Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day is a masterpiece of subtlety and one of my two favorite novels, but A Pale View of Hills, his first novel, doesn’t qIshiguro’s The Remains of the Day is a masterpiece of subtlety and one of my two favorite novels, but A Pale View of Hills, his first novel, doesn’t quite do it for me.
There is subtley here too, and maybe too much subtlety, for the amount hidden from the reader is out of proportion. The famous iceberg analogy? Here the whole dang iceberg save a few inches is under the water. So much is hidden that I could not form an emotional connection with the material, and reading it through became a chore. I think this book is meant to appeal to the intellect more than the heart, but it’s a bit too icy for me. Because of the giant hidden iceberg, I guess. ...more
Once upon a time, Treasure Island and The Hobbit did it for me. Well, they still do ... but back in those early teen years, I would never have forseenOnce upon a time, Treasure Island and The Hobbit did it for me. Well, they still do ... but back in those early teen years, I would never have forseen that one of my top five all-time books would be the reminiscences of an aging, elite British butler. Such is Ishiguro’s mastery.
This is a masterpiece of subtlety. The butler’s life is rendered in a thousand soft brush strokes which, taken together, convey the texture of a life. There is irony too, but it too is understated. The butler himself is understated—as befits his profession—and the author’s hidden hand is understated as well. This is an achingly beautiful book.
In addition to the sublime human content, the language is a joy. I would read this book repeatedly for the sheer joy of the language alone. But there is much more than the language, as noted.
Baby, You’re A Rich Man is a musical composition, and many of its abundant riches are musical in nature. Above all I love the tone. Humor and pathos aBaby, You’re A Rich Man is a musical composition, and many of its abundant riches are musical in nature. Above all I love the tone. Humor and pathos alike are rendered in a minor key that the author’s sure hand maintains throughout. Imagine sitting in the sheltered café of a Japanese garden as the rain falls beyond the open walls, sipping tea as you listen to a confidant’s hushed tale of love, loss, and guilt. That’s the feel of this serious, humorous, richly textured book.
Bright humorous notes abound and serve as a welcome counterpoint to the book’s predominant blue lines. An untalented American star of a Japanese variety show falls from grace due to scandal and is replaced by a cartoon version ... of himself. A Japanese gossip site sympathizes with the fallen faux–star when his wife leaves him due to his infidelity: “Boo hoo, RI–CHU–MAN–SAN!” The renderings of the doings on Ri–Chu–Man–San’s own variety show, and that of Austrailian–bred shock comic Ozman, Richman’s tormentor, are absurd, funny, and memorable. You just have to read it (humor does not paraphrase well).
The author’s rendering of present–day Japan is thoroughly winning. In musical terms, the nightspots and temples and other locales, and the absurd and prosaic doings of the Japanese, bring to mind The Mikado, though Bundy’s sketches cannot be accused of being disrespectful (as G&S sometimes are). I am fascinated by modern Japan, and that’s one of the reasons that I enjoyed Jay McInerny’s “Ransom.” In my opinion, Bundy’s depiction of Japan is richer, more compelling, and even more fun than McInerney’s, and that is no small matter.
As a well realized symphony should be, Baby You’re A Rich Man is beautifully paced. Never did I feel that the story rushed ahead or lagged. A writer working on pacing would do well to study Bundy’s baton work.
Like a good opera, the story’s content is deep and meaningful. Protagonist Kent Richman has been raised to notoriety twice in odd circumstances. The seven–year–old Kent became a symbol of the insidiousness of TV violence when he accidentally killed his older brother by aping a pro wrestling move. A compelling theme of the book, therefore, is the lingering effect of childhood trauma, manifest here as excruciating guilt. The theme is handled with sensitivity and insight. I do feel, though, that the depth of Kent’s guilt would be more explicable if, in his narration of the fatal wrestling accident, Kent indicated or implied that the fatal act was motivated by malice. The guilt of the protagonist of “A Separate Peace” is especially compelling because, in recalling the moment when Gene caused his friend Phineas to fall from a tree, rendering Phineas a paraplegic, the adult Gene states that he “jounced” the tree. This statement has sent generations of students to the dictionary to look up “jounce,” and makes the depth of Gene’s guilt intellectually satisfying. In Baby You’re A Rich Man, while we do learn that the unfortunate older brother teased Kent in the days prior to the accident, Kent’s climactic narration of the accident does not suggest that he was angry at his brother at the crucial moment, or meant to hurt him. Of course, this is not to suggest that even the accidental killing of a brother would not have profound psychological consequences. In any case, the author renders the lingering effect of Kent’s childhood guilt with painstaking nuance.
