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Book Jones Books

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Jinn and Chthonic

 

Author Salman Rushdie, has always been a teller of tales, and by that I mean fairy tales steeped in ethnic tradition, myth, and fable. He has taken Magical Realism, a genre rooted in South American literature, and made it his own, planting its seeds deeply into the soil of south Asia: specifically Mother India. Rushdie has a gift for allegory, especially concerning the twin towers of religion and politics. His 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was castigated by virtually an entire religious sect: Shi'a Muslim.  Ayotollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, issued a Fatwa on Rushdie after certain dream elements in the novel were misinterpreted as being blasphemous of the prophet Mohammed.

Rushdie has said the novel-- which has a clear comic tone and features dual characters, thespians both, who, after their plane explodes and they fall to earth, are miraculously transformed, one as an angel, the other a devil-- is really about "migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay." His latest novel, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, narrated, at times, in the third person plural by a representative of some future society, is again an updated fairy tale, a play on the Arabian Nights (1001 = two years, eight months and twenty eight nights) starring dark jinn and jinnia, the Jiniri of Fairy Land.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski

The Question (and Xanther) Song

 

Two of the reviewer's own Narrative Constructs* discuss the latest book (?) by Mark Z. Danielewski

TQSNarconQ: Will Mark Z. Danielewski change the way we read fiction?
TQSNarconA: There's a question I'm sure has been asked since the publication of his groundbreaking text , House of Leaves. He has definitely changed the way people read his fiction. His prose is a mash-up of style: Joycean, Pynchonesque; tone: Jacksonian, P.K. Dickish; and form: graphic novel, expressive typography, use of signicons (signs+icons), and fonts as identifiers. However, I don't think his influence is strong enough to trigger a paradigm shift in literature.

TQSNarconQ:  What has he written for us lately?
TQSNarconA: His latest work is entitled The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May. It is the first volume (840 pages) in a proposed 27 part epic work revolving around 9 core characters.

TQSNarconQ: Why is it called The Familiar?
TQSNarconA: As far as I can determine the title most likely refers to the meaning:





familiar: noun

9.Witchcraft and Demonology.
  1. an animal, as a cat, that embodies a supernatural spirit and aids a witch in performing magic.
  2. familiar spirit.
 excerpted from Dictionary.com
TQSNarconQ: Wow, sounds spooky, what's it about?
TQSNarconA: Well as I said there are 9 core characters, 9 points of view (not including the 3 Narcons, or Narrative Constructs, absurdly structured voices who barge in on the tale periodically), but 3 are immediately related to each other. So there are 7 distinct story lines, which may (at least I hope) by the end of the 27th volume, merge into one coherent narrative. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne

Samuel J. Battle with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia

 

The Heat From Harlem

 

One Righteous Man, the story of Samuel Battle, the first African-American to penetrate the thick white wall of New York's finest, is the history of race relations in the Big Apple, most specifically the neighborhood of Harlem; it's a shameful history, as one might have guessed, laying bare the insecurity, hubris, and ignorance of the non-black citizenry of New York from the fin-de-siecle through the decade of Civil Rights. 

Though its author, Arthur Browne, a veteran NYC journalist (a Pulitzer winner who co-authored I, Koch), presents a microcosm of the wider world, an America of the Jim Crow South and Northern urban instability in cities like Chicago and Detroit. It is also the history of prohibition; the birth of organized crime, and the slow death of Tammany Hall. It's the tale of racism in Sport as well as the reawakening of African-American culture in literature, art, and music. Battle's story is as much an emblem of his times as the badge he wore was an emblem of protection.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mister Mixixaplix Music: Sub Pop


Sub Pop artists Rose Windows

Sharing a Mixcloud post from James Blake entitled Nevermind; this one featuring Seattle's Sub Pop Records artists Rose Windows and Metz. Great stuff!! Listen and Enjoy...




