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Granta 53: News
Granta 53: News
par Bill Buford
Edition : Broché

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Strong stuff, 13 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta 53: News (Broché)
This already ancient 1996 issue is mainly concerned with journalism, how it is done, who teaches rookies, and the powers of media owners. It is strong on the tricks of the trade and media tycoons' powers. It contains great stories about entering the profession and becoming better, about acquiring news media and using them, and about working on the frontline of newsgathering. And of losing a loved-one in pursuit of news in Central America.

But today's most relevant story is Paul Theroux's `The Lawyer's Story'. Its subject is an issue recently highlighted by the BBC and other media: US citizens renouncing their US citizenship for taxation reasons. Anyone contemplating such a thing should first read Theroux's account of a flinty, ice-cube chewing US contract lawyer in Singapore. He offers plenty of politically-incorrect reasons for wanting to escape the burden of US federal taxation and renounces his US citizenship. Read on and shiver about how his life changes...

GRANTA is a literary quarterly that publishes theme-wise the best available manuscripts. It receives a flood of material to choose from, like chapters of forthcoming novels, pieces of top-rank journalism too big to find a home elsewhere, or stories cooled down enough after many years to publish now. This volume also has intriguing stories by veteran journalist Phillip Knightley about his early career, Fintan O'Toole portraying Tony O'Reilly, a top rugby player, Irish press baron and long time CEO of Heinz, and so on.
Engrossing reading matter, still relevant today.

The Granta Book of the Family
The Granta Book of the Family
par Bill Buford
Edition : Relié

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Strong stuff, 12 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Granta Book of the Family (Relié)
This is a 1995 collection of the best writings in the literary quarterly GRANTA from 1982 to 1994 on the theme of "Family". It quotes British poet Philip Larkin, "They **** you up, your mum and dad". And its back cover goes on to list other permutations of hell: growing up with hostile brothers and sisters, scary grandparents, nasty uncles and aunts...
No internet or smart phones yet in this tome of 22 autobiographical stories by some then-famous living authors like Raymond Carver, Doris Lessing and Saul Bellow. Others were budding talents GRANTA deemed fit for publication like Hugh Collins, a quite literate murderer jailed for life in Britain. And the journalist, kid brother of a notorious US murderer who demanded to be executed by firing squad and succeeded.
How to review a collection of 22 writers' early memories? Is a happy youth more likely to bring success and happiness in later life growing up living amidst violence, squalor and poverty? This book has tales of horror by Beverly Lowry (`Patricide') and others, in addition to the examples mentioned above. And accounts about pure bliss: read Angela Carter, Michael Ignatieff and Ian Jack about their fathers. It also contains balanced assessments about the highs and lows of growing up. The non-judgmental extract from Bret Easton Ellis' novel `Less than Zero' is a special case, with the book likely to have been read worldwide with horror and disgust.
As usual with collections of stories, few readers read them all. I disliked Todd McEwen' story for his vague, idiomatic language use. There were one or two more I did not like... Altogether, this is a passionate and still marketable collection of stories, albeit without a general introduction or details about its contributors. But these can be found via Wikipedia. Recommended, affordable book with many highlights.

Winter Journal
Winter Journal
par Paul Auster
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,39

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Engaging, 4 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Winter Journal (Broché)
This quite passionate book is almost an autobiography written at the relatively tender age of 64 by an icon of American literature, but not quite. He is reticent about his two children and his sister, but quite open about the rest of both his parents' families short histories (and with a terrible family secret revealed only when he was in his early 20s). This reader is struck by PA's powers of memory and the clarity of his making sense of his life at different stages.
Another sign that this is not an autobiography is the near absence of references to what he is most famous for: a New York-based creator of works of art, mostly literature. Not a word about the challenge of the white page or about the books, poems and screenplays he wrote or the films he directed.
At another level this looks like a book of lists, about illnesses, injuries and other medical mishap. A list of all the houses/homes he has lived in, countries visited and for how long or about the number of US states he set foot in (40). A gold mine for future biographers. Towards the end of the book this listing habit returns with PA's favorite sweets, foods, soft drinks and stronger stuff. And his regrets about how harshly smoking has been restricted.
PA's turning point in life was meeting his wife of >30 years, Siri Hustvedt who has also become a highly respected novelist and essayist. PA quotes their daughter describing her identity as `Jewegian', reflecting her dad's Polish Jewish and mother's Norwegian Lutheran roots.
Find PA's title and final words too pessimistic. At 64 most people would rather view themselves as living in the Indian summer or autumn of their lives, not the start of winter. But his Wikipedia entry quotes him as saying that his drawer is empty, he has run out of ideas for another novel...