A second theme, fame, is presented in a thought–provoking manner. The adult Kent is famous for ... What? For looking like John Lennon, for crying out loud. When confused by an absurd statement or act on his TV show, he utters “A–re?”—a Japanese “huh?”—and this mundane remark becomes a national catch phrase. How believable, and how absurd. Kent’s wife Kumi, whom he betrays, is a famous model known for her ... pout. Of course. The question presented is whether this new kind of fame will fill the hole in Kent’s life created by his childhood infamy. If it did, why would he continually try to fill it with shabu (Japanese for meth)? Bundy’s depiction of Kent’s degradation is vivid (scrounging in the urine of a bathroom stall for a dropped rock of meth, anyone?), and puts the lie to the false promise of celebrity.
No review of this fine book would be complete without a mention of the superb illustrations by Max Currie. His creative manga–style illustrations complement the story superbly.
All in all, this is a symphony of a book. Kudos, Bundy–san!
Steve Kluger’s ear for dialogue is the source of this book’s chief charm. The dialogue, the fake Walter Winchell columns, the fictitious newspaper accSteve Kluger’s ear for dialogue is the source of this book’s chief charm. The dialogue, the fake Walter Winchell columns, the fictitious newspaper accounts of ballgames ring true. In addition, the book’s survey of the cultural history of the World War II era made the reading experience pleasantly akin to leafing through an old copy of Life.
Unfortunately, the book as a whole feels like a particularly belabored Afterschool Special. The clichéd characters are cardboard cutouts, the situations and plot developments absurd — the idea of the bratty child–protagonist winning the hearts of a bunch of rough and rowdy Swing Era ballplayers as their batboy the most glaring example — the morality fingerpainted, the plot utterly predictable, and the tone saccharine. I am reminded of the scene in The Catcher In The Rye where Holden recounts the plot of a particularly contrived and puerile Hollywood feel–good movie in eye–rolling detail. “Phony” is apt.
It would have been better to leaf through Life. ...more
Right up front, I've only read a bit of this book. It's not my type. But what I've read is great. Paradoxical? Absurd? Simple: I'm a tutor of studentsRight up front, I've only read a bit of this book. It's not my type. But what I've read is great. Paradoxical? Absurd? Simple: I'm a tutor of students from fifth grade through college, and I often recommend this book to tweens and young teens—and in our lessons, I often read a few pages with them. And the pages I have read—over and over again—are hip, funny, well–written, and convey a healthy message of female empowerment. I really have no doubt that the book is terrific cover–to–cover, so I give it four stars. Though I won't ever read it....more
This is the raw, difficult tale of a father and his estranged fifteen–year–old son in the woods. A critical reference is made to Wordsworth's "Ode OnThis is the raw, difficult tale of a father and his estranged fifteen–year–old son in the woods. A critical reference is made to Wordsworth's "Ode On Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections Of Early Childhood." I won't rate the story since I am the author, but I thank you for your interest in it....more
I won't review my own book, but I will say that if you're looking for a fast, funny, thought-provoking novel about baseball and the modern American maI won't review my own book, but I will say that if you're looking for a fast, funny, thought-provoking novel about baseball and the modern American man (and who isn't?), you've come to the right place!...more
The Moe Berg legend makes this book worth reading, though later scholarship suggests that there have have been some puffery at play, much of it origin The Moe Berg legend makes this book worth reading, though later scholarship suggests that there have have been some puffery at play, much of it originating with Berg himself.
