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Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

The Infinities by John Banville

Posted by the editors on Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Infinities (2009)(Novel) By John Banville (The Book of Evidence (1989), The Sea (2005, winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction), and others))  John Banville‘s latest novel, The Infinities, the story of a comatose theoretical mathematician/physicist and his dysfunctional family (alcoholic second wife, fearful and weak son, self-abusing daughter), a daughter-in-law, two visitors (with the silly names of Roddy Wagstaff and Benny Grace), and the gods Hermes (by and large the narrator) and his father, Zeus, is set in a relatively alternative reality, much as our own with the notable exceptions of salt-water being used to run cars, cold fusion energy and the scientific acceptance of infinite universes (hence the novel’s title).  In fact, The Infinities is a look at the mix of the mortal and the divine, the finite and the infinite in the world, loosely based on the myth of Amphitryon (whose wife, Alcmene, who was seduced by Zeus in the guise of her husband).  Though there are many, perhaps excessive, yet wonderful descriptions in The Infinities, one may ask if basing the novel on the myth justifies the overly precious narrative device of the gods’ presence: an excessively witty and somewhat irreverent narration which in the end is so heavy-handed and distracting. The Times, nevertheless, found it “dark, funny and delightful”, according to the book jacket. (PR)

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The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Posted by the editors on Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Quiet American (1955)(Novel) by Graham Greene (Brighton Rock (1938), The Third Man (1949), Our Man in Havana (1958), Travels with My Aunt (1969), The Human Factor (1978))   French Indo-China, Vietnam, and the transitions from French colonialism to American involvement seen through the eyes of a disillusioned British reporter, in the framework of a love triangle involving this same reporter, a younger American “economic advisor”, actually a secret operative, and a young Vietnamese woman.  Masterfully written, with superb oblique dialogue, evocative description and provocative moral politics, intrigue and the horrors of war. The Quiet American is, without a doubt, a must-read novel. (PR)

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Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Posted by the editors on Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Divisadero (2007)(Novel)  by Michael Ondaatje (Coming Through Slaughter (1976)The English Patient (1992), Anil’s Ghost (2000), The Cat’s Table (2011))   Divisadero, Booker Prize-winning author Ondaatje’s fifth novel, published four years before his latest, The Cat’s Table (2011), is an oft’ poetic tapestry woven of nature and the threads, tangled, dangled, worn and broken, of human ties: familial, choice, chance, coincidence, love…   Divisadero, is a street in San Francisco one of the principal characters says, semi-truthfully, she is from, and says, further, that it comes from a word meaning division and also to see from afar…and this is what Divisadero, the novel, is about: truths, semi-truths, perceptions divided, rewoven, and all seen, partially, through rain or mist,  in varying light, and from afar.  (PR)

See our posts on Michael Ondaatje’s novels, Coming Through Slaughter, and the Booker Prize for Fiction-winning The English Patient.

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Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

Posted by the editors on Thursday, 8 December 2011

Coming Through Slaughter (1976)(Novel)  By Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient (1992), Anil’s Ghost (2000), Divisadero (2007), The Cat’s Table (2011)).   This slim, unconventional novel takes place in New Orleans in the early 1900s and takes as its theme the inspired tragic life of the cornetist Buddy Bolden, one of the mythical fathers of jazz.  And as the birth of jazz, from fragments of blues and religious hymns is the backdrop for Coming Through Slaughter, Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje‘s novel is a lyrical,evocative mosaic of fragments: fictional first and third person observations, commentary and confessions, asylum records, photos, lists and more.  Coming Through Slaughter is an intimate, tragic and poetically contemporary look at the colorful, ebullient and iconoclastic life of a mythic and gritty, down and dirty early 20th century New Orleans amid rumors of jazz.  A must-read novel. (PR)

See our post on Michael Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient, winner of the 1992 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and his novel Divisadero.  And for more on the theme of early 20th century jazz (and much more), our post on the marvelous novel Jazz, by the multi-award-winning author Toni Morrison.

Visit Michael Ondaatje’s quite active Facebook Page:  Here

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Well – by Matthew McIntosh

Posted by the editors on Monday, 5 December 2011

Well (2003)(Novel)  By Matthew McIntosh    Well, McIntosh’s first novel, is a litany of vignettes of desperation, drugs, drink, delusion, disappointment, distress, disease, death and dysfunction.  There is no narrative line, as such, rather, McIntosh assembles, with a pointillist‘s touch, a canvas of dark greys, darker greys and blacks, painting an accumulative picture of the disarray of an assortment of, at best, working class residents of a northwest American strip mall suburban cultural desert.  In fact, Well, shows some promise on the part of McIntosh, though here, the voices of the characters are insufficiently distinguishable, and the repetition becomes tiresome.  The last third of the novel, in fact, is the most successful, where McIntosh ventures a bit further in voice and in narrative development.  Nevertheless, unless one is prepared to endure what one critic has optimistically called grunge meets Beckett, then perhaps it’s best to wait for McIntosh’s next novel, if one is forthcoming. (PR)

Note: The title, Well, refers not to well as in “doing well” but well, as in “at the bottom of a well.”

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