Tuesday, August 30, 2011
You Were Wrong
26-year-old math teacher Karl Floor returnes home when on the road two of his students beat him up. In the house, which Karl received after the death of his mother on the condition that he would take care of his stepfather, a beatiful robber waits Karl. A girl named Sylvia Vetch, which is obviously hiding something from Karl, selects what she might take, and Karl, who for all his life barely spoke to girls, offers to help to choose together. Later, with some things taken out of the house, Karl and Sylvia travel to suburban squat inhabited by strange hippi commune. Karl on the same night gets drunk, wakes up in the morning without his hat and wallet, and among all of yesterday's party people he finds one strange guy with no less strange name Arv. Back home, Karl barely restrains while listening to a lengthy speech of his stepfather Larchmont Jones, can not let go Sylvia from his head and has no idea that soon he will make a lot of unpleasant discoveries.
«You Were Wrong» is, no less, almost perfect novel. A perfect novel probably does not exist in nature, so this one is almost perfect. It can be shaken inside out, cut to the individual letters, but you won’t find a significant flaw. The first reason for the almost-ideal lies in the enigma of the book. It is possible to find a single layer, or ten layers there, but as soon as you start to think that it is this one, a single layer of novel is the most important, Matthew Sharpe imperceptibly will wink to you and make a nod to the title: you were wrong. The reader was not right and did not see another layer, which was the most important one. Although it’s awkward to write about importancy: all parts of the novel, all the layers are equal, as equal fingers on the hand, with each performing its own function.
Prose of Sharpe is uncomfortable, as if you are reading the proposal, written backwards. One could say that this could be written by a math teacher (it’s a profession of the main character), but it would mean that the author's style is too prudent and dry, but when it’s on the contrary, natural, but difficult, as the most artfully arranged snowflake. Sharpe, of course, does not open new possibilities of language, but he works on the stylistic fields that almost no one used.
Sharpe is a worthy successor to John Barth, but more elegant (though perhaps less funny). «You Were Wrong» is a kind of detective story, the story of conspiracy, too. If the writers can be divided into stylists and plotters, Sharpe is a plotting stylist. And it says that the book is never boring. Each chapter ends with cliffhanger. There is a scene of the strangest "murder", an episode of pedophilia; there are numerous trips between New York and its suburbs.
The protagonist of the novel Karl Floor, whose life is rushed headlong head over heels after beating by his own students, until now was afraid to come into contact with the surrounding reality. Karl, in whom unknown, stirring him feelings conceive, realizes that he may experience these feelings only being in contact with the world. World is far more complex and difficult than most difficult mathematical problems. Karl is a debutante (there are a lot of things he had never seen in his life, for example: He had never seen the man with eyes closed.), Which in his debut wants to be first, but so far he only makes mistakes and mistakes. Incipient love of Karl to Sylvia is awkward, and Sharpe finds a good way to express their relationship:
«They did not kiss so much as their mouths exchanged brief, pensive, tactile communications.»
«Her slow dabs were so smooth, warm, and moist that he suspected she was making them with her tongue, but did not seek to verify.»
«You Were Wrong» is also a satire on contemporary American society, which breaks the fates of people like Karl, at first by making them helpless, confused, passive, but sensual, honest and fair.
Matthew Sharpe can often be found in the lists of underrated writers. So, if you have not read him or even never heard of him, you were wrong.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The Wrecking Light
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
This collection by British poet Robin Roberston consists both from his own poems and translations. Among those who Robertson translated, there are names such as Baudelaire, Ovid, Neruda. And if translations are often ploted, Robertson’s own poems are plotless (except for those that are based on myths.)
Robertson's eye is the photographer’s eye, how accurately he captures some part of the nature. Nature, everything that surrounds us, according to Roberston, is ominous and sometimes dangerous. But the poet finds those words that even at the most terrible you look at least with curiosity.
I go to check the children, who are done for.
They lie there broken on their beds, limbs thrown out
in the attitudes of death, the shape of soldiers.
The next morning, I look up at my reflection
in the train window: unshaven, with today's paper;
behind me stands a gunman in a hood.
