I finished Graham Greene's The End of the Affair last night. It was amazing. I've read 5-6 different Graham Greene books in the past year and I'm consI finished Graham Greene's The End of the Affair last night. It was amazing. I've read 5-6 different Graham Greene books in the past year and I'm constantly amazed at how each book is so completely different from the other. This was heart-breaking and beautiful as well as a great look at theism and faith. I felt so much sympathy for the woman and the dilemma she found herself in with her promise to a god that she didn't believe in.
I love the way that Greene is able to write such biting philosophical asides without sacrificing anything in the way of story. Scratch that. The philosophy isn't an aside from anything, it forms the crux of the story. Because we care about these characters and their pain we are able to more accurately feel the burden these thoughts place upon them. Attaching a very real face to questions that have plagued humanity from day one allows the reader to more fully understand the frustration and despair that come with wrestling with the inevitable paradoxes of every day life. It is these same paradoxes which define us as a species; the ability to make a promise to an entity we are unsure even exists and then actively work toward subverting that promise while still remaining faithful to it. If there's a more fitting description of humankind then I don't know it....more
Nobody writes hard-boiled spy thrillers like John le Carre. Whether he's depicting post-Reunification Germany or conspiracy-minded pharmaceutical compNobody writes hard-boiled spy thrillers like John le Carre. Whether he's depicting post-Reunification Germany or conspiracy-minded pharmaceutical companies, le Carre always manages to inform as much as he entertains. Yet for all that I love him, I'd never read any of his older spy thrillers.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is layered with intrigue built upon intrigue as the Circus of British Intelligence conspires to finally get a leg up on the superior intelligence apparatus of Centre, their East German counterpart. Stuck in the middle of these machinations is Alec Leamus, a career handler whose entire network of informants has just been swept up by Mundt, a violently smart officer in the Abteilung. As Leamus is drawn into the plans of his superiors he is left wondering if this last mission they've planned for him has any avenue of escape or whether he'll be left to rot on the other side of the Wall.
Le Carre is, as always, fantastic about ratcheting up the tension to unheard of levels without ever falling back on wanton violence or shock value. A mere conversation between two opponents leaves the reader more tense than most authors manage in an entire book. Through it all, Le Carre never takes a side, never preaches the rightness of the Western way. Instead you are left feeling that all of his characters, in both the East and West, are at the mercy of powers far removed from their lives. It is this distrust of authority that draws out your sympathies with Leamus as he struggles to just survive.
Reading this book was definitely a bit of a nostalgia trip. With this step back into the height of Cold War tension comes with it the limited memories I have of the Cold War- the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, a tour through a Stasi prison in Hohenschoenhausen, months spent living in the rabbit hutches that formed the majority of worker housing in the Soviet era. Images of all of these were conjured as I read Le Carre's novel and this definitely helped add to my enjoyment of the book. It's always nice to be able to fill in the details from personal experience. This short read has definitely left me salivating for a thicker, juicier, tome like Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Sailor, Spy.
Edward Zanni seems to have it made: he rules the roost at his high school's drama department, has a very important audition for Juilliard coming soonEdward Zanni seems to have it made: he rules the roost at his high school's drama department, has a very important audition for Juilliard coming soon and more potential lovers than seems right for a boy of his doughy physique. To cadge a line from Gypsy Lee, "everything's coming up roses" for young Ed. Until, in delightful Disney fashion, his yuppie father marries a Bavarian ice princess who makes Snow White's evil stepmother look like the poster-parent of foster care. Soon Edward is cut off financially and is left scrambling to find a way to pay for the ever-increasing tuition of America's preeminent drama school in a series of increasingly hilarious (if far-fetched) adventures.
A great beach read that doesn't really require much attention from its reader, this book reminded me of everything I loved about growing up in musical theatre. I mean, really, who doesn't enjoy singing showtunes in Greenwich Village piano bars or reminiscing about hiding youthful bawdy excesses from the willfully blind parental units? The front cover describes this as "a book for mature readers that reminds us what a blast immaturity can be" and this is a promise that it keeps, in both regards. ...more
I'll be the first to admit that there's been a glut of books like this on my reading list lately. Humorous takes on horror archetypes seem to be all tI'll be the first to admit that there's been a glut of books like this on my reading list lately. Humorous takes on horror archetypes seem to be all the rage right now, which is more than fine by me. They're quick, light and entertaining- just the break I need in between the other books that howl at me from the shelf, trying to guilt me into reading them next.
