This was Roth's last book. I thought it was very fine though some reviewers felt it was incomplete and at under 200 pages it is at times like a mere...more This was Roth's last book. I thought it was very fine though some reviewers felt it was incomplete and at under 200 pages it is at times like a mere outline of a life, a sequence of brief sketches.
The Emperor's Tomb runs in parallel with The Radetzky March and follows another member of the Trotta family, Franz Ferdinand, a young Viennese man, young when WWI breaks out. His Slovenian father has been successful in America and returns to Austria. Franz lives a lazy existence, meeting with friends in Cafes and restaurants, not taking anything too seriously, cloaking a growing love for Elizabeth, because love and marriage are not acceptable in his circle. Sex is with prostitutes, and an aside.
Two characters from outside privileged, idle Vienna capture Trotta's imagination and that of his friend. Joseph Branco, a cousin of Trotta's from Slovenia, who spends part of each year as an itinerant chestnut roaster, traveling throughout the provinces of Austria-Hungary. Thee other is Manes Reisiger, a Jewish coach driver from Galicia. Manes first appears with a letter of reference from Joseph, seeking help in getting his talented soon into the Conservatory.
When war begins, Trotta arranges to join the same regiment as these two. Their war is inglorious, a series of retreats quickly followed by capture and exile in Siberia. All three return, but to a world transformed. Franz Ferdinand himself appears never to be employed save for the period as an unsuccessful soldier.
Before going to war Trotta marries Elizabeth but the marriage is unconsummated. His old servant, who has accompanied them on their wedding night, dies suddenly and Trotta stays with him rather than with Elizabeth who is gone when the morning comes.
When he returns from the war, Elizabeth is making 'arts and crafts' and in a strange lesbian relationship with a Hungarian 'professor' who designs the (unsuccessful) crafts. Much of the remaining family wealth is dissipated supporting the enterprise. Trotta's father-in-law and a Prussian who seems to be a convincing con man lubricate the slide into financial ruin. Elizabeth has Trotta's child, a son. He is "a blood-red, frightful-looking creature with much too big a head and limbs which remained on of fins" Elizabeth abandons the family shortly after the birth, beguiled again by the Professor and the Prussian to try to be an actress in the new film business. Trotta is besotted by his son, but soon sends him to Paris "to my friend Laveraville".
The final scene, the onset of Nazi rule, is a very fine chapter.
Perhaps I'll update later. Suffice for now to say that I enjoyed apart from the occassional excursions into the psychology of everyday life of both th...morePerhaps I'll update later. Suffice for now to say that I enjoyed apart from the occassional excursions into the psychology of everyday life of both the good guys and the villains.(less)
Many must love this but I was appalled and yet I perservered to the end. That is partly my own character flaw: once rolling I carry on. But it was als...moreMany must love this but I was appalled and yet I perservered to the end. That is partly my own character flaw: once rolling I carry on. But it was also do to the irritating need to go along with the scary plot. Even there the book created for me questions of 'what with the author write next?' rather than 'what's going to happen?'.
Most offputting was the gushy mix of romance novel with mystery. How many sensitive damaged people can one story/police department hold? (less)
I read this as a fan of the television series, so essentially I was reading for information that would help me sort out the sometimes confusing strand...moreI read this as a fan of the television series, so essentially I was reading for information that would help me sort out the sometimes confusing strands. I was very pleasantly surprised. It's well written and the stories are powerful. Of course the characters have the faces and voices of the tv series so there is an occassional anomaly but total consistency isn't necessary. The written story is grittier and, though it may seem hard to believe given the vivid graphics of the show, fleshier than the screen. Written descriptions of sex have more power than the televised couplings, at least for me. I look forward to Book 2. Perhaps I'll have caught up by the time the next season starts.(less)
I hadn't read any Brian Moore before. He was in the pantheon of Canadian writers and that both put me (also Canadian)off and made me want to check him...moreI hadn't read any Brian Moore before. He was in the pantheon of Canadian writers and that both put me (also Canadian)off and made me want to check him out. I came across this book as an entry point.
It is a thriller. Set in France in the 1980s an old collaborator and war criminal remains on the run, pursued by the police, the military, a revenge-seeking Jewish commando and other shadowy forces. He is protected by conservative priests and monks of the French catholic church as well as by figures from the past, still a force in contemporary France. The new church is undermining this support system.
It is a short, taut read, reminding me of Graham Greene. No one in the story is particularly likeable, least of all, perhaps, the protagonist. The book ends with much unresolved, perhaps a commeentary on the status of history and the many loose ends that remain after a catacysm like WW2.
