Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Serious Men

Manu Joseph
Serious Men

John Murray, 2011

At the center of this funny story are two men working at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai, India. But the place of work of perhaps is the only thing that unites them.

Ayyan Mani is a representative of the lowest caste. Janitor's son, Mani began working at the Institute as a courier, rising to the position of secretary to one of the most important researchers of the Institute Arvind Acharya. Mani, after ten years of marriage, became tired of his silly wife and half-starved existence. His wife no longer seems attractive; the future does not seem bright. Not being the holder of outstanding intelligence, Mani nevertheless has the ability to intrigue. Every day, Mani places on the stand at the Institute fictitious quotes, allegedly belonging to an outstanding scientist or thinker, but in fact he makes these statements up. The only way to rise from the bottom Mani sees in his clever son. But just cleverness alone is not enough, you need something more. Deaf in one ear, Adi is presented by his father as a mathematical genius.

Eccentric people inhabit this somewhat eccentric story. «Serious Men» can be easily mistaken for satire, but it is rather humorous novel. Satirical allusions to the structure of Indian society, Indian science and Indian religion then are withdrawn dashed, and the humor here, perhaps, is even English.

All the troubles come from women - about this with a smirk on his face Manu Joseph is trying to tell us. Indeed, the plot is moved with this premise. This is the same engine of the ridiculous here. The two main characters are tormented by vanishing love in them. They're both tired of their wives, available lovely creatures with whom they had once felt good, and now somehow uncomfortable. Both the secretary and the scientist, excel, as they can, just to pull themselves out of the swamp, to refresh their covered with cobwebs existence. Mani sets up to the scam involving his son to shake his wife, to prove to her that even the lower castes can achieve something. Acharya is looking for bodily pleasures, and finds them in a lovely young colleague. But the scientist forgets that science and feelings are different matter, and they require a different approach. At the beginning of the novel there are a few funny scenes where Acharya looks in the mirror at his body, starts to use deodorant, though he already seems to have given up on his looks long ago.

The story would be lost in the background of similar ones, if the action occurred in Britain, for example, not in India. Exotic colors entourage battered story in a new way. The people there have a different mentality, different views on life, different values. The mere fact that India has the Institute for the search of extraterrestrial life, is laughable.

Joseph is verbose, but he does have a sense of the word. He can equally good describe the poor neighborhood and the meeting of the Disciplinary Commission. This is a leisure reading, but because, after all, it is not a thriller.

Serious Men does not discover new lands, but tells a story that could suck you in and make you laugh.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Anthony Neil Smith

Bleak House Books, 2009
(e-book, 2011)

After Yellow Medicine Billy Lafitte remains at large, proved his innocence in the terrorist case. But an FBI agent Rome does not think so. Rome secretly from his colleagues continued to develop Billy’s case, hoping this time to catch Lafitte on the old crime. Billy himself now has been hanging out with a gang of bikers, acting as a muscle for the gang leader Steel God.

Rome hopes to reach out to Billy, using his flabby ex-wife. After learning about the actions of Rome, Lafitte immediately takes off, throwing the bikers, but not breaking ties with them completely. Billy is going home, and already on the way bad things start to happen.

If in the first Lafitte novel Yellow Medicine Billy was a kind of axis around which the events of the book revolved, there Billy is such an arrow that is tangentially touches everyone and everything, the thread on which planted other characters-beads. And it turned out not a fun trinket from the imitation jewelry department, but an explosive mace, uncontrollable and deadly. «Hogdoggin'» is written in the third person, and almost half of the book Lafitte spends unconscious. And if in the first book we learned Billy through the other characters, here we learn other characters through Billy.

Anthony Neil Smith already in his debut proved that he has the wildest imagination. In Hogdoggin' he proves it, imagine for example half a dozen officers of the law gone AWOL.

This novel, like rottweiler (see the title), is cutting into your throat and doesn’t let you go live. They say the third book about Lafitte is already written. Well, looking forward to.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Amity Gaige

Twelve, 2013

Before us is a letter of apology written by Eric Schroeder, to his ex-wife Laura at the time, while he awaits trial. Schroeder is accused of kidnapping his six-year old daughter, Meadow, which he calls Butterscotch. His lawyer asked him to write a long letter with all the details describing what Eric did with his daughter in the days after the kidnapping. Such letter, according to the lawyer, might help to mitigate the punishment, if Laura forgives her ex-husband.

Eric Schroeder is not a crafty criminal, but his whole life was built on lies. At an early age, Eric and his father immigrated from East to West Berlin. Eric had almost forgotten sis mother, and Eric is not sure, whether they left the mother, or she left them. At age 14, Eric moved with his father to Boston, where his father was offered an electrician’s job. Father and son wanted to be naturalized, but remained in the US illegally. Wanting to leave the past behind, at 14 in 1984, Eric invents himself a new identity. In an era when there were no databases and computers, it was easy to become a different person. Eric is applying to a summer camp as Eric Kennedy, a good student and an obedient son of the patriarchal family with money. So, three summers in a row, Eric goes to the camp as Kennedy, and the coincidence of his name with the name of the Kennedy brothers opened many doors to him, though he denied the family relationship with the president. When he’s 16, in the camp, Eric met with Laura, which promptly falls in love with. Eric and Laura quickly got married and honeymooned five days on the beaches of Virginia. After that Eric begins to sell houses, and he does it perfectly. Soon Meadow, a daughter, was born, and Eric is quite able to give his daughter everything a baby needs. But the marriage did not last.

Despite the fact that this book in the form of the message is addressed to Laura, Laura is almost outside of the narrative. Schroder is more than a personal letter, but an open letter, because Eric Schroeder’s thoughts and feelings asks out, it is essential to know everyone about them, not just one person.

The whole book is hardly a love letter: it certainly has the remains of feelings to the one who is the narrator once loved, but, as Eric says, times struggles with love, and time usually wins. But there is no open hatred to the one that robbed Eric of his child.

Schroder is a tragic story with a known right from the beginning ending, but that snatches you and pulles forward. Behind the thriller’s plot hides a non-thriller story, made entirely of different stuff than a thriller. This is such antitriller when there seems to be all related elements, but they do not fit in the usual way. The protagonist is not a bloodthirsty monster, stealing children and cut them into pieces, but a strange man, a psychologist and a good father, lost in himself and in the world. He can cause such empathy and sympathy for the course of reading, that you would never call him a criminal.

Meadow, the girl, is also not a faceless creature that has been stolen as useless broken iron, but a full-blooded little child, thinking and quite charming. Meadow is the companion of her father, not the victim of kidnapping. Angel, another heroine of the book with an unusual view of the world, is the signal from the past, the personification of American roadside motels.

Knowing that everything will end soon, the narrator tries to finally speak out, to find the causes of what happened in the past. The hero of the book examines pauses, and the book is made up of these pauses, innuendo. The narrator seems to be very sincere, but his behavior can be judged that his sincerity has gaps, gaps in his story. We listen to his stories, we want to ask more questions, but this is not a dialogue, this is a monologue, a letter to one side.

Letters of this kind and this force should have been put into the bottle, then to throw them into the sea - for our future generations. Then our followers will appreciate the power of the writer's gift of humanity.