The Black Prince--Iris Murdoch
In this review, way better than, say, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children
Farewell to Arms--Ernest Hemingway
This is one of those books that makes you think, this guy has
figured out the best way to tell a story. Of course, it doesn't
work for everyone else then to try to do the same thing. Because
the great artist is always the first to discover a new "best way." In any case, Hemingway's objective method may not be the best
presentation of every character or theme. But certainly in this
five-act novel of tragic romance in the First World War, that
method is perfectly suited to its main character, Frederick Henry.
Henry is an American driving ambulances for the Italian army,
who falls in love--against all his instincts--with a British nurse.
Never delving into thoughts or feelings or interior material of
any kind (with the exception of the occasional dream sequence),
Hemingway sticks to the plain facts, however lovely or brutal.
The result is a seamless texture of brushstrokes that paint a
compelling story flawlessly, scene by scene, line by line. This
is the way it was.
Harris outdoes himself here, following the popular Silence of
the Lambs with a gruesome sequel. His engaging genius, Hannibal
Lecter, is pitted against FBI special agent Clarice Starling--but
also against a monstrously disfigured former victim, a self-serving
Italian detective, and a sniveling bureaucrat whose brains are
best served...freshly sauteed.
Without Hands--Carson McCullers
McCullers tells another tale of bitterness and loss, set in the
American South. Here racism is the central theme, leading to deadly
violence in the end, and a perverse kind of justice.
Sea, the Sea--Iris Murdoch
One of Murdoch's best. Like The Black Prince, this novel explores
the angst of an artist (here a retired playwright and director)
attempting to escape his past associates and relations. All, that
is, except his first love, who turns up in his seaside village
to haunt him afresh with the dream of impossible love.
Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers--Gail
A handbook of sage and pithy advice to help writers get and stay
on track. With training in Zen and psychotherapy, this award-winning
writing teacher addresses the roots of writers' malaise with sharp
insights and calm inspiration.
A big surprise from the master of horror:
a somewhat autobiographical and mostly realistic saga of the Vietnam
generation. In retrospect, it's entirely fitting that King would
bring his skills in tales of terror to the stories of men who
fought in that war. These are the strongest sections of a book
which follows a linked cast of characters sequentially from 1960
to 1999. King has the Joycean ability to write about the life
of a twelve-year old boy in the naughty language of the twelve-year
old, and to write about a group of college freshman with their
own particular brand of embarassing bravuro and naivite. His adult
characters are more compelling still to adult readers, and his
skills of description, flair for American slang, and ability to
capture the essence of a forever doomed and jaded culture are
here at an all-time high.
the master of the cutting-edge concept; but the writing has gone
all TV-script. If you like unbelievable action at a fast pace,
this will work for you. I admit, I couldn't put it down, though
it smacks of sellout.
Russell Banks is of that rare breed who can tell a gripping story
AND display an eloquent mastery of the language. Even more rare,
he's not afraid to TELL the story. You won't find a TV screenplay
here, with minimalist dialogue and an allergy to description,
explantion, psychological elaboration, and sheer unabashed narration.
Banks is old-school, perhaps, but none of his powerful prose is
wasted: it all coheres, compelling the picture to take more vivid
life on the page. This is the story of a man--an "ordinary"
New Hampshire small-town cop and well-driller--who disintegrates
under the pressures of conventional manhood and a brutalized boyhood
that haunts him till a cataclysmic reunion with his father.
Book of Jamaica--Russell Banks
Banks gives his narrative imagination full rein in a book that
unearths all of the mystery and convoluted history of this island.
A white writer, the narrator, is plunged into ever-thickening
plots involving drugs, politics, imperialism, race and murder,
and by the end there is only one way to recover his shattered
identity: a plane back to the mainland.
... This vast tome--1024 pages--is an epic story of one man's
fall to death through the American penal system. Epic because
the whole scope of society is portrayed, from the Supreme Court
down to the lowest prison rat. Mailer does a remarkably disciplined
job of retaining an objective perspective throughout. Like his
chief source and second protagonist, Larry Schiller, he seeks
to report history, not to make it; to give the whole story inside
and out, without embroidery. A thousand pages without embroidery?
That's a lot of facts to report, and yet in the novelistic telling
is proof of Mailer's understating, purely narrative genius.