Gil's is a buddy adventure starring Earl the Vampire (think Dwight Yoakam with fangs) and Duke the Werewolf (think Jesse Ventura with fur) who spend the years prowling the backroads of America in a beat-up truck with Earl's home/steamer trunk strapped in the bed. One night their wanderings lead them to an all night diner (fortunate when you travel with the undead) located far from any major highway and directly next door to a cemetery where the dead just won't stay dead. The diner's proprietress, a lovingly obese woman named Loretta, cajoles the duo into sticking around to assist with the zombie problem in return for some much-needed gas money (the employment opportunities for vampires and werewolves being few and far between).
What follows is a hilarious romp through a small desert town plagued with far more than their fair share of supernatural oddities from zombie cows (I'm not kidding- zombie cows) to mirthful ghouls as a result of a nubile teen's attempts to open a portal through time and space (and a few other dimensions) to call back the long-banished Old Gods of Lovecraftian lore. Helping Tammy, errr... sorry... Mistresss Lilith, is her feeble-minded henchman Chad who is more interested than what lies beneath her blouse than in any of the graves that Tammy has him robbing.
Like I said, it's a quick read. I'd be surprised if it took most longer than a day or two to consume. Yet that day would still count as one well spent as evidenced by my aching ribs once I finally stopped chortling long enough to put the book back on the shelf....more
This is the first Steinbeck that I've attempted to read as an adult. We had some brief flirtations during my teen years but never really hooked up. IThis is the first Steinbeck that I've attempted to read as an adult. We had some brief flirtations during my teen years but never really hooked up. I think it was probably a wise choice. Now we've found each other as adults and can really appreciate each other's complexities and I can tell that I'll likely be making sweet love to Johnny S. for years to come.
Cannery Row is a really brief read that features some of the most concise yet descriptive writing I've ever come across. Set in a small stretch of Monterey, California, the book tells the story of the town's inhabitants and their attempts to throw a party to show their appreciation for Doc, a marine collector who is generous almost to a fault. A simple plot, which makes the writing shine all the more. Whether he's describing the town's indigent or the short and exciting life of a tide pool, Steinbeck never fails to turn a phrase that is near poetry in its beauty. All prose should aspire to this degree of eloquence.
This is a very interesting read from a first-time author. More of a scrapbook compilation of a story than a standard novel, the author moves through mThis is a very interesting read from a first-time author. More of a scrapbook compilation of a story than a standard novel, the author moves through many different voices as he relates the story of Ace and Rem De Heer, two brothers growing up in South Africa.
The brothers De Heer are plagued by accidents that variously incapacitate and harm them, related in short snapshots titled with the cause of the accident and the injuries sustained- from a jousting match with bamboo poles to impaling oneself on a car door handle. Woven among these stories is a mystery surrounding an event of their childhood that has far ranging consequences and haunts them into adulthood. When Rem shows up in Amsterdam and is subsequently smacked flat by a tram, Ace finds that the brothers' shared past of accidents and tragedy isn't as easy to leave behind as he'd thought.
This is a story that teases you like a burlesque dancer, slowly dropping bits and pieces of its covering until the truth stands revealed. De Nooy's writing is quirky and written in a comfortable off-the-cuff manner that echoes the haphazard way his character's live their lives. His ability at writing dialect so that your mind hears it while reading is phenomenal. I particularly enjoyed a look at growing up in South Africa where the struggles of Apartheid were not the main focus, but rather events that intruded in upon the lives of the two brothers. I definitely look forward to the next work by this up-and-coming author....more
Throughout the years Jonathan Lethem has made no secret of the high regard that he holds for Philip K. Dick. The MacArthur grant winner has edited andThroughout the years Jonathan Lethem has made no secret of the high regard that he holds for Philip K. Dick. The MacArthur grant winner has edited and written the introduction for the Library of America anthologies of Dick's work and written several great articles about the mad prophet of science fiction's final descent into paranoia and madness. For all of this though, it wasn't until I picked up one of Lethem's first published novels, Amnesia Moon, that I was able to see just how much the hallucinatory style of Dick had influenced the writer.
