Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

chronic

Lethem is the best fiction author writing today. Fact (usual IMhO disclaimers). Chronic City (Faber & Faber 467 pages) isn’t even one of his best, yet still knocks the socks off all his would-be pretenders. Every sentence is hand-crafted out of the marble of language with a literary chisel. Every word has a tiny detonation when placed next to the trip switch and timer of the other words in its sentence. You don’t believe me, try “his hide-and-seek muse” or “his bare-knuckly shoulders”. But having said all that, there was something slightly unsatisfying about this, his latest Meisterwerk. In thesame way that Quentin Tarantino really needs now to shoot a film without a gun or a sword in it, Lethem maybe needs to widen his canvas beyond that of New York City. NYC stands for many things, but is perhaps too idiosyncratic to bear the full weight of an investigation into hyper-realities for the whole world.  Continue reading

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

indexJulian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot (Picador 2002, 190 pages) is the story of one man’s quest, his “project” to find the writer outside his writings, despite Flaubert’s insistence that the books should be enough, the writer should disappear and be left alone. Geoffrey Braithwaite, this amusing novel’s British protagonist, is a medical doctor about sixty. He pursues museums, letters, literary works, criticism, and Flaubert the person in a long quest as unofficial biographer and tireless seeker. Continue reading

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Pnin Vintage

He is not a very nice person but he is fun – Nabokov describing the character of Pnin in a letter to his editor at The New Yorker

Readers of my third novel, The More Things Change, who at the current moment in time comprise a not entirely significant two, my current wife and my only daughter (though not a daughter to my current wife despite the fact she treats her like a second daughter), will recall – Continue reading

Alien Autopsy: Stories by Pedro Ponce

Pedro Ponce offers eighteen very short stories in this slender volume (Cow Heavy Books, 55 pages). Within the brief space Ponce delegates for himself not much can happen, but these vignettes do manage to develop vigorous fabula-like themes. In each short piece, a subject is opened, then skillfully closed. Continue reading

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: Stories by David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace is clearly an accomplished and, at times, brilliant writer. If it were only a matter of judging his playfulness, innovation, and enthusiasm-sheer energy-it would be hard to imagine him scoring higher. For example, one of his conceits, Datum Centurio, features a hard copy version of a future (2096) dictionary which defines “date.” In Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Little, Brown and Company, 288 pages) the innovative “story” mimics the complete typographical layout of a real dictionary and notes to the effect that with “compatible hardware” (e.g., a neural plug) we could get the entire “pentasensory” (i.e., virtual reality) illustrative support. The dictionary definition traces the ancestral origins of date to earlier in the century (i.e., our time) when the term was Continue reading