Vaulted into my top 10 funniest books of all time in the first few pages, amazed until the very end, when it yawns rather than roars. Amis pulls off mVaulted into my top 10 funniest books of all time in the first few pages, amazed until the very end, when it yawns rather than roars. Amis pulls off magic tricks with the English language, with what the novel can do. He breaks the sound barrier on 1st person narration.
John Self bears a consciousness and viewpoint that is so morally wrong, yet somehow manages to implicate the reader in its wrongness. At least I felt that way. Towards the last hundred pages, I wondered how much readers would want to bathe in this vicious froth. But Self, through Amis, is just so funny, so perceptive, so spot on in capturing the moods of Manhattan neighborhoods, that you helplessly read on.
Amis gets so many things right about wrongness. ("What's wrong with my head?" Self asks in the beginning. "It must be the booze, it must be the junk, it must be all the pornography," he repeats towards the end, as a mantra.) He describes a homeless guy as, "...a New York nomad lying face down on the flagstones like a damp log..." On Sixth Ave at noon, he sees "the office men, with lunchbox faces and truant eyes."
There's too many amazing sentences.
The movie John Self is preparing to shoot functions as his white whale, i.e. the shooting is always just threatening to happen. Towards the end, there are some truly human and humble moments with Self's love interest, Martina (dumbly, I only realized a ways in the Martin/Martina connection). However, the resolution with a man called Frank the Phone, always threatening Self, was cagily deployed. I admit to getting confused: I know what happened, I just thought the action was addressed a little too slantways.
I know I'll be reading this book again, to savor the language and all the messed up things it embroils me in....more
This novel twins the marriage plot with the rise and fall of a self-made paint magnate. Howell's was doing something ahead of his time, investigatingThis novel twins the marriage plot with the rise and fall of a self-made paint magnate. Howell's was doing something ahead of his time, investigating and celebrating the American businessman. The story runs very dry at points. Howells is much better writing about Silas than the thin love triangle, with its extremely obvious complications, between Irene, Tom and Penelope.
I loved the opening pages. An interviewer comes to profile Silas, and it's a great and modern-feeling trick for Howell's to employ. He sets up so much narrative work through this interview. I'm reading Martin Amis' Money right now and he employs a similar device, albeit briefly.
Howell's has the very frustrating habit of adding entire sentences modifying "he said" or "she said." He often equates something Lapham's wife, Persis, says to something that all women say or feel, and the generalization undercuts the very vivid and real characters he's worked so hard to render.
This was on E.L. Doctorow's list of books for every writer to read. I was attracted by the fact that Doctorow said Howell's understood the business mind. I'd like to understand the business mind: if only to be abhorred by it (though I'd like to make sounder investments than my chugging mutual fund).
It's not a must read, but Silas Lapham has its moments....more
Desolate and precisely told. Works like a fairy tale in that nothing feels out of place. Michael Haneke movie vibes. Story is about a lady writer whoDesolate and precisely told. Works like a fairy tale in that nothing feels out of place. Michael Haneke movie vibes. Story is about a lady writer who comes to deliver a lecture in a tiny tiny town in northern Sweden, and ends up living with a man who gives her lodging for the night, Hadar, in the last stages of cancer. Nearby lives Hadar’s brother, also dying but of heart disease. Therein lies the Lindgren, everyone is suffering.
The recipe, it seems, for a Lindgren novel is 1) Two ill men. 2) One nurturing woman. 3) Food as salvation. That was the way in Hash, one of my Top Ten of All Time, only here, it’s less darkly comic. Still some funny moments, though, involving food and the body as food. The “sweetness” of the title. I won’t give anything away here, only that it’s a little creepy.
Lindgren is simply a genius for dialogue, effortlessly shifting between a summary of what the characters said, and actual quoted conversation. For a novella-length work, it still pays off big time in the end. I had but one gripe: the woman’s new work is about St. Christopher, and I wanted it to tie in more or at least reveal something interesting about the Saint. This could be a fourth Lindgren element, to show a character in the act of writing. Can’t wait to read more Torgny, for reals. What a writer....more