Living in an abandoned movie theater in Wyoming, drinking poorly distilled grain alcohol and forcing himself to stay awake for days at a time to stop himself from dreaming, Chaos can't really be said to be enjoying his apocalypse. At some time in the past something happened that shattered the world. Nuclear war, alien invasion, a blinding mist- theories abound. Too bad nobody can quite remember their names, let alone their past, so we're not quite sure. What we are sure about is that in the wake of this disaster a group of people arose who were able to make their dreams into reality, influencing those around them to believe, look like and act according to this inflicted reality. Tired of dreaming other people's dreams, Chaos flees Wyoming with a fur-covered girl in search of the answers to his past and the source of the all-pervading amnesia. The duo take a roadtrip through the blasted ruins of America, alternately being effected by and effecting the various dreamers that they come across.
With its ever-shifting cascade of conflicting realities, its obsession with the frangible nature of identity and its bleak view of the future, this book could easily have been published as a recently discovered manuscript of Dick's. The swirl of events passes through so many different scenes, each town an isolated universe of disorder and insanity, that I was reminded of the complete head trip of Dick's Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, never sure what to believe or where the truth may lie. In recent years Lethem has shifted his sights from the science fiction of his early books to his other lifelong obsession (music) but he still stands as an accomplished master of the genre. If all you've read of Lethem is his post-millennial output then you owe it to yourself to try out his first books. ...more
There are very few books these days that I find so gripping that I put everything to the side so that I can fully enjoy them more. Steven Hall's The RThere are very few books these days that I find so gripping that I put everything to the side so that I can fully enjoy them more. Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts has changed all of that. Hall has a very original style and plays with the idea of literature in ways previously left to the purview of Mark Z. Danielewski. The use of letters and words to create drawings of conceptual creatures, the fifty-plus pages used solely for a flipbook, not to mention a highly inventive code combining Morse and a QWERTY keyboard- all these serve to show Hall as one of the most innovative new authors in a field overflowing with talent.
Aside from a tendency to borrow a little too much from Spielberg's epic, Jaws, the only other fault I can find with Hall as an author is that he wears his influences on his sleeve. Quotes from Murakami, characters reading Paul Auster- these tongue-in-cheek homages to Hall's favorite writers tends to wear a little too thin by the end of the book. Still, as a debut novel, The Raw Shark Texts marks Hall as an author to watch in the years to come....more
"I didn't think that it would be possible considering just how many times I've seen the film, but I ended up liking the book even more than Kubrick's "I didn't think that it would be possible considering just how many times I've seen the film, but I ended up liking the book even more than Kubrick's masterpiece. A very quick read, I would argue that, barring any particular difficulties with underst...more I didn't think that it would be possible considering just how many times I've seen the film, but I ended up liking the book even more than Kubrick's masterpiece. A very quick read, I would argue that, barring any particular difficulties with understanding the Nadsat slang with which Alex, the narrator, peppers every sentence, the book could be read in the same amount of time that it would take you to watch the film.
Regardless of how long this takes to read, this was a highly enjoyable book. In particular, I enjoyed Burgess' onomatopoeic way of writing which allowed scenes to take on a bit of ambient noise, fleshing them out even more. I can't think of many other authors that write about sounds as well as he does.
The story itself is a simple one, with very little guesswork needed to deduce the author's point: it is humankind's ability to choose to be good or evil which defines us as humans. Oh so very existential. In fact, Burgess spells it out in the introduction while at the same time berating himself for the ham-fisted way in which he went about the story and moping that this is the book of his that readers remember the most.
But for good or bad, this is the novel that most people will think of when they think of Anthony Burgess, the author. We very rarely get to choose what our successes are, and Burgess could have done a lot worse. What would be truly sad would be loving this book and then neglecting to read the rest of his oeuvre. One good book begets another, right? ...more