I have to admit to being somewhat baffled by the acclaim Slaughterhouse-5 has received over the years. Sure, the story is interesting. It has a fascinI have to admit to being somewhat baffled by the acclaim Slaughterhouse-5 has received over the years. Sure, the story is interesting. It has a fascinating and mostly successful blend of tragedy and comic relief. And yes, I guess the fractured structure and time-travelling element must have been quite novel and original back in the day. But that doesn't excuse the book's flaws, of which there are a great many in my (seemingly unconventional) opinion. Take, for instance, Vonnegut's endless repetition of the phrase 'So it goes.' Wikipedia informs me it crops up 106 times in the book. It felt like three hundred times to me. About forty pages into the book, I was so fed up with the words 'So it goes' that I felt like hurling the book across the room, something I have not done since trying to read up on French semiotics back in the 1990s. I got used to coming across the words every two pages or so eventually, but I never grew to like them. God, no.
I found some other nits to pick, too. Some of them were small and trivial and frankly rather ridiculous, such as -- wait for it -- the hyphen in the book's title. Seriously, what is that hyphen doing there? There's no need for a hyphen there. Couldn't someone have removed it, like, 437 editions ago? And while I'm at it, couldn't some discerning editor have done something about the monotonous quality of Vonnegut's prose -- about the interminable repetition of short subject-verb-object sentences? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all authors should use Henry James- or Claire Messud-length sentences. Heaven forbid. I'm actually rather fond of minimalism, both in visual art and in writing. But Vonnegut's prose is so sparse and simplistic it's monotonous rather than minimalist, to the point where I frequently found myself wishing for a run-on sentence every now and then, or for an actual in-depth description of something. I hardly ever got either. As a result, there were times when I felt like I was reading a bare-bones outline of a story rather than the story itself. Granted, it was an interesting outline, larded with pleasing ideas and observations, but still, I think the story could have been told in a more effective way. A less annoying way, too.
As for the plot, I liked it. I liked the little vignettes Vonnegut came up with and the colourful characters he created (the British officers being my particular favourites). I liked the fact that you're never quite sure whether Billy is suffering from dementia, brain damage or some kind of delayed post-traumatic stress disorder, or whether there is some actual time-travelling going on. I even liked the jarring switches in perspective, although I think they could have been handled in a slightly more subtle manner. And I liked the book's anti-war message, weak and defeatist though it seemed to be. In short, I liked the book, but it took some doing. I hope I'll be less annoyed by the two other Vonnegut books I have sitting on my shelves, Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle. ...more
A year and a half ago, while making long bus journeys in Anatolia, I read Orhan Pamuk's The New Life, which is about a young man making long bus journA year and a half ago, while making long bus journeys in Anatolia, I read Orhan Pamuk's The New Life, which is about a young man making long bus journeys in Anatolia. I found the Turkish bus system to be a lot safer than Pamuk describes it, but other than that, I recognised a fair bit, and loved the power of Pamuk's descriptions. I could easily see why the man was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize, although I ended up being somewhat underwhelmed by The New Life.
The New Life is a road novel-cum-metaphysical thriller which tells the story of Osman, a student who reads a mysterious book that changes his life. He becomes so obsessed with the book that he sets out to find its secret, together with a girl whose life has also been significantly altered by the book. Their quest leads them on a trip through the Turkish hinterland, but most of all through some sort of metaphysical realm where things soon stop making sense, or rather make far too much sense. You be the judge.
The New Life is not an easy book, and those who read it expecting a straightforward novel will be very frustrated. It's not really a novel, but rather a postmodern parable that sort of turns back on itself in the end. After a promising, spell-binding beginning, Pamuk loses himself in philosophical asides and metaphysical abstractions which are beautifully written (and beautifully translated) but seem to lack a plot. The increasingly obscure and surreal middle part of the book is fairly hard to get through. It contains beautiful and occasionally hypnotic descriptions of Anatolia (a part of the world which is very much torn between East and West), and paints an interesting picture of amateur detective work, obsession, the role that books can play in one's life and the particular joys of travelling with someone you love but are not in a relationship with, but the story as a whole just won't gel. The ending is intriguing again, but my main impression after finishing the book was that several chapters could have been left out without any damage to the book. It's basically a Borges story drawn out over 300 pages, and while it certainly has its merits (Pamuk is an excellent writer when he stays focused on his story), the final effect is of it being a bit... much.