But still. The portion of the legend that appears undisputed is amazing enough. A journeyman catcher, Princeton grad, and accomplished linguist, Berg was named to an American All–Star team that played an exhibition series in Japan in the early 1930's (it's always amused me that the Japanese did not seem to perceive that Berg was at least two levels of ability below the greats who otherwise populated the team, though I suppose allowance could be made based on the possibility that he rarely or never played in the series). Berg made a visit to a Tokyo hospital on a pretense, stole up to the roof, and took a series of aerial photographs which aided in the bombing of Tokyo by Jimmy Dolittle shortly after WWII began (the extent to which these photos were used is a matter of controversy).
During WWII, Berg, an absolutely brilliant man, posed as a physicist attending a scientific conference in Switzerland which was also attended by the German physicist Von Heisenberg in order to assess Germany's progress in developing an atomic bomb. This was not your average catcher.
The Berg legend also includes one of the funniest lines in baseball history. Told by a reporter that Berg was fluent in nine (?) languages, a teammate of Berg replied: "Yeah, and he can't hit in any of `em."
Not a great book for the reason mentioned above, but definitely a good read....more
I won't review this since I'm the author, but if you think you might like a tender tale of an innocent young city-parks gardener who must rely on a siI won't review this since I'm the author, but if you think you might like a tender tale of an innocent young city-parks gardener who must rely on a simple good nature to content with thorns botanical and human, this just might be your flower bed. Bonus "Peanuts" reference for keen-eyed readers!...more
I knew I had to give this author a try, so I read White Noise -- or tried to. I abandoned the exercise after about one-hundred pages.
The book was muchI knew I had to give this author a try, so I read White Noise -- or tried to. I abandoned the exercise after about one-hundred pages.
The book was much too tame for me. There was an interesting feature, rich with potential: The father held the university chair in "Hitler Studies," a field he himself created. Ah! I thought. Daring! What might this yield? How fields of study might be viewed through a Hitlerian filter? He was a vile anti-Semite (obviously). Perhaps Hitler Studies would examine the roots of antisemitism! And surely a course in abnormal psychology could be devoted to a case study of this depraved megalomaniac. What of rhetoric? The content of his rhetoric was repugnant, but its effect on the masses was enormous. Why? And so on and so forth. For that matter, what might it reveal about a man, that he chooses to devote himself to the study of a megalomaniacal mass murderer, a man whose very name, for many, is unspeakable? And what of the roiling controversy that would surely dog a professor and an American university daring to devote resources to Hitler Studies. Such rich potential! And with this potential, the author does … nothing. But absolutely nothing (at least, not in the hundred pages I read; if it arose later, it was much too late). Which reduces the conceit to a cute bit of fluff, insulting to the reader. I found the family's interactions much too cute for my taste as well. Saccharine to be sure.
I know DeLillo is an admired author, but for me, this was a miss.
I read this with a student and was appalled by the author's casual treatment of the young hero's contemplation of violence. The young hero is enragedI read this with a student and was appalled by the author's casual treatment of the young hero's contemplation of violence. The young hero is enraged by his mistreatment by his foster family and considers killing one or more of them. The contemplation of violence -- of murder, no less -- demands the greatest seriousness of purpose on the part of the author. Unfortunately, this author treats the hero's consideration of murder as casually as if he were planning to short-sheet his victim's beds. If responsible adults treat violence as an insignificant matter, than impressionable youths are inclined to think it is no big deal. We must do better....more
I won't review this short story -- a free ebook -- since I'm the author, but if you're interested in fathers, sons, and modern American manhood, you jI won't review this short story -- a free ebook -- since I'm the author, but if you're interested in fathers, sons, and modern American manhood, you just might want to climb up into the treehouse....more
I had fun writing this and have fun reading this, but that's the closest I'll come to reviewing my own work. Anyway, if I said much more the review woI had fun writing this and have fun reading this, but that's the closest I'll come to reviewing my own work. Anyway, if I said much more the review would exceed the word count of the story!...more
I will refrain from reviewing this free ebook, a short story, since I am the author. But if you like satire and don't like war, there's a very good chI will refrain from reviewing this free ebook, a short story, since I am the author. But if you like satire and don't like war, there's a very good chance you will dig this tale....more