Roberston is often contemplative, but not a participant. And to contemplate, it is necessary to step back, refuse to contact. Because of that the lyrical hero, sometimes present in the poem as "I", sometimes as a spirit standing behind photocamera, just pushing on the button of the camera, that seems a lonely and sympathetic, hiding his secret desire to get into nature, into the nature of things.
I remember the tiny stars
of her hands around her belly
as it grew and grew, and how
after a year, nothing came.
How she said it was still there,
inside her, a stone-belly.
And how I saw her wrists
bangled with scars
and those hands flittering
at her throat,
to the plectrum of bone
she'd hung there.
When the lyric hero finds himself in his own image as he becomes part of a sinister world, the hero does not experience the illusion of his own purity and integrity. He is as grim as the world around: No light shining back at me, just shame.
Robertson’s poems are not loudly; on the contrary - often full of ominous silence: If you're absolutely silent and still, you can hear nothing but the sound of nothing.
You want to remember by heart the poems from this book, to pronounce privately, but not out loud.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Murder Slim, 2005
The beginning of the 70s. Max Zajack (story about his childhood years can be found in the novel «God Bless America») still hopes to become a famous writer like Henry Miller, so that he can live on the big fees. Now Max is far from such a carefree life: he rent a room, is barely able to scrape together money for rent, working as a loader at the post office and periodically meets with the wife of the district attorney. Life changes drastically for the future writer (and he thinks that for the better) when he meets Olivia. The girl, too, sees in herself the hidden literary possibilities, and Max and Olivia begin to live together, to indulge in love and in between write brilliant prose.
But life gives a good kick in the ass to young lovers, without giving them relax. Max changes one job for another, later Olivia goes to work too without stopping long in one place. Lovers could barely make ends meet, and Olivia begins to go mad. Max’s life becomes hell.
«Hating Olivia» is a very strong novel from the author of «God Bless America» with the same main character. Loser since childhood, Max Zajack and in adult life does not suffer from an excess of luck. The only time fate turned its face to Max - he got a job at the phone company, where he was just sitting in a room with a partner, but Max could not stand that either. He nearly died of boredom, so he’d quit. In his failures Max was not alone. It seems that he is surrounded by similar losers. A neighbor, whose ear cockroach crawled into. Colleague, drinking from boredom who almost killed his girlfriend. And Olivia is in the same company too. Max and Olivia are infantile, irresponsible, lazy couple, never thinking about tomorrow. Thus, one month Olivia bought so many expensive clothes, not caring about the cost and not thinking how she would pay for purchases in a month, but when the bill came through, it was infinitely surprise for her: «There isn't a penny in my checking account. I thought maybe you'd toss in something to help ». While Olivia knew perfectly well that Max hadn’t even a dollar in his pocket. Most time novel's heroes are hiding from collection agencies.
Love had come to an end too soon. Olivia was in hysteria, locked at night in her room, and later began to have affairs with different men. Max also put himself in a favorable light, as if he was trying to save a relationship. He put his negative emotions on paper, and even wrote a novel. This love \ hate to Olivia helped him to finish the manuscript for the first time and feel like a real writer. (Needless to say, that Max was happy not so long.)
«Hating Olivia» is a first-class novel.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Glenn Ganges - the protagonist of the first volume of the series «Ganges» - is a dreamer, an eccentric, a loving husband, but first and foremost a restless man. Meaningless details do not give rest to him, he makes a mountain out of a molehill, and his fantasies replace the reality. Five stories under one cover are the five pieces of a day in the life of Ganges. These fragments were not worth any attention to, if their hero was someone else, not Glenn Ganges. Ganges goes to the library. Ganges returns home. Ganges sits next to his wife while she works at the computer. Ganges goes to sleep. Ganges is asleep.
But Huizenga splash with something each of these individual stories (although the book is done in only three colors: black, white and shades of green). On the way to the library Ganges moves in time. Then he sees the cyclist, throwing trash on the road, and moves ahead in the future of the cyclist. Then he argues with his wife because of the song. Then he goes to bed and thinks what love is. Ganges himself steps into the background, replacing himself by his own imagination. And all those themes and issues that Ganges raises in conversations with his wife or, more commonly, with himself, how serious they wouldn’t be, you can’t take them seriously. Last, night, part of the book, when Ganges and his wife go to sleep, is the most sophisticated in terms of art. There is no division between the panels, Ganges’ ideas are moving and moving, not letting him fall asleep, and the darkness are enveloping here, but not sleepy.