And yet I look forward to rereading The New Life. Several people have told me the book grew on them upon rereading it, and I believe it. I can easily see this turning into a four-star book upon rereading, now that I know what the story is actually about. I also look forward to reading Pamuk's other works. I've been told that The New Life is his most obscure book, and that the others are actually quite brilliant. I can't wait to read them... ...more
I'm not sure how much I care for Thomas Pynchon's brand of postmodernism. On the one hand, The Crying of Lot 49 contains interesting ideas, culminatinI'm not sure how much I care for Thomas Pynchon's brand of postmodernism. On the one hand, The Crying of Lot 49 contains interesting ideas, culminating in a weird trip down Paranoia Lane. On the other hand, the writing is so detached and plain weird that it is hard to emotionally invest in the characters. As a novel of ideas, then, The Crying of Lot 49 has some merit; as a reading experience it's rather less rewarding. It feels like a 200-page story crammed into 127 pages, and that's not a compliment.
For what it's worth, the story is as follows. Oedipa Maas, a married lady living in 1960s California, is unexpectedly made executrix of her dead ex-boyfriend's estate. While carrying out her duties, she comes across strange goings-on which may or may not point to the existence of a secret postal service. The clues keep piling up. Are they mere coincidences or is there a sinister conspiracy afoot? And if even something as basic as post delivery is subject to a conspiracy, what else may be going on in society? Keen to find answers, Oedipa digs into the clues, only to get sucked into what is best described as a wild and obsessive brainstorm.
As I said, there are some interesting ideas going on here. Pynchon has a definite knack for mixing fact and fiction, to the point where you find yourself Googling things to see what is truth and what is fiction. He also quite successfully makes you buy into the conspiracy theory. Sadly, though, he's rather self-indulgent, blending good stuff with lengthy passages of dense, impenetrable prose that don't really seem to go anywhere. These passages do serve a purpose in that they make the reader as confused as Oedipa herself (a confusion further strengthened by the maddening open ending), but for all their paranoia-inducing quality, I wish Pynchon had taken more time to flesh out his story, to turn it into an actual novel with flesh-and-blood characters and emotions rather than an exercise in cleverness. In short, I wish the book had more pages. I didn't think I'd ever say that about a Pynchon novel, but here it's true: less is not always more. Alas. ...more
A Clockwork Orange is one of those books which everyone has heard of but which few people have actually read –- mostly, I think, because it is precedeA Clockwork Orange is one of those books which everyone has heard of but which few people have actually read –- mostly, I think, because it is preceded by a reputation of shocking ultra-violence. I’m not going to deny here that the book contains violence. It features lengthy descriptions of heinous crimes, and they’re vivid descriptions, full of excitement. (Burgess later wrote in his autobiography: ‘I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down.’) Yet it does not glorify violence, nor is it a book about violence per se. Rather it’s an exploration of the morality of free will. Of whether it is better to choose to be bad than to be conditioned to be good. Of alienation and how to deal with the excesses to which such alienation may lead. And ultimately, of one man’s decision to say goodbye to all that. (At least in the UK version. The American version, on which Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation was based, ends on a less optimistic note.) In short, it’s a novella of ideas which just happens to contain a fair bit of violence.
It is also quite an artistic and linguistic achievement. Those who have seen the film will know that Alex (the anti-hero) and his droogs (friends) speak a made-up language full of Russian loanwords, Shakespearean and Biblical influences and Cockney rhyming slang. Initially this nadsat language was nearly incomprehensible to me, and my first response to it was bad. I found myself cursing Burgess, telling him that it wasn’t fair to put his readers through something like that. (If I want to read an incomprehensible book, I’ll read Finnegans Wake, thank you very much.) However, Burgess takes great care to introduce his new words in an understandable way, so after a few pages I got the hang of the nadsat lingo, and after a few more pages I actually began to enjoy it, because I’m enough of a linguist to go in for that sort of thing. I found myself loving the Russian loanwords, rejoicing when I recognised a German loanword among them and enjoying the Shakespearean quality of Alex’ dialogues. I finished the book with an urgent wish to learn Russian and read more Shakespeare. I doubt many readers will respond to the book in that way (not everyone shares my enthusiasm for languages and classical stuff), but my point is: you’ll get used to the lingo, and at some point you’ll begin to admire it, because for one thing, Burgess is awfully consistent about it, and for another, it just sounds so damned good. I mean, if you’re going to come up with a new word for ‘crazy’, you might as well choose bezoomny, right? Because it actually sounds mad. Doesn’t it?
