Manny's Reviews > Mr. Phillips

Mr. Phillips by John Lanchester
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Sep 24, 14

bookshelves: too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, well-i-think-its-funny, parody-homage, older-men-younger-women, if-research-were-romance
Recommended to Manny by: notgettingenough
Recommended for: People who want to know what's going on in other people's heads
Read from March 27 to 30, 2012

Dr. Rayner

Dr. Rayner has just finished reading Mr. Phillips, a novel he greatly enjoyed, and now he walks to work along his usual route thinking about the review he is planning to write. Dr. Rayner has recently learned, from an online friend he feels he knows quite well but has never met in person, that he may be a High Energy Introvert or HEI. HEIs spend a large part of their time having entertaining conversations with themselves, since they tend to find the company of other people enervating. Dr. Rayner thinks that Mr. Phillips, who must be about the same age as himself, is probably also an HEI.

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Reading Progress

03/27/2012 page 25
10.12% "In Mr. Phillips's opinion, the sexiest film ever made is The Railway Children, though he knows you're not supposed to say that."
03/27/2012 page 54
22.0% "Like every mobile phone conversation Mr. Phillips has ever heard, this call is largely about the fact of its own occurrence. He wants to eavesdrop on people saying 'Sell, sell, sell! Unload it all now!' or 'What do you mean, am I fucking Janet?' or 'It's you who's the spoiled one!' but all he ever hears is 'I'm at the bus stop / in the street / on the mobile / on my way / late / early / nearly there'."
03/28/2012 page 75
30.0% ""The business is based on masturbation, which is the steadiest source of revenue imaginable.""
03/28/2012 page 112
45.0% "Mr. Phillips had noticed at the time that as children we all occasionally wish or fantasize that our parents were dead - but the opposite doesn't apply."
03/29/2012 page 148
60.0% "'"Titties and Beer" - that's a Frank Zappa song - only it's too complicated musically. I mean, musically, it's the sort of thing Mum would approve of.' 'Well, we can't have that,' says Mr. Phillips. '"Get out of my dream and into my car"', says Martin. '"Smack my bitch up".' Then, noticing his father's expression, he explains, 'It's ironic.'"
03/29/2012 page 213
86.0% "One of Mr. Phillips's least favourite reveries involves the idea of lying in a hospital listening to a beeping monitor, wondering if this time would be It. When you are young sex is It, when you are older death is."

Comments (showing 1-50 of 60) (60 new)


Alan I loved this book


Manny I love it too. It's very hard to classify! An excellent idea.


Alan well the idea has been around a bit (the work thing, don't want to spoil it for others) but he does it so well..


Manny But he combines it with several other ideas too... anyway, still only halfway through, so will return to this in a couple of days when I've finished...


message 5: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls That really is an exciting cover. There aren't enough park benches on books. My local park has some delightful benches that aren't on book covers. Where's the justice?


Manny MJ wrote: "That really is an exciting cover. There aren't enough park benches on books. My local park has some delightful benches that aren't on book covers. Where's the justice?"

Ah, you don't know the half of it. I am almost the same age as Mr. Phillips, and also given to long, inconsequential inner monologues. Yesterday, I sat and read it on a park bench for 20 minutes. It was like walking into the book! A new literary thrill.


La pointe de la sauce Refreshing


Manny Well thank you! That word could definitely be applied to the novel, so I will consider that I have succeeded.


message 9: by Traveller (new)

Traveller "given that Mr. Phillips is a chartered accountant, but concludes, as he nears the end of the bridge, that chartered accountants would not necessarily have any grounding in mathematics. "

Oi, Dr Rayner, for the first time in a long time thou shalt not get my vote because of that blooper.

Keep in mind that calculus and physics is not the same thing. *kissy*

Of course chartered accountants have to have some maths background, how the heck do you think they do forecasting and valuations, and statistics and mathematical economics and valuations and interest calculations, and and and and! etc, etc. etc! - the list goes on and on! Do you think they sit counting out beads on an abacus all day? >:(


message 10: by Manny (last edited Mar 30, 2012 12:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Bear in mind that the fictitious Dr. Rayner is not necessarily the same as the real one.

And although Mr. Phillips is a chartered accountant, he is definitely unacquainted with quite basic mathematics. Maybe he's just not a very good chartered accountant, or things were different for his generation?


message 11: by Traveller (last edited Mar 30, 2012 01:11PM) (new)

Traveller Manny wrote: "Bear in mind that the fictitious Dr. Rayner is not necessarily the same as the real one.

And although Mr. Phillips is a chartered accountant, he is definitely unacquainted with quite basic mathem..."


Perhaps his father was an accountant and forced him to become one, condemning his artistic soul to a sea of numbers, spawning such a hatred of even the most basic formulas and calculations in his ruminative mind that he refused to contemplate, eventually, even the most basic of formulas.

