The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

(by Beryl Bainbridge) An odd, slight, oddly touching and slightly naff story of a road trip to oblivion, culminating in the death of RFK; but is the dysfunctional, libidinous Rose ‘the girl in the polka dot dress’ who exclaimed, ‘We shot him!’ as reported in the LA Times on 6 June 1968?  Bainbridge’s last, almost finished novel is, unlike The Original of Laura, worth reading.  

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Doctor Faustus

(by Thomas Mann) Formidably long and deep, Mann’s novel was written from 1943 to 1947 and represents his “F.U” to Germany for feting Hitler and forgetting Mann. Still, Mann was right and this work is his masterpiece, one of the most authentic studies of genius.  Roger Scruton called it “Mann’s great valediction to Western culture.”

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A Distant Episode

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Paul Bowles) Like the cove in George Orwell’s piece about bookshops, we generally ‘do not desire little stories’, yet this is P’s personal favourite, along with Joyce Carol Oates’ Where are You Going, Where have You Been?. Warning: Both stories are particularly nasty.

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Death Comes for the Archbishop

(by Willa Cather) A series of disappointingly empty episodes in old New Mexico, where the priests are as mixed a bag as anywhere else.

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Dead Souls

(by Nikolai Gogol) Gogol was no Dante. He could not legislate in his novels. But he pinned sinners more lethally than most and the wild scheme to buy and sell the dead, today, looks a lot like dealing in derivatives. The dead souls were peasants who had passed on between official census, and hence you incurred their holding costs (tax) till they were officially designated as dead at the next census. The protagonist, Chichikov, would acquire those dead souls, thereby assuming the tax burden of them, but he would mortgage them as live souls till the next census. Priestley wrote “On…

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