Anyhow, there’s more to A Clockwork Orange than just philosophical ideas and linguistic pyrotechnics. The writing itself is unexpectedly lyrical, and not just when it deals with violence. Some of the most beautiful passages in the book deal with music. More specifically, classical music, because for all his wicked ways, Alex has a passion for classical music. He particularly adores Beethoven, an adoration I happen to share. I came away from the book thinking I might consent to becoming Alex’ devotchka (woman, wife) simply because he is capable of getting carried away by Beethoven’s Ninth and hates having it spoilt for him. He’s cultured, is Alex, and while his culturedness obviously does not equal civilisation and goodness (a point he himself is quick to make), it does put him a notch above the average hooligan. It’s the apparent dichotomy between Alex’ tastes in art and his taste for violence which makes him such an interesting protagonist and which keeps you following his exploits to their not entirely believable (but good) conclusion.
In short, then, A Clockwork Orange is an excellent book –- a bit challenging at first, but gripping and interesting and full of style and ideas. Not many books can claim as much. ...more
I'll confess I had a hard time getting into Neuromancer, the book that started the cyberpunk craze back in the mid-eighties. The first few chapters weI'll confess I had a hard time getting into Neuromancer, the book that started the cyberpunk craze back in the mid-eighties. The first few chapters were so disjointed and deliberately obscure that I wasn't sure what was going on, nor whether I actually cared. Then things gradually started to fall into place. Seventy pages into the story I got the hang of Gibson's style, one hundred pages in I actually began to enjoy it, and now that I've finished it, I actually look forward to reading it again at some point. I'm not sure if that makes Neuromancer a good book, but it's certainly interesting.
As the blurb has it, Neuromancer is about Case, who was the sharpest data thief in the matrix, until an ex-employer crippled his nervous system. Now a new employer has recruited him for a last-chance run against an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence. With a mirror-eyed girl street-samurai riding shotgun, he is sent on an adventure in a futuristic world where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred and where nothing is quite what it seems, to fight an enemy he doesn't know. On the way to the final showdown, the reader is taken to Japan, America, Turkey and a few imaginary places, gets to meet quite a few bizarre people (if they are even human) and generally wonders what the f*** is going on.
You have to give Gibson credit for the virtual reality world he created over twenty years ago, long before the Internet and virtual reality as we know it were a fact. His futurama is a pretty fantastic and well-realised place, with characters of its own, a vernacular of its own, the works. The reader is thrown headlong into this world and is not given any explanations along the way, which makes the first few chapters hard to get through. After a while, though, you start getting a feel for the patois, and the book becomes much easier to read. However, it still has a few major flaws, which only become more obvious as you continue reading. For one thing, the characters aren't developed nearly as well as the world in which they live. They are interesting, but Gibson doesn't give them an awful lot to do or feel, which is a great shame. The same is true for the story as a whole. While there are plenty of interesting ideas floating in there, somehow they won't gel into a proper story, as Gibson is so busy focusing on the cool world he has created that he forgets to add such basic things as backgrounds, emotions, story arcs and smooth transitions. Even more damagingly, he fails to provide his heroes with a clear quest. While their actions and adventures are quite exciting, it is not clear exactly who or what they're up against or what they're trying to achieve or prevent, which makes it hard to identify with them or root for them. Throw in a rather vague bad guy (or bad guys?) and you have quite a few examples of bad story-telling -- things that any creative writing teacher would warn his students to steer clear of, and which have no business being in a book as famous and acclaimed as this one.
And yet... For all its flaws, Neuromancer IS pretty cool, and I genuinely look forward to re-reading it at some point. I just wish Gibson had made better use of the superb ingredients he's working with. Neuromancer could have been a brilliant book; as it is, it's merely interesting. ...more
An American film director goes to Antwerp, Belgium, to make a low-budget biopic about the Belgian surrealist painter Paul Delvaux. While he is shootinAn American film director goes to Antwerp, Belgium, to make a low-budget biopic about the Belgian surrealist painter Paul Delvaux. While he is shooting his film, two of his extras (both prostitutes) go missing. A few days later their lifeless bodies turn up accompanied by video tapes of two obscure Belgian films. Meanwhile, a British film critic is in town to interview the American director, only to get sucked into the hunt for the murderer when his own girlfriend goes missing.
