Submission

(photo by Jorge Royan)

(photo by Jorge Royan)

(by Michel Houellebecq) (2015) (translated by Lorin Stein) Submission is a good idea for a novel, which terminates just when it seems to be building a head of steam. A ‘Lower’ Sorbonne Professor of Literature, specialising in J. K. Huysmans and an unenthusiastic promoter of ‘A’s for lays,’ finds himself on the academic outer when a version of the Muslim Brotherhood wins the French general elections. The professor skips town, ultimately decides to return and collect his redundancy payment and pension, only to be seduced by the new paradigm into converting to Islam and returning to academe, now deloused and free of…

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Happy Birthday Philip

El_Aquelarre_(1797-1798)

Philip Roth b. 19 March 1933 Though he said he’d pull the pin after his last book, Nemesis (2010), we hope that he’s tinkering with a posthumous classic (preferably something much better than The Original of Laura). We doubt it could be any funnier – or filthier – than Sabbath’s Theater (1995), that riotous and dark meeting of Mickey Sabbath (Lear/Fool) and Drenka Balich (Cordelia/Goneril/Regan), with her penchant for playing Mrs Malaprop. Roth is the grubbiest writer in centuries, a great descendant of Catullus, Rabelais and Geoffrey Chaucer.  In a thoughtful piece, James Wood comments that “Misogyny always flickers in [Roth’s]…

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Memento Mori

(Giovanni Martinelli c. 1635)

(Giovanni Martinelli c. 1635)

(by Muriel Spark) Don’t let the question of who is making the famous “Remember you must die” phone calls distract you, o gentle reader, from the more important reflections on memory, sanity, guilt, narcissism and avarice raised in this searing novelette  Although under threat, a phalanx of elderly people simply up the ante and behave even more badly than they did in their (adulterous, manipulative, black-mailing) youth.  There are amusing characters – a bellicose poet who gets into fisticuffs with a crippled but no less fearsome critic over the reputation of a dead poet –  a would-be Margaret Mead of the geriatric who studies the elderly; assiduously…

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Headlong

September 11, 2015 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | ART, Comedic Books, Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |
Bruegel the Elder, Winter Landscape with skaters and bird trap

Bruegel the Elder, Winter Landscape with skaters and bird trap

(by Michael Frayn) What would you do if you were certain that you had discovered a work of art not so much lost as mythical? A painting beyond value which is being used by rich rural idiots to block the fireplace.  Horrible, unhinged, feckless Martin Clay makes that decision instantaneously in Michael Frayn’s Headlong.  and then dithers about it until the reader wants to cry.  This is a marvellous, unusual and comic book with some weaknesses – for one, the reader will  learn more than s/he need ever know about Breugels both with and without “h”s, elder and younger and the bitter relationship between the Netherlands…

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Solar

solar

(by Ian McEwan) An amusing novel, in which the somewhat clunky cogs of plot are lubricated with humorous observations about the commercialisation of the Religion of Climate Change, the dopier aspects of feminism, sloth, urban myths, modern travel, class and scientific research. Unfortunately the oil fails the mechanism at the end, at which point it grinds to a rather noisy and unlikely meltdown. Worth reading but…I realised partway through that I had in fact read it before and could barely remember it.

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