I’d like to meet this Ganges.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Inverted Forest
1996. At summer camp in the U.S. state of Missouri for a few days before the opening several people fired. One night the owner of the camp Schuller Kindermann caught part of counselors: young boys and girls, swimming and running on the beach, were strip-naked. Kindermann, an old man, brought up as a Catholic, is experiencing shyness in front of the female, so he could not tolerate such behavior. Almost all of the junior staff was fired. The next day, Kinderman finds that for two days he is to find a replacement and hire a new staff, 14 new employees. Linda Rucker, director of summer camp, sends announcements, watches summary, and a new team is recruited. However, one feature has been withheld from the new staff: newcomers were promised that they will work in a camp with children, but the first two weeks in the camp there will be disabled, mentally retarded people.
Among the counselors is Wyatt Huddy, with a deformed face, too little retarded - or at least he has such an opinion. He works at the store, and when he’s given the opportunity to get out of town and try somewhere else, Wyatt gladly accepts the offer, supported by Captain Throckmorton, owner of the shop. Wyatt is put in the charge of a dorm 2. He must accompany guests to and from the dorm and at the evening to lay everyone in the bed and then his free time starts.
This novel is reminiscent of Philip Roth's recent novel Nemesis. Also summer, also a limited number of people, too, one day-event that changed life forever. Only Roth rose the theme of confrontation of God and a man, in this book this theme is not presented.
The book is written from a third person view, and the story comes from those three characters: Harriet, Kindermann and Wyatt. They all share a disability - everyone has their own - and some uncertainty. Harriet suffers because of her skin color, Wyatt from external deformities and in addition he is certain that he is mentally retarded, Kindermann - because of the tyranny and the lack of women next to him. Each of them in their own way blame themselves for what happened. Every one of them, looking back, sees their mistakes, ready to go back and change everything, but it is impossible to implement. Dalton picks the perfect tone: he does not let the reader inside the character, but not looks down on him. We empathize with the characters of the book, while being on the minimum distance from them.
Dalton, selecting the site of action as the camp, closed space with a limited number of participants, wins there as well. A small number of characters lets describe them in more detail, to give every background, choose to focus on specific scenes in the camp. Changing at the end of the book temporary layer and transferring to 15 years ahead, Dalton thereby allows himself and the reader to look at past events with cold eyes. Passions had subsided, but the ones whom the murder really changed do not forget about it ever.
Perhaps the book would be even better, if the author reduced the volume. There would be more dynamic and tension that the book sometimes lacks. Nevertheless, Dalton has written a serious book with memorable characters and authentic details.
The Cat’s Table
Jonathan Cape, 2011
It is the story of an 11-year old boy Michael (or as he is called - Mina) on his three-week trip aboard the "Oronsay" from Sri Lanka to England. In the book the protagonist Michael and Michael Ondaatje itself (according to Wikipedia) has much in common: the writer, too, like the protagonist of this age, has left Sri Lanka, also lived in England, became a writer, lived in the States, in Canada. But this is hardly a fictionalized memoir of the writer, the book is taken as fiction.
”Cat's table” from the title of the novel is a place where passengers from the lower strata meet. Among them is Michael, two of his friends, Cassius and Ramadhin, Michael’s cousin Emily, and dozens of other characters, about whom we learn from the narrator. To somebody Michael devotes several chapters, for someone a couple of pages. In England, the boy is waited by his mother, who left Sri Lanka four or five years ago, so the boy himself does not even remember what she looks like and when she left. Michael is taken care by one of his aunt (the so-called aunts and uncles are all adults on board, so this woman has no real kinship with Michael) in the first class, but they rarely see each other, so that the boy is traveling alone.
The three boys quickly become friends, get up with the crack of dawn, meet each other and spend all day in the overall company. The first surpsise on the ship for them is the fact that at night on the deck a criminal goes for a walk who goes to court in England.