Perhaps he was of the kind who, long long ago basically focused on audits and making budgets and reconciliations balance.


message 12: by Traveller (new)

Traveller AAAh, I see! I thought you'd meant that the author was also an accountant, but I don't think so. I looked him up and couldn't see any mention of his specific education, beyond that: educated in England, at Gresham's School, Holt between 1972 and 1980 and St John's College, Oxford.

So, you are saying, it's like I write a novel where a doctor in nuclear physics is my protagonist, but I don't know the first thing about nuclear physics myself, and it painfully shows in my protagonists' thought processes.

I'd say give the book 2 stars for that. :P :D


message 13: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Hmm, which sets me to thinking: how much do we need to research our protagonists' profession to appear credible? My perfectionist's soul says at least enough to fool others in the industry? What do you think?


Manny Mr. Phillips's father in the book was an electrician; it was a considerable step up the social ladder for his son to become a chartered accountant, and I don't think it's out of the question that there should be substantial gaps in his knowledge. As you will gather from the review, I found the professional side of his character less convincing than the personal side, but I like him so much that I want to make excuses for the apparent inconsistencies.

Bird Brian and Bird Brian, we are I am pleased to hear you were entertained!


message 15: by Chris (new)

Chris Bird Brian wrote: "I have been discussing this review with myself all morning, and we I found it very entertaining."

Which one of you is the real one? Which one is the brain of the conversation? Which one is the bird and which the Brian? XD


message 16: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff The first person appreciates how the second person was able to communicate so much by the use of the third person.

But the first person is probably the fourth person to say this to the second person today.


Manny Ah, Traveller, to continue this conversation from a few months ago: having now got about a third of the way through Ulysses, I'm fairly sure that the odd passage we were disagreeing over was a discrete nod to Joyce. 32 feet per second per second, you know.

I was rather wondering about that already... I mean, all the action takes place in one day, as this middle-aged guy walks around the city and we follow in great detail what's going on in his head...


message 18: by Traveller (last edited Nov 14, 2012 06:03AM) (new)

Traveller I must agree that the diurnality of the novel definitely does seem to be a clue.

Well, hats off to you that you remembered enough to see the allusion there. (The 32 feet per second per second, I mean.) It must really have bothered you to have stuck with you like this! :D

In fact, this conversation took place so long ago, that i actually had to re-read the thread to refresh it in my memory. :P


Manny I sometimes think of my mind as an ongoing cocktail party. I invite around a varied crowd of books and, like a good host, encourage them to talk to each other.

I was just introducing Ulysses to Mr. Phillips and saying that I was sure they'd have a lot in common, when it turned out that they'd known each other for ages. I should have been realized.


message 20: by Traveller (last edited Nov 14, 2012 06:22AM) (new)

Traveller Ha, i love the metaphor. I suppose i do the same thing, but usually only with novels that stand out for me.

So would you put this novel into the Postmodern genre, because of it's allusiveness ?

(To me that seems to be one of the main distinctions between Modernism and Postmodernism.) Besides that Postmodernism seems more playful in a tongue-in-cheek sense, and more meta-fictional, it is almost always pretty allusive.

On the other hand, what could be more allusive than Joyce's Ulysses, which is of course officially written in the period that Modernists did their thing. Maybe he was a forerunner in some respects of Postmodernism.


message 21: by Traveller (last edited Nov 14, 2012 06:27AM) (new)

Traveller I've just thought of something. Since you are into linguistics, you'd be a good person to ask. Would you class yourself as a 'nerd'? :P

The once negative connotation that nerd seemed to share with dork, seems to have subtly changed to have a more positive meaning these days?

(Apologies for going off-topic)


Manny The odd thing is that it's not Modernist or Postmodernist at all! It's sort of as though someone had taken Ulysses and translated it, extremely competently, into a good old-fashioned linear narrative. And you know, that's not necessarily a bad idea.


Manny I don't think I'm quite as much of a nerd as I used to be. But I like to keep in contact with my nerd roots.


message 24: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Manny wrote: "The odd thing is that it's not Modernist or Postmodernist at all! It's sort of as though someone had taken Ulysses and translated it, extremely competently, into a good old-fashioned linear narrati..."

Sounds interesting! Maybe he was trying to say; 'Hey look, i can do it in a much less confusing way than that Joyce dude.' LOL


message 25: by Manny (last edited Nov 14, 2012 06:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny I wouldn't rule that out! It's a great piece of work, and a WHOLE LOT easier to read :)


message 26: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Not that i find Joyce as much confusing (after you get used to the convention of how to follow the dialogue) as dense. I never get through Ulysses because of all the looking up i feel compelled to do. ( A bit like Gravity's Rainbow, though admittedly easier than GR)


Manny It is a bit of a pain to keep consulting Blamires all the time. Unfortunately, many of the allusions seem to be both essential and impossible to get.


message 28: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Manny wrote: "It is a bit of a pain to keep consulting Blamires all the time. Unfortunately, many of the allusions seem to be both essential and impossible to get."

I think you've just nailed the perfect review for Ulysses, sir. You could kick ass and get your revenge by giving it the shortest, but most apt, review ever.