Brief Loves That Live Forever
Brief Loves That Live Forever
Prix : EUR 3,86

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Memories of a Soviet orphan in exile, 24 septembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Brief Loves That Live Forever (Format Kindle)
Eight loosely connected stories, portraits of girls and women who made an unforgettable impression on the author, Andreï Makine (AM). Once again he casts himself as having grown up in a Soviet orphanage, which gives him a unique outsider's perspective on Soviet life. His short loves are beautifully described. Most were one-sided and platonic and eternal only to him.
AM pictures his isolation from Soviet society as an orphan well. But from an early age he began to doubt what he was meant to believe in: The day when communism would finally be completed and shops would not charge customers, who would take only what they need that day, nothing more, because the same items would be on offer the next day. There would not be hatred or jealousy either. True love would exist among people. That was the doctrine he was fed in school.
Later (AM is a master of skipping years, decades of his protagonists' lives) the ex-orphan neither became a party member nor a dissident. What kept him going was a deep love of the natural, eternal beauty of his country in all seasons, its common people and their often baffling family histories. In 1987, AM decided as member of a teaching exchange programme to seek political asylum in France. And he has never returned since, if he is to be believed...
In 1995 he became rich and famous with his third novel, awarded with France's two most prestigious literary prizes. I find most of his 12 or so books fascinating reading. They look back on almost 150 years of Russian oppression, internal and external wars, incl. Latin American and African wars by proxy, and its long, cruel history of dealing with internal dissent.
This recent AM gift to humanity is deftly composed with plenty of poignant portrayals, stories and anecdotes. But somehow it has less emotional impact than his earlier books on me. Hopefully not on other readers.

The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme
The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme
par Andre Makine
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,37

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb, 23 septembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme (Broché)
Writers are often asked how autobiographical their books are. Andreï Makine (AM) answers this question occasionally in this novel. It is about the love story of Alexandra, a young French widow who has lived half her life in the Soviet Union (SU), and Jacques Dorme (JD), a leftist French pilot earlier active in the Spanish civil war, amidst aerial bombardments and general carnage and mayhem near Stalingrad in May 1942.
Their passionate affair in a war-damaged cottage near a busy intersection for trains moving the wounded, new weaponry and other supplies, and fuel tankers in various directions, lasts little more than a week. Then the French pilot is sent to the Soviet 'Far East' to join a secret operation to fly US aircraft (types mentioned) from Alaska to Siberia. [In another novel AM wrote that the US also critically supported the SU with tanks and other key hardware via the port of Murmansk.] JD flew some 300 planes to the SU (out on 8.000) on 5.000 km trips more dangerous than combating Germany in the air. JD promised Alexandra to one day show her the house where he was born, near Roubaix in northern France...
Alas, JD crashed his plane on a mountain crest in NW Siberia. The complete story is told by a Russian orphan. In the 1960s he is allowed to spend weekends with `Aunt' Alexandra, who knew his deceased parents. From her and from the remains of books found in a burnt-out top floor room, he learns to read, understand and speak French. When he is 13, she tells him about the 8 or 9 days with JD, and the story stays with him.
Decades later, as a stateless refugee in France, he mounts a clandestine, physically brutal campaign to see the spot where Jacques Dorme crashed. Later, the orphan/author makes two dramatic journeys to the younger brother living in JD's house of birth, a visit Alexandra was promised so long ago. It will further damage the orghan's/author's long held dream of France as Paradise.
Brilliantly composed, full of symbolism and empathy about the feelings of a curious child dreaming about a paradise called France. The general the loving couple talked about in 1942, visits Stalingrad in 1966. The orphan was part of the guard of honor and is likely to have been the only person present to have understood the speech of the elephant-like old and very tall guest. Because he spoke in French. He was Charles de Gaulle, President of France, on a state visit.
Superbly written and researched, full of acute images and telling details, this book challenges readers' imaginations of how it occurred and would look on film.