Ondaatje’s novel is a kaleidoscope of fates, and the most interesting is that time there is essentially condensed to three weeks, and the place at all to the size of the deck. The novel is written in clean English, so clean that you think that it is well rinsed in seawater. Although the book's title refers to a place where people of so-called second-class gather in the novel, there is no opposition between rich and poor, higher and lower classes. Those, who gather at the Cat’s Table, have interesting fates, sometimes full of secrets, the rich yet seem to be the object of study rather than jealousy. The narrator almost never have to face aristocrats on the ship, so terminally ill Sir and Michael’s aunt are the least deep characters in the novel, they are even more cartoonish.
The world of childhood is full of puzzles, and Ondaatje adds to the book as individual subplot real mystery, with a convict, murder, secret intrigues. This does not hurt the book: it does not appear that the author added the detective elements just to amuse the reader.
The narrator, in his memoirs about post-Oronsay period, says reader\viewer should not be considered novel’s characters stupidier and worse than himself. These words can be assigned to Ondaatje: the book is written with such love for its characters that the reader can not help but love them.
However, it should be remembered that at the heart of the book the memoirs of eleven-year old boy, and therefore you should not trust everything he says. Certainly, there was something exaggerated, something the boy hid, but the cast of the memory of the three-week journey from one life to another one is delight.
Friday, August 19, 2011
You’d Better Watch Out
Crossroad Press e-book, 2011
Father of 11-year old boy is a brutal Brooklyn cop who works for the local mob. When on Christmas the police officer suspects that his wife cheats on him, he bites her tongue. Woman dies, cop goes to jail, and the boy is sent to foster parents. There he falls in love with their daughter and then kills their psychopathic son. The boy starts to do little jobs for mobsters, gradually becoming the most brutal killer in Brooklyn. A young man prepares to avenge for his mother and for myself when his father is out of prison.
This novella is not exactly the best work by Piccirilli. Plot-wise the book intersects with other Piccirilli’s books. Here again there are a cruel cop, working on mob, a complex relationship between father and son, past mistakes again are in the center of the story. «You'd Better Watch Out» is a psychological novella about revenge, which is a dish which is served hot - damn hot. Aggressive and tight, author's style does not match the rickety plot. The middle of the book - all that part, which describes the transformation of the protagonist from a young boy to a tough killer - apparently slacks.
Fast, solid reading, but you’re expecting more from Piccirilli.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Ebury Press, 2010
Brutal maniac beats young girls to death and then burnes their bodies in the London parks. In the first chapter, young party girl takes a friendly cabbie for a murderer and stabbes him several times with a knife. As it turns out later, an elderly man is not even a maniac, but a girl have gone too far from self-defense. Soon, however, police find another one, the fifth, victim of serial killer. Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan in middle of the night goes to the murder scene. But Kerrigan has suspicions that a fifth victim of serial killer is not even a maniac’s victim, but an unrelated murder disguised as The Burning Man, as the media call him. Kerrigan begins in parallel to investigate the death of the fifth victim and seek to the ill psychopath.
Strangely enough, but the most interesting storyline of this book was abandoned in the first chapter. Casey began her novel unexpectedly: a girl cuts the well-wisher almost to death, and for excess defense goes to jail (as we already know in the ending of the book). Whether such a beginning was intended to shake the reader's emotional, or to knock him off, but the unpredictability is over and then begins a standard mystery in "British police procedural"-style. Detective Kerrigan, of course, solves problems on the personal front, grabs the investigation, "instinctively feels," that "something is wrong here." The storyline with a maniac invokes at least confusion. Casey gradually takes the intrigue of a maniac to the murder, which was disguised as a maniac’s killing. But the poor fellow The Burning Man turned out mannequin too: he kills, when the author needs it, he’s caught, when the author needs it. In the end, the maniac is forgotten. Casey after all could not balance the two storylines. I do not care, have read and forgotten, but that fans of books about serial killers will be terribly disappointed.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The Night Sessions
2030s. Because of the endless wars for the faith at the beginning of the XXI century religion is not entirely banned, but believers become silent and weak minority. People no longer say about god that faith will not overcome by the mind and the soul of man. But someone suddenly starts killing people associated with religion. In Scotland, a local priest is blown off and then bishop is shot, and it becomes clear that these murders are linked. Detective Inspector Ferguson and his team must find who is responsible for a series of murders committed. The lives of thousands of people are in danger.
