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The Semantics of Murder
The Semantics of Murder
par Aifric Campbell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,09

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Powerful debut, 8 janvier 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Semantics of Murder (Broché)
As an au-pair living and studying Linguistics in Sweden, Aifric Campbell (AC) became intrigued by the life and death of an influential US logician who inspired new ways of looking at the true nature of language. His scientific career was and remains astounding. It was cut short by murder at the age of 41. His name is Richard Montague (RM). He also was a promiscuous gay with a preference for black lovers. Early one morning in 1971, he was found naked and dead in his bathroom by his housemate, who saw two or three black persons speed away in RM's Bentley.These are the facts according to the LAPD at the time. RM's murder remains unsolved today.
An hour on the internet probing RM and AC suffice to see that RM really lived, keen on pushing the boundaries of pure science, and yields lots more info: AC is the third person to write a book about Richard Montague's double life, but she was not aware of the two earlier books. To illuminate him, AC went through some 40 cardboard boxes full of RM's notes endowed to UCLA. She also interviewed LAPD detectives investigating `cold cases', visited the place where he died, read old police press and records. The result? Not enough material for a biography. She wrote a novel instead.
The person propelling this novel onwards is "Jay", the fictional, 18 years younger kid brother AC invented out of nowhere. He is a psycho analyst in London, the main subject and `raconteur' of this rather disturbing novel full of resentment and jealousy. Is this book a homage to a flawed but brilliant academic? Is Jay's account of his own life and his brother's death truthful, reliable? That is for readers to find out.
What else? This is AC's debut. Her ability to question what is science is underpinned by her thorough grasp of linguistics, philosophy and psychiatry/psychoanalysis. She is also good at plotting and, being Irish, she has a way with words. A book requiring more than one reading, but warmly recommended.


The Shadow Girls
The Shadow Girls
par Henning Mankell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,55

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Disappointing, 17 novembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Shadow Girls (Broché)
No doubt Henning Mankell intended to provide a supportive, ironic, even funny take on the daily lives of Sweden's illegal immigrants through the eyes of a Swedish minor poet with plenty of issues of his own. But his approach and book misfire on every jarring page.
It was published in English 11 years after it appeared in Sweden in 2001. A bad sign, because Mankell normally writes bestselling books. This reviewer read the first chapter with interest and also found a powerful statement on the one but last page. The journey in between was one of chronic suffering through a poorly-plotted tragicomedy full of unappealing characters, halting dialogue, needless diversions. Statements from the three `shadow girls' in italics about what drove them to Sweden, are few and far between and do not improve matters...
One star for his good intentions, another for completing a story and book that goes astray almost from the start. I do not understand why readers give it four, even 5 stars. Missed opportunity. Not recommended.


Desertion
Desertion
par Abdulrazak Gurnah
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,10

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Forms of Abandonment, 13 novembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Desertion (Broché)
Several forms of desertion occur in this rich novel situated mainly in Zanzibar, the east coast of Africa and England and spanning almost a century. In 1899 an Englishman is found unconscious before dawn near the mosque of a small coastal town, by Indian shopkeeper Hassanali who opens it each early morning for prayer. Together with his wife and sister he looks after the Englishman, who was robbed and deserted by his Somali guides. Later the sister and the Englishman move to Mombasa. The Englishman leaves for Britain, the sister, pregnant, is abandoned.
Part Two deals with brothers Amin and Rachid, who live in Zanzibar. Shortly before independence in 1963, Amin falls in love with Jamila, but is forced by his parents to break with her, a decision he will regret forever... Just over a month after independence, the Zanzibar Revolution takes place, whereby thousands of Indians and Arabs are killed, or expropriated and expelled. The author considers the sudden granting of independence to so many ill-prepared African countries a clear form of desertion. Amin's brother Rachid, meanwhile, is on a scholarship in Britain, graduates, earns his PhD and becomes a lecturer. He scuttles his parents' wishes by marrying Clare, who walks out on him years later...
There are more instances of desertion. This is only a bare bones outline of the main theme. It is very well written and strong on matters pertaining to family honour and personal comportment. Readers who suspect a linkage between the two main love stories will find the final chapter riveting. Nice read.