That, in a nutshell, is the story of Antwerp, one of the more interesting books I've had the pleasure of translating. As you might guess from the above, it's a thriller, but not a thriller as you know it. What with its references to high art and obscure movies and its conscious juxtaposition of life and art, it's considerably more pretentious than the average thriller. In fact, it's decidedly high-brow, even if the setting (a large chunk of the book is set in Antwerp's red-light district) is anything but. Furthermore, the writing is rather more literary than most thrillers'. Royle's style really suits the subject; it's arty and expressive and frequently quite filmic. He does a great job capturing the seedy atmosphere of Antwerp's underbelly; the book oozes nostalgia, faded glory, emptiness and moral degeneration. Needless to say, there are plenty of references to Marc Dutroux, Belgium's most infamous paedophile/murderer, who is emblematic for all that is wrong in Belgian society.
In addition to the mood stuff, Royle comes up with some nifty story-telling devices. For one thing, he ably mixes fact and fiction, using historical figures as well as made-up ones. For another, he adds several chapters written from the murderer's point of view, but in order not to give away the murderer's identity, they are written in the second person -- an unusual narrative technique, but it works. Finally, he leaves quite a few questions unanswered. Personally, I loved that aspect of the book, but those who like straightforward tales with a clear ending had better give it a wide berth, as had people who can't take a bit of seediness....more
I'm not sure how I feel about this, one of the most overhyped novels of the early noughties. On the one hand, it undeniably contains flashes of geniusI'm not sure how I feel about this, one of the most overhyped novels of the early noughties. On the one hand, it undeniably contains flashes of genius. It is original, inventive and ambitious, which is great. On the other hand, it has a few aspects which annoyed me, and that, I think, is less good.
In a nutshell, Everything Is Illuminated is an amalgam of three interconnected stories. The first is that of a young Jewish American (bearing the same name as the author) who visits the Ukraine in an attempt to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis and without whom he himself would never have been born. This part of the story is told by Alex, the flashy young Ukrainian who serves as Jonathan's interpreter. Alex's subsequent letters to Jonathan, written in a bizarre, highly ornate and seriously mangled kind of English, make up the second storyline. Finally, the third storyline consists of the magic-realist novel Jonathan writes about life in his grandfather's Jewish village before the Nazis destroyed it. Together, the three storylines tell a tale of friendship, guilt, family secrets, atrocities, opportunities, dreams and ways of dealing with drama which is at turns funny and shocking and occasionally beautifully nostalgic.
As I said, there is much about the book that is to be admired. Foer is undeniably a gifted writer. He relishes his stories and has a lot of fun sharing them with the reader. Sadly, though, he is rather uneven, following passages of great beauty (especially towards the end of the book) with scenes which are so crass that they completely ruin the effect. He also tries a bit too hard to be clever and original, coming up with gimmicks and typographical idiosyncrasies which are interesting at first but do rather distract from the narrative. And then there's the book's main gimmick, which is Alex' mangled English. While frequently funny, it is also entirely unconvincing from a linguistic point of view, and I'm enough of a linguist to care about such things. Halfway through the book I got so fed up with Alex' overwritten language that I began to dread his parts of the narrative. I doubt that was Foer's intention.
So. Yeah. It's an interesting tale, but I wish Foer had waited a few years before telling it. I'm pretty sure he'll mature into an excellent author; this story just happened to come a bit too early in his career to live up to the hype. ...more
In the third instalment of the series, real life becomes a bit too dangerous for Thursday, so she goes into hiding in the book world. And not just anyIn the third instalment of the series, real life becomes a bit too dangerous for Thursday, so she goes into hiding in the book world. And not just any part of the book world, but the Well of Lost Plots, where unpublished novels languish. Here, while the pernicious Aornis Hades tries to erase her memories, Thursday continues her training to become a Jurisfiction agent. Which is not as easy as it might sound, for characters are failing to show up for their Rage Control Meetings, murderous Minotaurs, verbivores, grammasites and mispeling vyruses are wreaking havoc, and if that weren't spectacular enough, the revolutionary new book-operating system UltraWord is about to be launched, which may not be such a good thing. In short, Thursday's dreams of an easy, tranquil pregnancy are quickly dashed, never to return.