A Delicate Truth
A Delicate Truth
par John le Carré
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 13,49

5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Scary, 18 septembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : A Delicate Truth (Broché)
JLC's last bestseller "Our Kind of Traitor" (OKT) had a mixed reception in the UK, but was a hit in the US. But it drew few comments on the EN section of and But tens of thousands or more Germans and French readers must have read the book in translation...
Like OKT, this passionate novel is an assault on Britain's political establishment during the New Labour era under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown. It suggests that some key persons in government push for strategic matters of national defence to be outsourced to private companies based in the US. The "evidence" is presented in the lengthy (46 pp.) first chapter of this book, describing a secret US/UK operation in Gibraltar, allegedly mounted to capture a senior Al-Qaeda leader. This chapter also shows JLC's awesome writing skills, which he keeps up until the end.

What follows is the tale of its aftermath. It is about one, then two Foreign Office staff involved in the operation. The naïve one soon became ambassador in the Caribbean, then retired. The other, more probing one was posted to Beirut. Years elapse before the two meet. And compare notes. Then the drama begins...

The powers of surveillance by foreign and domestic security services, disclosed recently by former insiders, soon become apparent in this grand novel... It rivals Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" published in 2007, the year before the ongoing crisis erupted, as the scariest book I have read in a decade. One reviewer has suggested that John Le Carré writes pure literature, another that his oeuvre will be read a hundred years from now.

Highly recommended thriller.

Breath, Eyes, Memory: A Novel
Breath, Eyes, Memory: A Novel
par Edwidge Danticat
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,74

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Problems between mothers and daughters, 11 juillet 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Breath, Eyes, Memory: A Novel (Broché)
Heart-rending debut novel from 1994 by Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat (ED; 1969) about problems of adolescent Haitian girls, passed on from mother to daughter for generations. Haitian mothers are described as being as protective about their daughters' virginity as in their ancestral West Africa and they inspect, test their daughters regularly. And women in Haiti often head families, [as in the parts of Africa where their ancestors were captured centuries ago, sold and shipped] and are the principal breadwinners.
When Sophie moves from her aunt Atie to her mother in New York at the age of 12, the novel truly begins. What happened before is intriguing and well described: many emotional and traumatic events occurred in the lives of Sophie and her aunt Atie, her mother Martine living in New York and her grandma in Haiti. A very spiritual book full of dreams and images that goes back centuries. What follows in New York is captivating. I say no more.
Fine novel about girls and their mothers caught between old traditions and different cultures and living environments. Since this novel, ED has published several highly-acclaimed novels and collections of stories. The British literary quarterly GRANTA considers her one of the most talented American authors.

- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel
- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel
par Mohsin Hamid
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 17,51

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Not to be missed, 9 juillet 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : - How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel (Broché)
Five stars are granted to exceptional books only and this is one. This is a deep, often emotionally-moving and beautifully-crafted and -written novel about how to make a fortune in rising Asia. It is written as a parody of self help books. Each highly amusing and instructive chapter deals with another challenge and its solution for anyone living with this burning ambition. But attentive readers know, like the author, that Pakistan is not part of the new, rising Asia....
Pakistan is divided into tribes and clans and ruled by politicians paid by landowners who pay no taxes. Therefore, everything stays as before, except for alarming population growth and depletion of ground water, rising crime instability and religious intolerance. Doing business means bribing one's way towards the ultimate grantor of a permit, license, exemption, or whatever.
This is also a family history of an underprivileged, but highly intelligent son of a migrated peasant, trying his luck in the megacity of Lahore (pop: 6.3 million, far more than e.g. Norway). It is also a biography of the same nameless, tough, but also compassionate man when he almost became stinking rich, but stumbled. And a record of a life-long infatuation with a girl with whom he will spend his final years. Stinking rich by what means? Ultimately, his industrial company of extracting, treating and marketing drinking water ran into political problems... What darker prospect for private enterprise can be painted?
Scary novel about Pakistani governance. Brilliantly plotted and written. Lovely to read. Read this book.