After Dark
After Dark
par Haruki Murakami
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,86

3.0 étoiles sur 5 No swing, 13 novembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : After Dark (Broché)
This novella takes place during one night. It is about coincidences in real time and strange events occurring beyond time as we understand it. It begins near midnight in a fast-food outlet in Tokyo with a reluctant Mari (19), who, when prompted, remembers a previous meeting with law student and odd-jobber Takahashi. What joins them is Mari's beautiful sister Eri, who was also present in the swimming pool where they met, two years ago. In the next chapter, Eri is shown deeply asleep, spied upon, as if in an SF novel, by an almighty eye or camera, of which only the author can see and describe the images, results.
Both Mari and Takahashi have a busy night ahead of them. What they do time-wise is interrupted after each chapter by Haruki Murakami (HM), inserting his own inputs into how this story should progress. HM is an early fan of the use in literature of quantum physics or mechanics, whatever, whereby Time does not progress straightforward, but can turn around and return, or exist elsewhere, in a parallel form or state. E.g. you look in your mirror, walk away, but your mirror image remains visible. Or you sleep in your own bed, but are also locked up inside the office of a nocturnal IT consultant who has just gone home, but who earlier that night brutally savaged a Chinese prostitute, leaving her naked, taking with him everything she owns.
I dislike the idea of parallel worlds as espoused by e.g. David Mitchell, Murakami himself and the late Iain Banks, amongst others, unless a great story follows. And these authors have indeed written a number of remarkable books. An attraction of Murakami is his knowledge of jazz and classical music. With book and laptop within reach, I listened to all the music titles in "After Dark" (itself a classic by Curtis Fuller) via the internet. But it was not enough to make the book swing...


Ancient Light
Ancient Light
Prix : EUR 6,49

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Engaging, but poorly plotted, 10 novembre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Ancient Light (Format Kindle)
An earlier reviewer said readers will either love or hate this book. This reader agrees. `Haters' may balk at its main theme, a five months-long dalliance/love affair/tryst, as described above in the title. And/or John Banville (JB) not producing a novel with chapters of 8-10 pages full of page breaks and indentations, making reading this book a piece of work. Or because of too many descriptions of the weather, clouds, sky and the sea. Or his dabbling with quantum mechanics in literature, with its infinities and parallel realities. Surely, this novel is not a page turner but a work of art akin to slow cooking in gastronomy: it requires slow reading. Whoever hopes to gain bliss at the finish by scanning and skipping pages is wrong. JB has hidden some key clues, as if they were Easter eggs, in the bushy thickets of this novel.
But fans outnumber this book's detractors by far. Earlier JB novels I enjoyed dealt with a deranged murderer (but was he?), a sentimental ex-art historian and a British former KGB spy. All three justified their past lives in the I-form in confessions and justifications. This novel is no different. It charts the life and times of Alexander Cleve (AC), a semi-retired, married 65-year old stage actor, who lost his only child, daughter Cass, 10 years earlier, and who has been persuaded to play the lead role in a Hollywood film. All this at a time when his mind is bombarded with scenes and images from his youth.
This novel is situated in Ireland, England and Italy between the 1950s and 1990s. It treats casually the massive, never-ending grief of Cass' parents: AC saw in the massive swirls of birds in the sky his daughter writing a message to him, but cannot decipher it. The novel's main theme is the unreliability of memory, much as in Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending", which dealt with how selective the memories of aging people are, with ever fewer close ones around to make corrections.
This helps to explain AC's tiresome descriptions of the weather, the clouds, the light, etc. when referring to key events in his adolescence and later life. They are meant to show how incredibly good his memory still is. But his long-time monitoring of a local tramp and other incidents suggest his mind is going in uncharted territory....
Plenty of loose ends remain in this poorly-plotted, but superbly written novel.


The Sense of an Ending
The Sense of an Ending
par Julian Barnes
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,22

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Masterpiece, 29 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Sense of an Ending (Broché)
Three adolescent grammar school friends co-opt a fourth member, Adrian, who has newly arrived at school. He is intellectually their superior but never prides himself on it. He wins a scholarship to Cambridge, graduates with a First. Soon after, he kills himself, aged 22. This rich novel has several lines of inquiry and is written from the perspective of one of the trio, Tony some 40 years later, when he inherits 500 Pounds and Adrian's diary from the mother of his and later, Adrian's girlfriend Veronica's mother. The novel is about Tony's efforts to gain possession of the diary and a confrontation with his past.
Key themes are time and its passing, how it selectively affects one's memory and history. How it is willed forward in adolescence to reach the stage when real life will finally begin. And looking back, remorse about how risk-averse one has actually lived. Another type of remorse overwhelms Tony in the final pages of this short, intense novel, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Highly recommended, instantly re-readable and quite suitable for reading groups.


