Matthew Scudder is back and this time a small-time stoolie named Jake “The Spinner” Jablon has come to him for help. This informer has found a new lin...moreMatthew Scudder is back and this time a small-time stoolie named Jake “The Spinner” Jablon has come to him for help. This informer has found a new line of business in blackmail but now one of his clients has figured it was better to kill than keep paying for his silence. After an attempt on his life goes wrong, The Spinner turns to Scudder to be his avenging angel if he ever does wind up dead. Only problem is when he eventually was found floating in the river, Scudder had to work out just who finally caught up to The Spinner and killed him.
Having just finished War and Peace (a review that is quite difficult to write) I felt the need to read something quick and easy. The Matthew Scudder series is just that, 1970’s hard-boiled with a gritty and fast paced style to it. Scudder is a former New York Police officer who now does ‘favours’ for people as he isn’t a licenced Private Investigator. One of the things I really like about Lawrence Block’s hard-boiled detective is the fact that there are signs that he isn’t what he claims to be. It’s revealed that Scudder was a corrupt cop and you can see the corruption start to seep into his PI work. Hard-Boiled characters normally walk that fine line between good and evil but with Matthew Scudder I get the sense that he can’t walk a straight line.
You might have noticed that I’ve been trying to write critical reviews lately but when it comes to a book like Time to Murder and Create it is hard to have in-depth criticism. This is pure escapism, a quick and entertaining read full of dark gritty characters that all have a secret to keep. Like In the Midst of Death, Time to Murder and Create wasn’t as good as The Sins of the Fathers, the series started off strong but now it feels like those crime shows on TV where there is just a new case every time and nothing new or exciting.
If I ever need a quick easy palate cleaner, then I might return to the Matthew Scudder because sometimes you need mindless entertainment. I have an idea of what I would like to see with this character but I don’t think they will go in that direction. Sometimes I wish I had the skills to write a hard-boiled crime series, just because they are fun to read and I have never found a series that lived up to the excitement of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series and I’m frustrated enough to want to create my own. If anyone has a recommendation for a great hard-boiled crime series, please let me know.
The fact that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to one Mr W.H. has been the source of much speculation. Eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyr...moreThe fact that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to one Mr W.H. has been the source of much speculation. Eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyrwhitt suggests that the sonnets are written for a person known as William Hughes. He bases this theory on his interpretation of the Sonnets, lines like “A man in hue, all Hues in his controlling” (the 20th sonnet) where the word ‘Hue’ is capitalised and italicised and the multiple puns on the name ‘Will’ found in the sonnets.
The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a short story by Oscar Wilde; it only took me about twenty minutes so I don’t think I’ll say much about it but it was a story I wanted to review. Yes, it was required reading for university but it was an interesting enough piece that getting my thoughts down seemed like a good idea. I remember reading The Picture of Dorian Gray a long time ago and not getting on with it; maybe I wasn’t for me or maybe I just hadn’t had the literary knowledge to get something out of it. In any case, I’m curious enough that maybe Dorian Gray will be a reread in the future.
I want to compare The Portrait of Mr. W.H. with My Life as a Fake because they both seem to talk about a similar topic. While My Life as a Fake covered a literary hoax, The Portrait of Mr. W.H. looks at a piece of literary criticism that has been around for a long time and is often talked about. I don’t agree with this theory and it is important to know that Oscar Wilde didn’t either, although by the end he almost did. What I really liked about this story is the fact that Wilde took a differing view of the Sonnets and tried to explore it. This is an excellent example of literary criticism because it got me looking at the Sonnets in another way, even if I didn’t agree with it.
The fact that Oscar Wilde managed to write this literary criticism in a form of a story was equally impressive. The whole story has this real gothic feel about it and the character of Willie Hughes showed vampiric characteristics in the way he destroyed lives, in particular Cyril’s. Yet another similarity to My Life as a Fake is the whole idea that literature or the author can be portrayed as a monster.
I read this story as social criticism, looking at the homo-eroticism of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and question if a particular piece of text has any effect on the value of the art form. I don’t know many people complaining about the homoerotic nature of Shakespeare but I’ve heard complaints about it when referring to Oscar Wilde. Wilde was a big believer in celebrating art as being art and not letting the opinion of the artist affect it. This means The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a satirical look at the art, where you have to take a more literal approach and explore the life of William Shakespeare as an artist and its connection to the Sonnets.
Oscar Wilde tantalises the reader with his literary and social criticism, mix in the satirical nature of this story and the wit of the author and you have a compelling read. One thing I’ve been thinking about is the connection between this story and The Picture of Dorian Gray which I would like to leave you with. They both share very similar titles but in Dorian Gray you have a portrait that ages and the reader see the truth, of Gray and all his sins. While in The Portrait of Mr. W.H. the picture of Willie Hughes is a lie and I have to wonder the meaning behind this imagery when comparing the two.
