I never read Roth before although I have had a copy of "The Human Stain" for ages now. That book came highly recommended from all quarters but the fir...moreI never read Roth before although I have had a copy of "The Human Stain" for ages now. That book came highly recommended from all quarters but the first few pages very too dry for my taste and I couldn’t commit myself to that book because it seemed to require a high level of patience with unwieldy dialogues.
Compared to that, "The Ghost Writer" is short and crisp, reads more like three short novellas and can be read within a day.
This novel introduces us to a young Nathan Zuckerman at the start of his career. He has published a few short stories and has been profiled by a magazine and this little taste of fame prompts him to pursue the next great Jewish American story. In his pursuit he goes off to meet his literary hero E. I. Lonoff, a middle-aged reclusive writer whose mantra to great writing happens to be "turn sentences around". There he meets Miss Amy Bellette who works as Lonoff's unofficial assistant and has a secret history of her own (or so it seems). Zuckerman ends up staying the night at his place and discovers a few of his mentor's secrets which could threaten Lonoff's marriage.
I love the straight forward language and the characterisation. All characters are imbued with flaws which define their whole identities. The book is full of surprises but not overbearingly so. There is a subtle tension, especially in the last novella which keeps the pace interesting. The conversations between Lonoff and Zuckerman are intriguing and wise. The only part of the book that didn’t work for me was the ending, a little too melodramatic and predictable. If Roth had handled the last few pages with a little more aesthetic and mellowed it down a bit, the book would have definitely achieved 4.5/5 stars.
I don’t read crime fiction, never have (well, except "The Da Vinci code" if that counts). I found this book on the aircraft. The owner of the paperbac...moreI don’t read crime fiction, never have (well, except "The Da Vinci code" if that counts). I found this book on the aircraft. The owner of the paperback was only 35 pages into the 700+ pages. I doubt he/she will miss it very much. I started reading it because there was a lot of buzz going around about "The girl with the dragon tattoo". To be fair the book is fast paced and keeps you riveted right till the end and enough suspense to keep you going through a boatload of unwanted characters, Hollywood dialogues and cheesy action scenes. But that are so many things that are so blaringly wrong. The book tries to deal a very complex subject (Prostitution, Human Trafficking) in an off handed manner. Too much emphasis on each character's sexual orientation. The characters are all black or white, no gray areas allowed. And oh, yeah, Math Fail! (less)
The first thing that struck me that even though it was written in 1890 the language is very modern. It is a distressing book narrated by an unnamed pr...moreThe first thing that struck me that even though it was written in 1890 the language is very modern. It is a distressing book narrated by an unnamed protagonist who is having a hard time making ends meet in Christiania. The descent of this young writer into poverty and despair and finally into starvation and delusions whilst staying true to his craft makes for a remarkable story even when there is not much else going on. The best thing about the character is that he never loses his sense of humour even on the verge of insanity. Even at its worst the book is funny which makes the narrator’s deterioration a little more credible and humane. The writer makes no effort to romanticize the notion of the “starving artist” nor does he eulogize the sacredness of life. He presents humanity the way it exists; indifferent. The beauty of the book lies in the juxtaposition of love and hope against misery and apathy.
This book definitely had me thinking differently about the people living on the edges of society. What do words like dignity and art mean to someone who has nothing left to lose? I was waiting for the moment when the narrator goes into an all out nihilist rant but a few sentences of blasphemy and he is back to his old ways. It’s his therapy in a way. Sometimes the book got so intense that I had to stop and breathe for a few seconds. Hunger has all the elements of becoming an all time favourite but the ending leaves me wanting for more. It ends just as abruptly as it starts.