Saturday, May 9, 2015

Book Review: The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

  The Mountain Man

 

The explorer John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition and widely considered the first Mountain Man in America, famously once escaped a murderous mob of Blackfoot Indians through a series of maneuvers which is known now as Colter's Run. This legendary gauntlet, outlined in T.C. Boyle's novel, The Harder They Come, is just one the heroic feats which guide one of its main character, Adam Stensen, through his cracked existence. Adam identifies so much with the mountain man, he christens himself with his  champion's surname; Colter: evocative not only of the explorer himself but of guns or horses or of the plow wheel it describes; an instrument used to cut through the earth. It seems the real John Colter lived his life in a far different environment, in a more brutal, less sensitive world; one which celebrated violence and aggression as much as it is misplaced today

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Column: The Interrogatory Mood

Do authors tend to become less satirical and more serious, with regard to their writing, as they get older?

 

Columnist Jones
The spark of this question ignited this morning as I was reading a review of T.C. Boyle's The Harder They Come by Dana Spiotta in the Sunday New York Times Book Review section. "This could easily have been an opportunity for a writer of Boyle's comic gifts to go full-tilt satirical, Boyle takes a darker and more restrained approach." she writes. This got me thinking about how many authors , not just Boyle, have grown away from the satirical or comic novel and have embraced or perhaps began to trust sincerity in their writing. Maybe as they mature they become more confident of their craft because, let's admit it, it's a lot easier to convey a strong message through satire, though it does require more flexing of the writing muscles (but by that I mean being ostentatious) than does serious, straightforward, or a restrained technique. Subtlety and nuance come with experience.

Some examples which should support my view include: 
  • Philip Roth whose early novels include Goodbye Columbus (1959) and Portnoy's Complaint (1969) both comic and satirical portrayals of Jewish morals and attitudes of the time. His later work turned quite serious with novels like Sabbath's Theater, American Pastoral and The Human Stain.
  • Thomas McGuane with early work like The Sporting Club (1969), The Buswhacked Piano (1971), and Ninety-Two in the Shade (1973), all darkly comic took a sharp turn after his 1978 autobiographical novel Panama to a more restrained tone in work like Nobody's Angel (1981) Nothing But Blue Skies and the short story collection Gallatin Canyon.
  • John Irving's early novels The Water Method Man, the 158 pound Wedding, and The World According to Garp were all darkly comic though later The Ciderhouse Rules marked a change in tone to the more straightforward and politically driven work that would come to be his trademark style. 
This of course is not to say all satirists grow more sincere as they age. Think of Swift, Vonnegut, Nabokov; all employing humorous parody to the end. But I do feel many writers begin their career with caricature and slowly hone their craft to either more realistic or subtle impressionistic prose.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

ARC cover art

Eau, Brother, Where Art Thou?

 

What happens in the near future when, in the face of Global Warming and impending permanent drought, the infertile lands of the American Southwest lose the use of  water pipelines from Lakes Meade and Havasu, and the Colorado River? I'm not too sure, but the novelist Paolo Bacigalupi has a handle on that harrowing question and has written a new Sci-Fi Thriller around it. The Water Knife, his latest, is a speculative semi-apocalyptic tale for adults (he has written a number of books for young adults and kids) in which the planet's carbon boot has tread all over its already dry regions leaving a permanent footprint of drought. In this new world water equals power and the powerful will not hesitate to carve their own arterial conduits, when necessary, to feed the heart of their influence.

Three main characters drive the narrative throughout the book: Angel Velasquez, the water knife of the title, whose boss, Catherine Case, quenches Las Vegas with her "arcologies", or water independent residential towers, unafraid of wetting her far reaching talons; Lucy Monroe, a "Journo", who reports on the corruption and machinations surrounding the Taiyang, a Chinese funded arcology in the middle of Arizona; and Maria Villarosa, a teenager refugee from Texas, who, along with her room-mate Sarah, struggles to survive on the incendiary streets of Phoenix (the symbolism of which is not lost on this reader). Bacigalupi eventually tosses the three together, stirs and turns up the heat. The recipe is tried and true; It's delicious to consume, but still, a burrito is just a burrito (refried beans and all).

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