I will be following up with other works by Moore.(less)
This was a classic Rebus story and it led to my discovery the music of Jackie Levin, may he rest in peace; a tremendous bonus. This is the second story...moreThis was a classic Rebus story and it led to my discovery the music of Jackie Levin, may he rest in peace; a tremendous bonus. This is the second story that unites Rebus with Malcolm Fox. I was troubled by the previous encounter where to me Fox seemed a completely different man from the character that was drawn in the stories in which he featured without Rebus. Now it seems like that was a result of Fox being seen through Rebus's or Rebus-like eyes. In 'Saints' he's fleshed out properly and the two combine as cases intersect. This is also the second novel bringing Rebus back from retirement. He is back at a lower rank and feels out of step with the new world of policing. He has alway been comfortable as someone who plays by his own rules but the feeling of aging is clearly weighing. The man needs to get in shape but that would be quite a change in character. Hard to see Rebus taking up fitness at this stage. The story unites Rebus with old friends who were veterans when he first became a polliceman. Ways were different for police then, corners cut and villains knocked about. A change in laws has removed a statute of limitations on some criminal proceedings and this leads to Fox being sent in to investigate an old homicide for which Rebus's former colleagues, and perhaps Rebus himself, might have been culpable Terrific entertainment.(less)
This is not a typical read for me, but I enjoyed the book a lot. I had read some of the Harry Potter books, years ago, with my son. The book begins wit...moreThis is not a typical read for me, but I enjoyed the book a lot. I had read some of the Harry Potter books, years ago, with my son. The book begins with the sudden unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother, a parish counsellor in the West Country Town of Pagford. Barry came from the poor part of town, the Fields, and on the counsul he is the leader of those sympathetic to maintaining the social supports. The book follows the social and personal waves that follow the shock of his death. Adolescents are central to the story and this reminded me of the Hogwart's crowd (must be some connection between those two location names but I'm not enough of a Rowling-reader to sort that out; probably on the web somewhere). Teenage nastiness and insecurity is depicted realistically and sometimes painfully. The depiction of Sukhvinder's situation, in particular, made me quite sad. The teens work their magic in this story too, but in this case with the now everyday power of technical competence. Rowling's characters are not especially likable. But they are believable. The story isn't really about any of them, as The Hero; it is really, I think, about the townsfolk, their interactions and their divisions. Well worth reading.(less)
Pynchon is always worth reading. I enjoyed this more than three stars worth but somehow the pastiche of paranoic ramblings and historical conspiracy f...morePynchon is always worth reading. I enjoyed this more than three stars worth but somehow the pastiche of paranoic ramblings and historical conspiracy fantasies that work just fine for the disant past don't work (for me) for the world today. It seemed of a piece with truther/false flag ramblings on the internet. Perhaps it was a send-up of that web genre (but I don't think so).(less)
Of all the star allocating decisions I've made this seems the silliest or the most humbling. I didn't so much read this as persevere. Line by line or p...moreOf all the star allocating decisions I've made this seems the silliest or the most humbling. I didn't so much read this as persevere. Line by line or phrase by phrase this was gripping or at least not difficult, unless the author was describing a math obsession. The three books proceed from the first reasonably concrete story with mvement across a geography by probably distinct characters, each with some sort of objective. In the second, an individual is confined to a single room, perhaps an assylum, perhaps what would now be a long-term care facility. The narrator knows he is going to die fairly soon. The words are about what he can observe from his his bed or cull from memory, possibly imagined. In the third, it is not even clear whether the narrator is alive or dead. He doesn't move, his gaze is fixed. Initially, his situation seems purely geometric; a minimal number of 'characters' orbit about him and he sees them only when they are in front of him; he speculates about the space he is in, its shape and dimensions. Later in a surrealistic turn he seems buried in a jar, part of a restaurant's display, hearing passersby, debating whether the voices heard and recorded come from his own head or from the outside. Every statement is paired with its opposite as the narrator can't make up his mind. The Unnamable seems purely 'existential' (if I knew what that meant, I blush to write it down) because the narrator is talking about whether he or what he is seeing is real or not; whether what he is saying comes from the inside or the outside. Some seems to be about being a writer. Are these characters (names all starting with M) distinct, or are they projections of the author? Some seems theological. Some being seems blamed for the circumstances and the author anxiously wants it to be over. There is a character or being called Worm who seems either like the devil or like the id. So why is this interesting to me? I am left with a lot of puzzles. But phrase-by-phrase the language was interesting; the words seemed conversational, natural I probably imposed a loquacious Irish voice in a bar speaking the lines, to help mee through it. Paragraphs and even sentences are abandoned; thank God for commas In desperate need of help I have reserved an edition with a preface by Harold Bloom and a Cambridge guide to SB that will hopefully clear the fog. Meanwhile, I'll take comfort a good cozy mystery.(less)
This is a stimulating work about the rot causes of slower growth in the 'western' world. My own pessimistic favourite, that convergence by the rapidly...moreThis is a stimulating work about the rot causes of slower growth in the 'western' world. My own pessimistic favourite, that convergence by the rapidly emerging economies partly takes the form of some losers emerging among the advanced economies' industries, does not come into play.
