Donald E. Westlake

July 12, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Comedic Books, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(July 12, 1933 – December 31, 2008) He seems to have mostly written pulp, but superior pulp (we rather like 2 films scripted by him – The Stepfather and The Grifters).  But The Varnished Culture particularly remembers Donald on his birthday for his very funny literary work, A Likely Story. Journeyman writer Thomas Diskant (i.e. Westlake) writer of the novel The Pink Garage Gang and important non-fiction commissions covering El Alamein, Golf Course of America, The Ins and Outs of Unemployment Insurance, The Films of Jack Oakie, among others, proposes the ultimate Christmas Book – a seasonal compendium with eclectic contributions from…

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Masters of Atlantis (by Charles Portis)

Everyone knows that the real Atlantis is preserved in a Dubai hotel (Picture by Rokaszil)

(by Charles Portis) (1985) Yes, you do know something of Charles Portis’ work – he wrote the novel True Grit which was made as a film in 1969 and again in 2010.   Rooster Cogburn is shrewd.  Lamar Jimmerson, from Gary, Indiana, Master of Atlantis, is not. True Grit is poignant and amusing. Masters of Atlantis is hilarious, a gloriously weird child of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood and Blaise Cendar’s Moravagine written by a kinder, more whimsical grand master of the hilariously absurd and deluded. (This is a long review, with more of the plot than we would usually include (no real spoilers), to convey this amazing…

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(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

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)

(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;…

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