Less briefly: A tale told in high register, of arrogance and honor, the f
My, my, my, my, my.
Not one for the casual reader.
Briefly: My, my, my, my, my.
Less briefly: A tale told in high register, of arrogance and honor, the fine lines between conflicting emotions, irony, Oxford University, the righteous and the self-righteous, the femme fatale, fantasy meeting reality, anticipatory metafiction—wondrously frustrating and frequently comic, keep a dictionary at hand (a good one). Cormac McCarthy meets Jane Austen, or Bartleby, the Scrivener in extremis.
I’m one of those people who always enjoyed hearing Christopher Hitchens speak—on anything—in his confrontational style, with his humor, his lightning-
I’m one of those people who always enjoyed hearing Christopher Hitchens speak—on anything—in his confrontational style, with his humor, his lightning-fast logic, with the breadth and depth of his intellect always on display. I miss Christopher Hitchens. Even when I disagreed with his position (the invasion of Iraq), I’d still marvel at his grasp of fact and adamant (belligerent) defense. I miss him.
In Mortality, Hitchens describes his diagnosis, treatment and the subsequent failure of the body, while elaborating on the ‘fighting’ illness metaphor, his trademark stance on superstition (religion), and the importance of friendship, including his religious friends whose treatment of him, while ill, speaks well of them. He writes about the irony of prayer, what to say/not say to those who are terminal, and losing one’s voice. Never whiny or self-pitying, Hitchens’ plight unfolds in his own words before trailing away into partial thoughts—paragraphs and thoughts included by his wife in the text, some spoken to already, but perhaps only partially. An all-too-brief account of Hitchens’ ‘year of living dyingly.’
Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it in your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you.
Five stars, unapologetically. It’s Hitchens—to give it less would be to blame him for not living longer.
Here it was he talked about the RAF. So? [10 space gap] So must others, for ever, or talk about something like it, and it does no
4.5 stars rounded up.
Here it was he talked about the RAF. So? [10 space gap] So must others, for ever, or talk about something like it, and it does not matter to them, now, it cannot have mattered at any time to me, so why this, if it is so meaningless, anything means something only if you impose meaning on it, which in itself is a meaningless thing, the imposition.
…why do reasons matter?...Sometimes I think I shall become a Surrealist.
Another day, another review, hopefully one which will encourage the reading of The Unfortunates, even though I’m likely to discourage as many as are prodded on. As is frequently the case with the books I’ve been reading, this isn’t one for everyone—it could be, but it won’t be, as it should be, yes, no, maybe, perhaps.
The narrator, one B.S. Johnson, travels to a city to cover a soccer match for a newspaper, and the travel, the pre-match wandering through the city, the sights, all conspire to remind the narrator of an old friend, now deceased, who had been a good friend and trusted ally in the narrator’s budding career as a writer. Rather a bland premise, but…that story isn’t the story. The story is the randomness of recollection, the bits and pieces, remembered in detail or remembered in part. Embellished. Romanticized. Contrived. Non-linear. Scatter-shot. Cumulative while disintegrating. Exactly the way Memory works, the memories that matter.
Johnson (the author) employs a style that some may find tortuous. Polysyndetons without the conjuctions, memory upon memory. Heavily punctuated demanding the reader slow down, slow down. Gaps in the text suggesting the narrator’s mind has wandered off, on to something else. Disclaimers undermine and reinforce.
So, about that book-in-a-box—WTF is that? Is it a gimmick? Of course. Is it a useful gimmick? Decidedly. Does it add, embellish, contribute, reinforce? So many questions. The answer, I believe is it does add. It reinforces the idea of the randomness of memory. It reinforces the idea that no two readers ever read the same book.
If you’re lucky enough to have a copy at hand, take a moment. Prop up the front cover from behind—so that the box stands open. Consider the topmost surface covered in a muted, off-white color of satin with a small pillow resting on it. A casket. The contents of which holding the objects of Memory. The contents to which most Memories are headed. A cliché, yes? No.
The joy of this book isn’t in the story. The joy of this book is in the reading.