Modernism, which features a relentless request to innovate, to seek the new, to try something different, whether in busines or art or whatever endeavour, is contrasted with traditionalism and with socialism and corporatism.
Phelps shows that both socialism and corporatism failed to produce better outcomes than free-market capitalism, the most succesful form of modernism. Yet corporatism, especially, worms its way back into political life. Each time there are losers from change (and there always are to some degree) of a systemic blow to the macroeconomy, capitalism is described as the culprit, in need of bridling, if not elimination.
Phelps has interesting thoughts on rising inequality. He sees value in work in and of itself. Standard economics views work or jobs as a cost, and if we can produce the same volume with fewer jobs, then that is clearly a good thing. Inequality can be redressd through the tax and transfer system but Phelps, if I understand him right sees spending power coming without effort as demoralizing, damaging to the overall performance and quality of society. So he advocates subsidies for low productivity labour.
Phelps finds what he sees as the reappearance of traditional values repugnant. This seems to him to be a barrier to individual freedeom and self-expression and therefore to a flourishing economy. Perhaps. Many people work in the modern economy and strive to do more and to do better but still love and live by the values of their traditions. I am not sure the opposition is as categorical as Phelps would have it.(less)
Docked a point for lightness, probably not too fair.
Jimmy R. from the Commitments has bowel cancer. We l...moreTotally enjoyable and frequently very funny.
Docked a point for lightness, probably not too fair.
Jimmy R. from the Commitments has bowel cancer. We learn that at the outset and the book follows his stages. Not sure I can recapitulate them but anger and denial don't jump out as part of Jimmy's way of dealing.
The story is set in Griffin, a small town suburb of Buffalo, N.Y.; big enough to have its own out-of-control police force. The hero, Cal Weaver, is a...moreThe story is set in Griffin, a small town suburb of Buffalo, N.Y.; big enough to have its own out-of-control police force. The hero, Cal Weaver, is a PI and a former cop. He is married to the police chief's sister. The Chief meanwhile is locked in a dispute with the liberal, retired-academic, filandering, mayor.
The window tapped in the first pages of the book is Weaver's car window. The teenage girl outside a popular local bar tapping on the window is Clair, the mayor's daughter. Giving her a ride is Weaver's entry point to a tangle of hidden violent crimes.
Weaver's life is in a shambles. His son has died, a suicide. He and his wife are coping, barely, with the aftermath.
This was entertaining. The author holds the complex weave of storylines together well. There are suspects a-pleanty (at least for me)and dew of the characters behave particularly well.
This story grabbed me more and more as it went on, right to the ending. The setting, 1944 London during the blitz, is terrific. This is a close-knit, E...moreThis story grabbed me more and more as it went on, right to the ending. The setting, 1944 London during the blitz, is terrific. This is a close-knit, English London, relatives living near to hand. A doctor's corpse is found in a bombed out field of rubble. The autopsy confirms foul play and there are pleanty of likely bricks and rubble to have provided the instrumnt. Meanwhile, a mysterious man, Todd, is working as a mortuary assistant. He really wants to be a doctor and he spots the opportunity of the openning. He has been pocketing medical equipment and textbooks to study up. Todd departs the scent and Dr. Daicher shows up, welcomed by the shortstaffed hospital administrators who don't pay too much attention to his credentials. Another murder at the hospital follows. Dr. Daicher wants not only to be an MD but to win the heart of a beautiful nurse. He soon succeeds. Ted Stratton is the overworked London police inspector assigned to the case. Awakened by a nearby V1 rocket strike he helps rescue a woman buried in a house that has collapsed. The rescued woman, unbalanced but released from hospital, is taken in by Stratton's sister-in-law.
The plot lines, inevitably, merge. It could be very complicated and contrived, but it works out naturally and believably and darkly. Frequently I felt I knew what was coming, but instead found myself jarred by a darker and deeper twist of the plot. I was worried that comic stock characters -a lazy and flatulent constable for example- would play too large a role. But this wasn't so. The characters at the centre are realistic and interesting. Whets my appetite for more of Wilson's books. This was my first. (less)