Once again, Fforde's imagination knows no bounds. He pokes fun at everything from Verne, the Bronte sisters and Lewis Carroll to Microsoft and generic thrillers, and has a splendid time parodying bad fiction and good fiction alike. Sadly, however, he spends so much time world-building and losing himself in interesting ideas that the plot suffers. Very little actually happens in the first three fourths of the book; mostly it's an overly long description of life in the book world. The humour is a bit off, too -- while there are plenty of half-smiles, there are few genuine laughs, like the ones in the previous two books. Still, the book sets the stage for Book 4, and as such is a useful addition to the series....more
The second book in the Thursday Next series provides more literary fun for those who are into that kind of thing.
Thursday's exploits in Jane Eyre havThe second book in the Thursday Next series provides more literary fun for those who are into that kind of thing.
Thursday's exploits in Jane Eyre have made her a bit of a celebrity, which means she has to make regular appearances on TV. Not everybody likes her, though; a mysterious foe keeps trying to kill her, her husband of one month has been eradicated from history and if that weren't bad enough, her time-travelling father tells her Armageddon is at hand. So not only does Thursday have to get her husband back from the depths of time, but she has to stay alive long enough to save the world. Fortunately, there is plenty of literary stuff going on to keep her from going mad. First she has to authenticate a newly found play by Shakespeare, which may well be a ploy in a political conspiracy; then she has to head back into fiction to become a literary detective inside the book world, apprenticed to none other than Miss Havisham. Along the way, she meets Neanderthals, mammoths, the Cheshire Cat and many others, learns many useful skills and ends up saving the planet. Naturally.
Fforde's first sequel to The Eyre Affair isn't as tightly plotted as the original, but is equally delightful and inventive, and just as full of literary in-jokes. There are references to anything from Austen and Dickens to Kafka, not to mention lots of time travel and seriously evil baddies. In short, it's heaps of fun for those who take their literature seriously... and those who don't. ...more
Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is an awful lot of fun for English lit geeks who cherish their classics. It is set in an alternate England whereJasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is an awful lot of fun for English lit geeks who cherish their classics. It is set in an alternate England where people have cloned dodos for pets, croquet is the national sport, time travelling is a regular part of life and literature enjoys the kind of position that beer, football, cricket and TV have today, meaning that the country eats, drinks and breathes literature. It would be a perfect place to live, if it weren't for the fact that (1) it is run by a rather sinister and megalomaniac company, the Goliath Corporation; (2) the Crimean War is still going strong after 131 years and lots of people are dying; and (3) border skirmishes with the Socialist Republic of Wales are frequent. In this rather interesting world lives Thursday Next, a young literary detective who gets involved in the literary crime of the century: the kidnapping of Jane Eyre, which threatens to rid us of the book for ever. Thursday has her work cut out for her -- not only does she have to enter the world of fiction to liberate Jane (and her own aunt, who has been trapped in a Wordsworth poem), but she also has to eliminate the super villain who kidnapped her, halt the Crimean conflict and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. Oh, and persuade the man she loves to marry her, for obviously, there is some romance, too.
Fforde is on to a great idea here. His recreation of England is brilliant; if it weren't for the almighty Goliath Corporation, who are running the place in a rather unpleasant manner, I think every bibliophile would want to live there. References to the classics are abundant, as are jokes. As The Independent said, it's a silly book for smart people, combining erudition with accessible humour, ingenuity and quite a bit of charm. English lit fans will eat it up. ...more
The fouth instalment of the Thursday Next series is my favourite one, the one in which all the plotlines set out earlier are woven together and politiThe fouth instalment of the Thursday Next series is my favourite one, the one in which all the plotlines set out earlier are woven together and political satire enters the series in a grand way.
In Something Rotten, Thursday returns from the book world to late-1980s England with her two-year-old son, two dodos and the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, who wishes to see a bit of the world. As it happens, Hamlet's arrival in the real world poses a bit of a problem, for unbeknownst to Thursday, a fictional character, Yorrick Kaine, has been trying to get himself elected dictator of the British Isles, and he has just launched a vitriolic campaign against all things Danish, including Kierkegaard and Out of Africa. Just as worryingly, the almighty Goliath Corporation is trying to pass itself off as a religion rather than Big Brother, which, if everything goes according to plan, will change life in Britain significantly, and not for the better. Needless to say, Thursday has to sort things out, which she does while trying to evade an assassin, visiting the world of the dead and making sure that the local croquet team wins the cup, as the thirteenth-century saint St Zvlkx, who is always right, has predicted that the fate of the world depends on this match. Naturally, she also spends a bit of time trying to get back her husband, who still has an existence problem, but first she has to arrange a baby-sitter for her son, which proves just as difficult.