What strange language it is to read, this book. How peculiar, to me, my self, too, the reading. The book. This book. That I’ve held, in my hands, thi
What strange language it is to read, this book. How peculiar, to me, my self, too, the reading. The book. This book. That I’ve held, in my hands, this book, my hands have held. Great fun, to read, too, this book, for me, myself, this book, it is. Wonder the punctuation, abundant, too, from McCarthy and Faulkner came? Wonder the syntax, not Dutch, Pennsylvanian or otherwise, too? (I’m going to throw the horse over the fence some hay). Right then, write, write on, read, read more. This read and that, the book, too, that one, above cited. And hurry. Then build, build, design, build then.
How many writers get to use the word aposiopesis? Everyone uses the concept, but few know the meaning (hell, yes, I had to look it up). And if you don’t believe me, well, I’ll—
One for the die-hards.
Easily four stars, probably closer to five. Screw it, five it is.
Hitchens makes a compelling case against the major world religions and claims of religion being ‘essentially a force for good.’ His essays are presentHitchens makes a compelling case against the major world religions and claims of religion being ‘essentially a force for good.’ His essays are presented with his characteristic wit, erudition and bravado (in the positive sense of defiance and courage). Unafraid to name names, point fingers, and challenge orthodoxy, Hitchens makes his case masterfully and in a most readable manner. As previous reviewers have mentioned, he’s mainly ‘preaching to the choir’ but he also provides an abundance of information to newly realized skeptics and atheists in search of additional ‘ground to stand on’ when faced with the inevitable challenges of the religious.
A provocative story rendered in a straight-forward compelling manner by a contemporary master of literary fiction.
Trevor (see above review) has it rigA provocative story rendered in a straight-forward compelling manner by a contemporary master of literary fiction.
Trevor (see above review) has it right: many who approach this novel expecting science fiction are likely to be disappointed. It does, I suppose, lend itself to the qualifiers of ‘science fiction’ or ‘horror,’ but those aspects of this story, while present, speak more to setting than the author’s point which seems to be the profound resignation to life’s circumstances no matter how dire they are.
Lit majors might tire of hearing ‘good authors teach you how to read his or her novel,' but Ishiguro, a great author, does exactly that. His narrator speaks in a familiar, almost blasé, manner describing daily events at a children’s live-in school, but there’s always a sense of something else going on, something sinister, something ‘behind the curtain.’ Kathy, the narrator, engages the reader directly, expressing the need to go back to another event or enquiring if the reader’s experience is similar; in doing so, she breaks down the barrier between reader and fictive narrator exposing the reader to a more devastating finale. To his further credit, because you’ve begun to so identify with the narrator’s resignation, when dénouement occurs, it’s easier to withstand.
This novel’s humorous tone and the author’s suicide will put some readers in mind of John Kennedy Toole and his A Confederacy of Dunces. The protagon This novel’s humorous tone and the author’s suicide will put some readers in mind of John Kennedy Toole and his A Confederacy of Dunces. The protagonists of both novels share a general loathing of their circumstances and the people around them. CMOD-e is, however, much more fun and funnier. Johnson’s metafictional account of Christie Malry’s attempt to balance his life’s accounts is, at first, easy to identify with and creates in the reader a sympathetic reflection.
At one point the intrusive author/narrator says of the protagonist:
And he had contrived a method of throwing these switches by remote control, so to speak in an unusual way which I am not going to bother to invent on this occasion. But I will go so far as to tell you that it involved a shovel, which was naturally already there and available for use, a length of nylon twine, and a small hard ball of compressed rubber of the kind delighted in by many children of all ages; and that once this apparatus had worked, the only objects left were a shovel, which had every right to be there, and a child’s ball with about a yard of twine attacted.
I’ve provided this quote for two reasons:
1. it exemplifies the narrator’s insistent and humorous tendency to short-circuit expectations, and
I’m not sure why I put off reading this for so long: it’s listed in the Bibliography of James Wood’s How Fiction Works (and now has a √ after it like so many other great titles he cites), it received five stars from MJ Nichols and Greg, (who’ve written much finer reviews), and now, finally, I’m reading it because it was listed as a Cult Books group read; go figure.
At one point the author/narrator interrupts the text with:
…this novel is not an unrelieved progression of successes, you know.
I’d suggest he’s wrong, the novel is, indeed, a ‘progression of successes’ culminating in a major success. While reading this brief novel, I highlighted any number of passages to share in a review, most being the funnier intrusions, but instead of providing them I offer the following suggestion: Read this book, it’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s worth it....more