Firewall: Kurt Wallander
Firewall: Kurt Wallander
par Henning Mankell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,61

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Wallander's midlife crisis, 30 mai 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Firewall: Kurt Wallander (Broché)
Surely, the quality of Henning Mankell (HM)'s oeuvre is uneven. Books rooted in Africa are his most passionate creations, but not all are great reads. The same applies to his 10-book Wallander-series and a string of other crime novels. Most are entertaining and thrilling, some are memorable and briljant and a few disappoint. After completing this tiresome, overlong 8th police procedural about a whining and paranoid Kurt Wallander (KW), author HM shelved him as a character for >10 years. [But also gave him a superb cameo role in a much better crime novel starring KW's daughter Linda in 2002.]
In `Firewall`, KW (50, long divorced) is an annoying, depressed book character with no friends, close colleagues or companions. Despite dieting, he is still a secret diabetic and becoming forgetful and prone to acting impulsively. This book is pure Nordic gloom, not a pleasure to read given its size and convoluted, poorly researched plot:
twenty pages from the finish, this reader still does not know what disaster this thriller foretells, despite all the self-doubt, self-pity and other feelings of the hero. What is the conspiracy that killed at least three out of more than a handful of people in this book? Whatever the conspiracy is really about, upgraded somewhere in the book to have a worldwide impact and to be devastating economically, is for readers to enjoy. It must be something totally devious, brilliant or silly...
This thriller starts energetically with a man found dead in front of a cash machine, and with two wayward girls (14, 19) confessing to killing a 60-year old taxi driver. Then, strange things begin to happen in a police procedural with KW and his team working long hours. A key question is: does KW listen to his own instincts and inputs from his staff and makes the right decisions?

Prix : EUR 6,86

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Tense restart full of emotions and violence, 14 mai 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Faith (Format Kindle)
Reviewers of Len Deighton (LD)'s triple trilogy about MI-6 spy Bernard Samson (BS; 1983-1996) and his brilliant 1987 intermezzo "Winter", skate on thin ice. It is a 10-book series, with LD himself assuring readers that each book can be read separately. But a little too much said about any book or a summary, may prompt other readers, esp. in the US, to accusations of being `spoilers'.
LDs "Faith" is an energetic restart of a series that stalled with part 6, "Spy Sinker". Fiona, Bernard's wife, who defected to the DDR years ago but who was an MI-6 agent after all, finally returns home at a time when BS suffers setbacks and violence in that same country. Old and new readers will enjoy how BS tries to solve his many problems with wife Fiona, his beloved Gloria, his children, Tessa's widower George, coping with power-hungry Dicky Cruyer at MI-6 HQ and with the cloud he seems to still live under. And he faces more problems when the book progresses...

A key question is how credible these thousands of pages are/were, including this volume 7?
Why is BS still under a cloud? Why has MI-6 a Deputy DG who also runs a law firm and is rarely seen? Why is the sick, old DG, rarely at work, not replaced? Why is MI-6 doting so much on long-retired Silas Gaunt's judgment? And how can flaky Dicky Cruyer survive so long and still be on a promotion tract, gain support and admiration from newly-returned Fiona? Why can MI-6 decide to send BS on mission to the DDR yet again?

A very tense book, well-plotted and written in a beautiful style full of deep background and context. And with plenty of intriguing, unresolved issues, like rumblings heard at the foothills of a volcano... Two books to go!

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