In 1943 two conservative classicists set out to expose the absurdity of modernist poetry. Both James McAuley and Harold Stewart were classical trained...moreIn 1943 two conservative classicists set out to expose the absurdity of modernist poetry. Both James McAuley and Harold Stewart were classical trained poets, who didn’t think much about modernism; it didn’t rhyme, didn’t make sense and it just didn’t look right, it was fake poetry. If an everyman can abandon technique and rhythm and create poetry, what was the point of high art? They created this everyman, Ern Malley and submitted poetry under this name to the literary magazine Angry Penguins. The Ern Malley hoax has become one of the biggest literary scandals in Australian history. While the hoax crippled modernist poetry within Australia, ultimately this parody backfired on McAuley and Stewart. The poetry, which was written in a day and full of word plays and puns became a sensation in the 1970’s. Their attempt to parody modern poetry and create something fake turned into something real, beyond their control and is now celebrated as fine examples of surrealist poetry.
Peter Carey’s My Life is a Fake explores the idea of fakery while paying homage to the Ern Malley hoax. Knowledge of this hoax is the backbone of this post-modernist novel, so much so that he covers his thoughts on it in the back of the book. Thinking about this novel I get the idea that this is a book that demands the reader to think about the purpose of reading. While this is considered contemporary fiction, it really demands a lot from the read and it wants to address a number of literary issues. Editor for Monthly Review Sarah Wode-Douglass, while traveling to Kuala Lumpur, encounters the perpetrator of the hoax after many years. The novel goes on to explore the literate mystery of forgeries but I won’t go into too much detail, it is quite a ride.
“I still believe in Ern Malley. (…) For me Ern Malley embodies the true sorrow and pathos of our time. One had felt that somewhere in the streets of every city was an Ern Malley (…) a living person, alone, outside literary cliques, outside print, dying, outside humanity but of it. (…) As I imagined him Ern Malley had something of the soft staring brilliance of Franz Kafka; something of Rilke’s anguished solitude; something of Wilfred Owen’s angry fatalism. And I believe he really walked down Princess Street somewhere in Melbourne. (…) I can still close my eyes and conjure up such a person in our streets. A young person. A person without the protection of the world that comes from living in it. A man outside.” Max Harris, editor of Angry Penguins.
While this book is told in a first person narrative, from the perspective of Sarah, as a reader I wrestled with the perspective. The novel explored the life of Sarah, her traveling partner John Slater who she describes as an unapologetically narcissist. Also we learn about Christopher Chubb and his monster, the non-existent Bob McCorkle. My mind wrested with questions like, whose life was I reading about? Whose words am I reading? Whose mythology do I accept? Personally I think these are the questions Carey wants us to ask, also I have to wonder what type of fakery are we talking about in the title?
Now I called the fictional poet Bob McCorkle a monster because this novel is influenced by a lot of literature but the most obvious is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Like McAuley and Stewart’s hoax, Bob McCorkle was a monster in the eyes of its creator and takes on a life of its own. There are also references to Paradise Lost (which can be connected to Frankenstein) and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. An understanding of Greek mythology is helpful as well, especially Orpheus. This is a tricky book to read, and it took me a while to get the hang of it. Once I got into the rhythm of the novel, I think understanding and progress was a lot easier, though I do think a better understanding of literature would be helpful.
My Life as a Fake explores the power of creation, sometimes it just takes a life on its own with no way of stopping it. We must wrestle with the question of whether the man claiming to be Bob McCorkle is a fanatic; someone with an identity delusion, a hoaxer’s hoaxer, an accident, or an illusion called into being by its creator. As My Life as a Fake is an Australian novel, I can’t help but wonder if this is exploring the idea that Australia doesn’t produce Art, rather parodies and fakeries. The misconception that Australian artist must trade in masquerades to get noticed, a slightly old point of view but one that might have been still relevant in the time of the hoax.
I had to read this book for a university course so I also had to think about post-colonialism (a common theme in the subject). I’m not sure how this works as a post-colonial novel but I have to ask, as a colonized nation is this book viewing Australia as Frankenstein’s monster. Whose country are we in? Why does it matter? Are we the bastard spawn of a powerful creator (England)? Are we just fakes in the eyes of Europeans? Did we start off as fakes that took on a life of its own? Not really important questions for the book but interesting enough to share in this review.
Given that Frankenstein heavily influences My Life as a Fake, does this make this a modern gothic novel? They do invoke similar themes, interesting that this novel is meant to be popular fiction and yet it still explores high art in a complex, post modern way. Makes me wonder just how successful this novel was for Peter Carey. For me, while it was a difficult read, I found pleasure in studying this book, makes me want to read all of Carey’s books, maybe I’ll try The True History of the Ned Kelly Gang next.