Something Rotten gets off to a slow start, but once it gets under way (some 100 pages into the book), it's excellent; the second of half of the book may well be the best part of the series so far. The political satire is thick and hilarious, the cameos and conspiracy theories are great fun, the loose ends are tied up very nicely, and in the end, nearly everyone gets what he/she deserves. What more could a reader want?...more
Number9Dream is the most coherent and accessible of Mitchell's first three books. Which is not to say it's an easy read. Its endless switches betweenNumber9Dream is the most coherent and accessible of Mitchell's first three books. Which is not to say it's an easy read. Its endless switches between different levels of reality (real life, dreams, daydreams, video games, stories within the story, you name it) can be quite confusing. But still, it's one narrative (as opposed to several) with one clearly defined protagonist: 20-year-old Eiji, who leaves his small and remote hometown for Tokyo to find the biological father he has never known. What ensues is a coming-of-age story for the cyberpunk generation, in which Eiji hatches all sorts of plans to get his father to agree to a meeting, meets the Yakuza (or does he?) and generally tries to find his way in big and anonymous Tokyo, which is described so vividly it almost becomes a character in its own right. Clearly influenced by Murakami and manga, this is a fascinating and frequently funny look into Japanese culture -- not as brilliant as Cloud Atlas, but very enjoyable. ...more
Cloud Atlas was the most challenging book I read in 2006. It was also the most rewarding. A bravura literary performance if ever I saw one, Cloud AtlaCloud Atlas was the most challenging book I read in 2006. It was also the most rewarding. A bravura literary performance if ever I saw one, Cloud Atlas weaves together six vastly different stories which are all, in a way, about story-telling. We start reading the journal of a nineteenth-century traveller, then move on to an English snob's letters from 1930s Belgium, a 1970s California thriller, a contemporary horror film of sorts and two tales from a dystopian future, one of which is written in a somewhat-hard-to-decipher phonetic dialect. Each of these stories is completely different. Mitchell has a fabulous command of language which enables him effortlessly to switch personae and change perspectives. The result is an impressive mix of styles and genres, full of stimulating ideas on human nature and, well, lots of other things. At first, none of the six stories seems to have a proper ending (one of them even ends mid-sentence!), which is disappointing as you don't want to leave the characters just when you've become emotionally attached to them. However, once you've reached the end of story No. 6, you realise why the previous stories didn't have endings -- because Mitchell takes you back to the characters he left earlier, to show you where they fit into the magnificent tapestry he has woven, to close the circle he has begun drawing. He also subtly shows you how the stories are interconnected. It's fun picking up on these clues, though puzzling is not what the book is all about.
Now the above probably sounds like a lot of literary gimmickry, and it is. Yet the stunning thing about the book is not how well Mitchell blends genres (although he does so extremely well), but how engaging it is on an emotional level. I deeply cared for some of the characters and really, really wanted to find out how their stories ended. So there you have it -- a stylistic, intellectually stimulating tour de force which is also, somehow, a page turner. Definitely one to cherish....more
What a stunning debut. No, not all of the interconnected, non-linear stories in this "novel in nine parts" are successful (the Holy Mountain story, f What a stunning debut. No, not all of the interconnected, non-linear stories in this "novel in nine parts" are successful (the Holy Mountain story, for instance, feels sketchy to me), but together they form a tremendously imaginative and ambitious web of ideas and situations, full of originality, knowledge and local colour. As usual with Mitchell, each story has its own tone of voice; the man's command of style and language is stupendous, and he uses it to good effect here. As usual, too, the stories centre on fate and chance and how they shape our lives. The result is a book which is a tad too fragmentary for its own good, but undeniably gripping -- the sort of book that has you thinking about it afterwards. What's more, because of the subtle links connecting the different stories, it should be very re-readable. I, for one, am looking forward to re-reading it....more
Dance Dance Dance is a bizarre, Kafkaesque tale about a lonely man who embarks on a journey to find a former lover who has called out to him in a dreaDance Dance Dance is a bizarre, Kafkaesque tale about a lonely man who embarks on a journey to find a former lover who has called out to him in a dream, only to find himself drawn into a surreal world full of offbeat characters and strange events. While not as hauntingly beautiful as Norwegian Wood, it's great and fascinating stuff, full of style, filmic descriptions and endearing characters. It reads like a film, and that's a compliment in my book. ...more