If the near future, which is described in Macleod’s novel, seems not too convincing, the plot - the police investigation - redeems this defect. Ferguson is quite a standard inspector, he is not engaged in self-destruction, not committing unfair moves, he is an exemplary family man, without drinking problem by the way. Investigation of the murders brings Ferguson and his team to a sect of robots, and this is the gusto in this book. Robots in the book are more humane than people. The detective and his men are described by the author with such reluctance, as if all the people are boring. That's why Ferguson in entire novel behaves exactly like a robot: he is almost devoid of feelings, not even showing a peculiar desire to complete the investigation. Robots, on the contrary, they feel and show their feelings a lot more than people. Macleod describing robots uses most delicious details, robots here face moral choices. And indeed the protagonist of the novel can be considered a leki, a small Tripod robot working with Ferguson in the pair.
«The Night Sessions» can not be called a perfect novel. Mystery line is fascinating, but too slow. The future is in the book in general is unbelievable, but it is inventively in detail. Certainly robots will like this book.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Dr. Seuss & Co. Go To War: The World War II Editorials Cartoons of America’s Leading Comic Artists
The New Press, 2011
The sequel to the collection of Dr. Seuss «Dr. Seuss Goes To War». What is interesting is that this collection of The World War II caricatures and cartoons, so this is the fact that it contains not only cartoons by Dr. Seuss, which became known mainly through his children books, but by also other artists of that time, who published the cartoons in newspapers and magazines.
Cartoon is a type of art that should immediately cause a smile (and even better laugh), but at the same time cause embarrassment. This is a sign of good cartoons. Ironically, the works of the doctor Seuss are not impressive. Whether they are too parochial, understandable only to the Americans, and even then not to all, or graphics are clumsy, but the fact is that the drawings of Dr. Seuss do not raise either smile or embarrassment. Despite the extensive commentary by Andre Schiffrin to each section of the book, explaining the situation in the U.S. in the late 30's and early 40's and the government's attitude to U.S. military operations in Europe and the Pacific ocean, these comments are still no substitute for knowledge of the inner and foreign U.S. policy in wartime.
Nevertheless, the book is a success, thanks to the work of other artists of the forties. Cartoons drawn by Saul Steinberg, Melville Bernstein, Al Hirschfeld, John Groth, Eric Godal are far wittier and more inventive visually, than the pictures by Dr. Seuss. These cartoons highlight the inner life of States and the war with Nazi Germany. They are simply easier to understand for Europeans, and even without commentary. Caricature is the same joke, and if you begin to explain the effect is lost. Especially there is worth mentioning the work of Saul Steinberg. He is a true master. In the book he is represented by single cartoons and short comics. He draws in a number of pictures Hitler so fun that you laugh to tears. He has a very simple drawing style, but he feels a joke on a subconscious level. Every one of Steinberg's cartoons are fun.
The book covers the period from 1941 to 1945-th, and there makes fun of everything, from Stalin to Japanese kamikazes. «Dr. Seuss & Co. Go To War» is an excellent tutorial on the history, and most importantly - very funny one.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Gary K. Wolfe
Wesleyan University Press, 2011
"Evaporating genres", this is the title of this book, a collection of essays on fantastic literature. In there in the introduction to Part I Wolfe writes that ««genre» is used largely as a term of convenience», thus there is meant that the genre as such does not exist, these are labels that are glued, but the literature has no clear boundaries. However, the book's title has the word "genre", and therefore, as if we did not want to abandon the genre, and simply divide the literature on good and bad (for example), we can’t do that. To show and prove that the genres evaporate and diffuse, we first need to recognize that the genres exist, otherwise there would be nothing to prove. And therefore this book should not have to exist.
Speaking of genres, you'll notice another feature of the book. In his essays, Gary Wolfe often lists those authors who are now working between genres, Michael Swanwick, Kelly Link, China Mieville, Jeff Ford, etc etc. But as it is easily to see that these authors tentatively are referred to as “genre authors”, they are published by genre imprints and publishing houses, their works are criticized in the genre magazines and blogs, all of these authors are on this side, that is clear. Wolfe, would he wanted or not, pulled his favorite authors on his side - the side of science fiction (fantastic literature). But in the book there are almost no references to other authors, those who are commonly regarded as "mainstream".