...DeLillo shows once again that he is a master of characteristic
speech, of dialogue which is so often mismatched monologues, verbiage
in search of proper vocabularly. Along the way he paints a large
canvas of American society in the second half of the twentieth
century, beginning with the twin metaphor of the 1951 baseball
and nuclear "shots heard round the world."
Hayman's book exposes Mann for his human weaknesses: his penchant
for homoeroticism, and his battles with family, health, politics
and his own writing obsessions. Yet in this completely researched
biography, we cannot help but admire the man widely regarded as
the finest (and last) great novelist of his era, for his devotion
to his craft and for his willingness to take on the most challenging
issues of the world, on his own terms.
...Hardy today seems overdone, melodramatic
in the climax of this long tale. Still the book is riveting for
its young hero's soul-searching, and the doomed relationships
he falls into. And what a treat to read a real master of the English
language, unafraid to use it to its fullest extent.
Postman Always Rings Twice--James.
...a classic of the hardboiled genre,
yet strangely modern in its minimalist presentation of scene and
dialogue. A master plot an character study, in the tragic mode.
Brave Free Men--Jack
...Book II of the Durdane Trilogy. Gastel
Etzwane shines as musician-turned-ruler in a time of war: giving
wise yet fallible directives, dining on salt fish and eels at
...I tried the highly touted Bruce Sterling and Gene Wolfe,
couldn't get past chapters one. Hogan and Vance stand head and
shoulders above the rest of the sci-fi tribe, IMHO. This novel
is a heady read with its particle-physics science, but balances
well with passionate human drama, tight dialogue and airtight
...Was it this book or the long winter
night that inspired me to keep reading this from start to finish?
The disturbing core of reality or the skillful, murder-mystery
method in which the atrocity and its unraveling are presented?
Perhaps simply the power of the author's objectivity, eliciting
sympathy for all concerned by portraying fully their humanness?
...This writer has an uncanny ability
to weave distinct and compelling style out of all-too-common dialogue
and quirky characters. A tale simply but not flatly told; each
line chosen, found as perfect, appropriate to the oddball world
we live in; this is the revolution it must come not just to the
world we speak of, but our language is never the same again.
...His masterpiece, also a good film.
A long read with only a few sections not worthy of the rest. At
the core is a compelling story of a family through several generations,
recapitulating the Cain-Abel conflict in California's Salinas
Worm Forgives the Plough--John
...Collis qualifies as the English Thoreau.
An intellectual goes back to the land, and writes with eloquence,
simplicity, freshness, clarity, insight, humility.
...Linked stories of conquest and magical
...This classic from the high-school
reading list is engagingly artful in using language style--in the
form of the protagonist's journal--to reflect the stages of growth
(and tragic decay) in consciousness.
Day Before Midnight--Stephen
...nuclear holocaust threatening: our
fate in the hands of a jiving convict and an ex-Viet Cong tunnel-lady.
Hunter handles character and plot as well as weaponry and language.
...how to introduce sci-fi to one's
kid: this is a good one about benign alien possession.
...very early Vance, still great--in
fact better than the novels of his recent years.
...the sci-fi master takes on fantasy,
and carries it off with usual aplomb.
...Iranian author writes perfect novel
of bureacratic obfuscation compounded by cultural blinders.
...when a craftsman this good writes
a thriller, I call it literature.
...uncategorizable short stories. Off
the wall human realities and oddities. Unique.
...sounds rough: it is. But no one could
do it better, balancing sympathy for "good" and "bad"
...a vivid and thoughtful autobiography
by author of Body & Soul, a jewel of a novel
... plain and lucid prose, gripping
stories cover to cover
...the most consistently excellent literary
mag I've seen
The Blue World-Jack
...simply another by my only favorite
Invasion of the Body Snatchers-Jack
...the classic thriller upon which two
great movies were made
...an out-there account of life as it
virtually could tend to be
Origin of Language-Merritt
...finally puts all of the pieces together
in an understandable whole
Play in the Fields of the Lord-Peter
...a perfect novel, even better than
the excellent film
...autobiography of greatest craftsman
in English or, I suspect, Russian
Guys Don't Dance-Norman
...tongue in cheek, but so subtle the
thriller works, too
Confederacy of Dunces-John
...a comic classic, a modern Gargantua
Life into Fiction-Robin
...worthy tips and exercises for writers
...teaching a computer to talk, and
to recognize beauty
...best work by a top-notch literary
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