Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’

24th March
2010
written by Tony

Good book, ugly, ugly cover.

“‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’” These are the first words in a book that manages at once to confound expectations and be more than simply infamous. I must confess that I knew next to nothing about this book when I picked it up and I brought it home — if nothing more — for the novelty of having that book. You know the one. The one that made the Muslims so mad. The book that killed 40 people and put a, now irrevocable, fatwa into existence calling for all good Muslims to kill or, if unable to do so themselves, direct others to kill, anyone associated with this book. It’s a book that you feel a little nervous reading, say, on an airplane. Or in public. It has a stigma attached to it that is hard to get away from. It’s a book that sent its author into hiding for nearly a decade.

I expected this book to be challenging on nearly every level. Something that could cause so much hate had to be either a blinding work of secular clarity and religious disavowal, or so basic and insulting that no one could read it and not feel tainted. In a way, it was neither. The language is stunningly accessible, and at times is almost sing-songy. If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood movie you’ll understand the verbal melody that Indian English becomes, how nearly everything becomes an idiom and the nonsense forms a meaning outside of accepted bounds. This is that feeling, put onto paper. Tune up the sitar and put on the hand cymbals and you could sway your hips in time with the writing.

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19th March
2010
written by Tony

News flash! Now both Steph and myself are reviewers for BookPage! I’m excited to be a part of such a venerable publication, to wit, here is a link to my very first review. I’m currently reviewing more titles as we speak, so more links will be forthcoming in the coming months.

I enjoyed getting to read The Solitude of Prime Numbers and benefiting from the talent of BookPage’s marvelous fiction editor (and wonderful human being) Abby. I’m looking forward to reading more titles and certainly keeping everyone up to date on every new book!

4th August
2009
written by Steph
My August read for BookPage

My August read for BookPage

Since it’s a new month, it also means I have a new review up in the current issue of BookPage.  For the August issue I read Victor LaValle’s second novel, Big Machine.  What can I say?  I loved this book, and I hope you will too.  If you enjoy mysteries, fantasy, sci-fi, or just a rolicking adventure story with a pretty biting sense of humor, there’s a good chance you will!  When this one hits the shelves, I’ll probably buy a hard-cover copy because I liked it that much.  In my own personal reading loI gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating, which says a lot.  Also, I made Tony read it after I finished it and now both of us are interested in reading LaValle’s back catalog.  He’s likely an author you haven’t heard of before, but now all of that’s changed so you have no excuse not to give Big Machine a shot!

I’m pretty proud of this review, and was extra excited to see that it got “Feature” billing (and also kicks off the Fiction reviews in the print edition of the magazine).  Please check it out and let me know what you think!

18th February
2009
written by Tony
Not the edition I read, but the best image I could find

Not the edition I read, but the best image I could find

Steph picked this book up on a whim during one of our many famous book gathering expeditions at McKay’s recently, and I was immediately interested. I’ve read some of the Russian classics and thought it would be interesting to read something billed as the forefather of great Russian prose and fiction. It is also, for many reasons, worth noting that this particular translation was penned by none other than Vladimir Nabokov himself. This enhanced my interest in the volume even more, as I know that Nabokov was an eminent scholar who taught himself perfect English, so the translation would not only be accurate but would contain more of the essence of the original intent and linguistic subtleties inherent in such a complex language as Russian.

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1st February
2009
written by Tony
So affected.

So affected.

I finally finished this massive doorstop, actually a couple of weeks ago, and am just now getting around to writing my review. I think I am going to keep this brief as my review encompasses around a hundred poems, several plays, several dialogues and a myriad of other written errata.

I think it would be more informative if I focus on the general essence of Wilde, rather than specifics. Overall his writing is light, lyrical and mildly obsessed with topics of beauty and hedonism. He is very well written and his language is at times unparalleled. Themes that tend to run through his work are usually centered around the upper crust of English society, the landed gentry so to speak. In general, Wilde seems to have a rather strong disdain for English society and English attitudes. A strong undercurrent of respect for Americans and American ideals seems to ebb and flow through many of his stories.

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19th December
2008
written by Tony
1989 (kind of)

1989 (kind of)

Let me first say that this book intrigued me for several reasons. One, I loved A Confederacy of Dunces. Two, I love the album of the same name by Arcade Fire, which has absolutely no relation to this book. Three, it’s a name that appeals to me conceptually.

I’m not the first to say this, but I’ll say it nonetheless: if you liked To Kill a Mockingbird then you will also enjoy this book. The simplicity of the writing and the authenticity of the voice combine for an easily digested, yet powerful language that is compelling and engaging. The story is not a complex one, and it revolves around the actions of a simple-minded protagonist named David who is trapped by his poor roots and meager intelligence in a small town in Louisiana. The story is a retrospective told in the first person and generally serves to bring the reader up to speed on the events that open in the first chapter. Each proceeding chapter covers roughly a year in David’s life and we are taken from when he is a small child to when he is a man of 19.

The back-story on this book is almost as interesting as the book itself, and serves to shed a little light on the brief life of Toole. He wrote this book when he was 16 and it makes me sick. Toole at 16 was already a brilliant writer and it shows in this work. His ability to choose the right phrasing and the right vocabulary throughout the book continued to astonish me every time I recalled that, at 16, I was barely able to express how I felt about even the simplest things with any great aplomb. And here we have Toole who captures the essence of what it is to live in a small southern village and deal with the complex racial and social issues day to day. The book was published posthumously, as Toole felt it was too amateurish to publish while he was alive.

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