates.
"Are you a virgin, Nathan?" she said, her mouth very close to his.
He considered his reply much longer than he needed to, trying to phrase it as ambiguously as he could. "In a manner of speaking," he said at last, blushing in self-congratulation at the urbanity of this reply.
We used to run book auctions and one day a man left a bid on a volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography. Before the auction started, he called to retra...moreWe used to run book auctions and one day a man left a bid on a volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography. Before the auction started, he called to retract it. He'd found out something about her in the meantime and decided she was so awful he would never read the book.
I must say, the title story of this book does nothing to soften that impression. The characters are ghastly, the writing style matches. Somehow it does not reflect well upon the author.
This is the first Lessing I have tried and I suspect it will remain unfinished.
Later: I stand corrected. Every evening for weeks I went to bed, already irritated because I knew I was about to read a few more pages of this book and that it would irritate me. More.
Yet the fact is, I kept reading it. And even as it irritated me, I was reluctant to put it down. I don't pretend to understand why.(less)
I bought this the other day. Nice copy, hard cover, dust-jacket in good nick, a few Swiss francs, no more – everything to make the bookseller in me ha...more I bought this the other day. Nice copy, hard cover, dust-jacket in good nick, a few Swiss francs, no more – everything to make the bookseller in me happy, not to mention the book collector, one being much the same as the other. I had to argue a bit along the way. You’ve read that. Have not. Have too. Have NOT!!! And I was right. Got home, checked shelves, have not read this. NOT NOT NOT. I’m right and you’re wrong, NYAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
One might wonder why a collection described as ‘Fundamental’ would contain stories that even the author sees as at best adequate. But maybe this simpl...moreOne might wonder why a collection described as ‘Fundamental’ would contain stories that even the author sees as at best adequate. But maybe this simply makes the collection unusual for its determination to reflect reality. Let’s say there is some drivel in this book. So there should be, for Disch was an arrogant person who didn’t need to bother writing at his best. Why would he when he could churn out stuff with a modicum of effort that sold? But what an unsatisfactory life he had as a consequence: Disch always thought he should have been recognised in some fabulous way that he was not. And yet he considered his audience to be idiots who’d be satisfied with his secondbest, consequently delivered. It seems obvious that one can’t have it both ways but Disch was maybe so up himself that he thought he could. Not only should he be more famous and successful than he was, but that his secondrate stuff should be adequate to that task.
It turns out, however, that his audience aren’t idiots.
There are lots of stories in this book that I found hard to put down, and I’m grateful when I decided to give it away at some point after a bad patch, that I was talked into continuing. At his best – the stories resulting from his obsession with death and his ‘our world, near future’ stories - are terrific. At his worst – when he is trying for a certain type of humour which I’m going to try labelling ‘silly’ and when he is doing science fiction – he is really weak. It is evident that he doesn’t respect the idea of writing science fiction and I don’t really see how you can write well if you don’t respect what you are doing.
I’m not sure that I trust him at his best, either. He thinks his stories don’t have to end with an ending. On the one hand, I want to think this is quite effective in an unsettling way. On the other, I feel like what if that is part of his treating me as an idiot, that he doesn’t have to bother with stories making sense, being tied up, having a conclusion?
Some of these stories get four stars. Some get none. Well worth reading for the former. (less)
I beg to differ from the opinions on the review pages of the English press, the kinds of things I guess one can predict about such a solid figure in t...moreI beg to differ from the opinions on the review pages of the English press, the kinds of things I guess one can predict about such a solid figure in the literary department. 'Literary pearls' not. 'The very best short fiction'. I don't think so. 'Masterclasses in the form'. Nup.
This collection is plain disappointing compared with as a fine modern exponent of the short story as, say, Michael Chabon. The observations on life are neither here nor there and delivered without either the wit or the humour, not to mention the exquisite technique of Chabon. Barnes should stick to novels. This is the second time I've been disappointed lately by his stepping out into other areas.
I'm not even sure how he misses the mark. Maybe that his characters are all such miserable sods without any of the counterbalances that one finds in Chabon's stories - or Mansfield's or Chekhov's, for that matter. It's sort of like having to put up with Neil of The Young Ones without anybody else ever coming on stage. Too much of a downer, man.(less)
1982 'Door Slams in Fourth World' The Fourth World is Europe, reduced to that status by Islamic attacks. There is even anthrax.
The science fiction wr...more1982 'Door Slams in Fourth World' The Fourth World is Europe, reduced to that status by Islamic attacks. There is even anthrax.
The science fiction writers I've been reading lately come into two distinct groups, ones like Banks who is simply writing a rollicking good tale without being tied to our world in any way and the ones like Dick and Aldiss who are concerned with what will be, their 'what will happen?'s are always tied to a 'why might it?' I guess one could argue this is monkey on a typewriter stuff: a gadzillion sci fi stories get written, some of them are going to attain the air of 'I told you so' as time separates the writer from his story. I guess you could.
But some of these writers have themes to which they are committed and which we see unfolding one way or another before our eyes. PK Dick, certainly and I'd say, based on this one volume of short stories, Aldiss too. He, like Dick, sees a world which will be ruined by depletion, by science, by greed, by all the things that, fifty years later, are becoming more and more obvious. Like Dick, he tells us what that world will be like. It is ghastly and terrifying.
These get a bit - modern? arty? - I'm not sure, but the earlier ones are just terrific and some of the later ones are well worth sticking with the book for.
Ever since starting this, I've wondered how to review it without spoiling it.
I don't just mean the risks of giving it away. I mean I kept wanting to...moreEver since starting this, I've wondered how to review it without spoiling it.
I don't just mean the risks of giving it away. I mean I kept wanting to cut expressions and sentences and ideas out and paste them here, but even as I pictured it each time, while sitting alongside the lake being infused by the beauty both of this book and the setting, and the joy of the company I was in, I felt it would cheapen and spoil the things I was trying to show off.
I confess, the last few stories did not live up to the others, but instead of reading them in a blissful state, I was sleep-deprived and sad. Does this ever suit a book? I'm trying to remember, but I'm too tired! Can one blame the book for the consequences? Surely not.
If you have the least interest in short pieces - stories, I suppose - read this, you won't regret it.
Sometimes he starts with an idea from elsewhere. I especially liked this.
"Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." Runi (less)
I couldn't help thinking this is Ray Bradbury from the wrong side of town, what happens to children who don't live in that pure middle-American countr...moreI couldn't help thinking this is Ray Bradbury from the wrong side of town, what happens to children who don't live in that pure middle-American country idyll that Bradbury made so much his milieu. Childhood fancy struggling through the real shit of American life, the violence, poverty, ignorance that are at least as much American life as that which Bradbury chronicles.
Not only about childhood, but it is a theme.
And throughout it all, the poetic lilt that is Burke's own in the way Bradbury has his. I found myself reading passages out loud - especially conversation - it demanded to be heard as well as looked at. It's been quite a while since I visited Burke's world, but I'm so glad I did.
I was quite taken aback by how much I liked this book. I'd never desired to read Winton before or since. Every time I pick up one of his books and fli...moreI was quite taken aback by how much I liked this book. I'd never desired to read Winton before or since. Every time I pick up one of his books and flick through it, it says don't read me. This one, though, was a basic IQ test. I'd noticed the paperback in David Jones book department for $20. In the grocery section they had the hardcover for $5. It was a no brainer.
The format is clever, the WA coast is wonderfully depicted, it's emotionally harrowing. What more could you want? (less)