The Lower River
The Lower River
par Paul Theroux
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,86

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Mixed messages, 22 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Lower River (Broché)
This novel has deep roots, going back to when Paul Theroux (PT) worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi in the 1960s. He described his experiences there in stories what became his first novels. A recent collection of all PT's early short stories contains four (4) early novels originally published as such. Plus three more stories, maybe never published before. One of them from the early 1960s, I found terrifying reading: It was situated in Zambia where a very young PT is charmed and taken to a remote bar and an adjoining place to sleep. He pays for round after round, day after day, held captive in a sphere of false respect, praise and friendship. When the false light shining on him darkens and becomes threatening, PT manages to escape from this African embrace.
PT returns to this early 1960's theme some 50 years later. He introduces Ellis Hock, a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s who found eternal bliss working 4 years in the worst part of Malawi, teaching the Sewa people, building things and becoming famous for not fearing but catching snakes. Notified that his father is dying, he flew home and takes charge of his dad's business. Over a 33-year period he marries, has a daughter and becomes totally bored with running a man's wear shop near Boston. All the time he dreams about his years in Africa. Having broken with his ex and daughter and sold his business, he wants to relive the only time in his life he truly felt happiness and fulfillment...
He returns to Malawi's Sewa region, aged 62 to find his imagined paradise in ruins and himself soon a captive of the local chief. Read this: `The days burned by, and on some smoldering late afternoons of suffocation aimlessness he felt that if he had a gun, he `d march Festus Manyenga to the creek and, in front of the whole gaping village, riddle him with bullets, then kick his bleeding corpse into the water'.
This is a real thriller full of bush intelligence and escape attempts, a story of deep personal drama, about only a few caring and many picking the white man clean, dreams of being loved, and an amateur ethnographic study, all conceived by PT. Full marks for his cruel portrayal of a man at the end of his wits, falling deeper and deeper.
This reader objects to the following content: PT should not have named the ethnic group in question on almost every page. They really exist and number 300.000 and are likely to become the butt of ridicule, rubbished for years to come in their own country. Also, PT's description of a fictional European NGO called `Agence Anonym' working with helicopters and pop stars, doing "food dumps" rather than orderly distributions, will enrage many serious NGOs working in Malawi and beyond.


The Book of Evidence
The Book of Evidence
par John Banville
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,55

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Murder in Ireland, 22 octobre 2013
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Book of Evidence (Broché)
I read only two John Banville (JB) novels before this one. I loved his Booker Prize winner "The Sea" and his earlier "The Untouchable" about Anthony Blunt, the UK's infamous and long-undetected `Fifth Man' in a famous Cold War scandal, who later became Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. Both novels were in effect, made-up musings by JB's main characters. This JB novel, first published in 1989, bears all the hallmarks of these later books.

But soon after digging into this novel, readers will have serious doubts about Freddie Montgomery, the main subject's character and integrity. Will find him self-centered and unable to fathom the impression he makes on others when they first see or meet him (tall and overweight, speaking upper-class English). As the book progresses, he becomes rather wild-eyed, unkempt and smelly. The book constantly frames (or interrupts) scenes of the hero's weird travails with descriptions of the weather, the clouds, the sea, the landscape, which was a feature of "The Sea", too.

This novel is supposedly written in prison, in the I form as a long-winded plea for mercy from judges and jury in mind, by a killer to justify his crime, his past, what he went through just before and after the fatal event. And about how long it took the police to find him (despite all the clues, sightings, weird incidents he created) during a short stay, or should one say, a spree of bad form between Ibiza, Spain and Ireland?
There is much more to this book, with many highly dramatic side-events for readers to discover. And strange as it may seem, they are often described in a hilariously funny way. Thoroughly entertaining, superbly written and instantly forgettable, because it has no morale or ulterior message. Unless I'm badly wrong. Entertaining and recommended novel.


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.


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