To understand the book, it is necessary to understand the author. Wolf is a critic who is between a reviewer and an academic. In his essays, he often uses a historical approach, noting the evolution of the author, genre, subgenre. Wolf is the critic-cartographer and critic-historian. He is one of that breed of critics that can determine the location of the author in literary history, to find parallels between one author and others, to trace the roots of a given work. He sometimes digs in breadth, not depth, but the width of his scope is staggering. Wolfe knows how to lay out literature on the shelves, but can see the depth in novel as well.
His essays are exactly like the maps, extensive, where sometimes there are too many objects to focus on one particular.
Wolfe has his favorite writers (it's all the same Ford, Rickert, Link). Like any critic, he tends to exaggerate some of figures. Thus, in his essay «Evaporating Genres» in part «The Construction and Deconstruction of Horror», the author writes about the development of the horror genre, placing for Stephen King half-paragraph, and for Peter Straub several pages (in the book there is also a whole essay on Straub’s books), while to me Straub seems a phony figure.
Genres are evaporating, and Wolfe with this book helps to their evaporation.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Atlantic UK, 2011
Nicholas Platt (Russian friends call him Kolya) is 38-year-old lawyer from London who works in the middle of the noughties in Moscow. Foreign bank, which employs Nicholas, gives loans to the oil business. In the metro Nick accidentally helps two Moscow girls to frighten away a handbag thief. Twenty-something girls, presented as sisters Masha and Katya, seeing that Nick is foreigner, find an interest in him, and Nick thinks that he’s falling in love with one of them, Masha, the older one. They exchange phone, and three weeks later, when Nick had almost forgotten about the strange meet, Katya calls Nick and designate a meeting at a restaurant. Girls tell that they came to the capital from Murmansk in search of happiness. After learning that Nick is not only foreigner but also a lawyer, although not specializing in real estate, the girls show more interest in Nick.
At the same time in mid-September, when Nick met Masha and Katya, the bank, which employs Nick, begins to work with a new client, known as the Cossack. He connected with Narodneft and wants to open his oil tower. The bank begins to prepare the documents.
During a meeting at the restaurant the girls tell Nick that they have family in Moscow - "Auntie" Tatiana Vladimirovna. A few days later the girls with Nick named visit Tatiana Vladimirovna, an elderly woman who survived the siege of Leningrad. The old woman wants to exchange her appartment at the center to the apartment in the new (but still unfinished) house in Butovo with an additional charge. In Butovo they meet with Stepan Mikhailovich, the owner of a house under construction. The developer shows an old woman her future apartment, promising that the house is about to be ready. Nick does not know yet where this story will lead him to.
On the one hand, "Snowdrops" is a predictable novel almost from the beginning, and it will open nothing new to a Russian reader. The author lived in Russia, and he knows Russia. There are many Russian transcribeded words, explanations about the Russian culture and Russian life style, which will be incomprehensible to a foreigner. The author does not take up the global height, does not construct a conspiracy theory, he builds the story on the example of the little man and on the example of a simple and banal story shows what modern Russia is. And even being a Russian, you still read this novel with great interest. You nod while reading, yes, this is so, yes, we live that way. And the story is indeed trivial: two girls trick an adult man for money, using him in addition to trick other people. And such stories happen in Moscow perhaps a few dozen per day.
But, as the hero of the novel Nick states, this story is not about Russia but about the person. Miller was able to give its hero's unique voice, melodic and calm. In this story, only he does not seem to understand what all this about. Fled from too prevailing life in England, Nick here, in Moscow, finds his happiness - short and deceived him. The novel is written from first person, but with the transition to the second - as if Nick addresses to his future wife, repents of all sins. It’s hard to believe that such a person could afford to drive his nose, and possibly even cause the death of an old woman, Miller made Nick too honest. But conscience still will not give rest to the end of Kolya's life. My snowdrop was me, said Nicholas by the end of the book already knowing what would happen is something inevitably bad, but it kills the conscience within. These half-year with Masha, Tatyana Vladimirovna, old neighbor is the best time of his life. And this is the worst, most shameful period in his life as well. Nicholas saw what Russians worth, but he thinks that he is no better and even worse. No matter what country you are in, you decide for yourself and answer for yourself. You self is in inside, not in outside.
This novel is worth your love even for its honesty.