Manny Thank you! But I have just posted a short, snappy review of Gravity's Rainbow, and I am resting on my laurels for the moment.

Anyway, I haven't finished Ulysses yet. I'm told there's a surprise ending.


message 30: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Bryant Yes, there is. Yes.


Manny If you're planning to say any more, put it in a spoiler tag! I fear you may have dropped too many hints already. Damn you.


message 32: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff I love it that my books, like my friends, keep talking when I'm [supposed to be] asleep.

Manny, I have to come back to you about a trip to Genf. I haven't dismissed it, and the time is fast approaching.


message 33: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Manny wrote: "If you're planning to say any more, put it in a spoiler tag! I fear you may have dropped too many hints already. Damn you."

It's more that it's surprising that it ends.


message 34: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff I wished that I had written a serious review of Gravity's Rainbow, instead of just paraphrasing it in quasi-biblical format.


message 35: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Ian wrote: "
It's more that it's surprising that it ends."


:D


message 36: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Hey, I also have to touch base with Paul about Nottingham or London.

Can I organise my whole trip on this thread.

Hey, Paul, I bought the 20th anniversary Clinton Heylin for $10 two days ago. Now I have all three.


message 37: by Bennet (new)

Bennet Dr. Rayner has recently learned, from an online friend he feels he knows quite well but has never met in person, that he may be a High Energy Introvert or HEI. HEIs spend a large part of their time having entertaining conversations with themselves, since they tend to find the company of other people enervating.

Another brilliant review, and what a relief to hear I'm not the only one. There's a term for it even! You are so endearingly smart.


message 38: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Hey, Bennet, I owe you a reply and some likes as well. Haven't forgotten.


Manny Why thank you Bennet!


message 40: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Holy cow, wait long on a Manny review thread and all your favourite friends turn up. I should start a lemonade stall.


Manny I think it's the magic of Ulysses. That's what started it all off.


message 42: by Bennet (new)

Bennet Ian wrote: "Hey, Bennet, I owe you a reply and some likes as well. Haven't forgotten."

No worries, in the meantime I'll just go on talking to myself.


message 43: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Bennet wrote: "No worries, in the meantime I'll just go on talking to myself."

Put on a nice jazz album. I'll try to be there before it's finished. Actually, I should be in bed.


message 44: by Bennet (new)

Bennet Ian wrote: "Bennet wrote: "No worries, in the meantime I'll just go on talking to myself."

Put on a nice jazz album. I'll try to be there before it's finished. Actually, I should be in bed."


Yes you should. By my world clock it's 2:06 a.m. in Brisbane. Get some sleep.


message 45: by Paul (last edited Nov 14, 2012 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Bryant I have said in my review of Gifford's annotated Ulysses that all this checking up of everything and annotating and ferreting out is misguided because it gives you the idea that you ought to understand every bit of Ulysses, every damned reference to bits of Italian opera and Irish slang and Fenian history and the Latin mass and how much a Dublin hooker paid in rent and so on and so forth and really – big breath – you don't need to, you just don't, at all. JJ shoves all that glorious detail in as the woof and weft and particoloured pantaloons of his gartersnappingly real picture of dear dirty Dublin, so, you know, just breathe it all in, and as in your own real life, accept that there are about a thousand bits and bobs of conversations and half heard remarks and things that go by too quick on the tv and all of the onrush of frantic netsplurge and soundblurt of the day-to-day day which you won't quite get. And that's how it is.

(I'm quoting myself there - I realise that's a bit de trop!)


message 46: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff It's more important to understand the words than their meaning.


message 47: by Traveller (last edited Nov 14, 2012 11:28PM) (new)

Traveller Paul wrote: "I have said in my review of Gifford's annotated Ulysses that all this checking up of everything and annotating and ferreting out is misguided because it gives you the idea that you ought to underst..."

So are you saying that you attempted to read Ulysses (I'm not talking about that abbreviated version that you reviewed somewhere) in the original, and that it actually worked for you? That a barely literate person who is totally ignorant of any possible allusions in the novel (and does not have any idea of who Ulysses might be) could pick it up, and the whole thing would make sense to them just as a story on the surface level?

That might be a novel experiment to try with Ulysses actually, and might actually allow someone like myself to actually finish the thing.


message 48: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Traveller wrote: "So are you saying that you attempted to read Ulysses "

Are you attacking Paul's argument?

I can't imagine you satisfied by anything less than the real thing.

Of course, if you want something even better than the real thing, try Paul's review or mine ;)


message 49: by Traveller (last edited Nov 14, 2012 11:44PM) (new)

Traveller No, i was just asking him a sincere question. I wouldn't put it past Paul, anyway.

Oh! ..and i didn't mean to imply that Paul was a "barely literate person who is totally ignorant of any possible allusions in the novel (and does not have any idea of who Ulysses might be) " , in case it sounded that way... ROFLOL!!

Knowing that he has a sense of humor, i'm sure Paul would be very amused at the idea, though .


message 50: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Klappenskoff Paul misses the allusions in DeLillo novels.


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