Tag: Fiction

1966, 1968, Books, Fiction

Cancer Ward (1966, 1968) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I have no idea why it took me so long to finish this one. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but something about it turned into a slog for me. (It also happened that I was listening to podcasts when I supposed to be reading, which was a problem.) Anyway, the time it took …

2004, Books, Fiction

The Plot Against America (2004)

This is a flawed but near-great alternative history of the United States in the first years of World War II that manages to be incredibly compelling and affecting even while you suspect the premise might be slightly implausible. However, Roth is such a good writer that you kind of stop caring and if his handling …

1960, Books, Fiction

The Caretaker (1960) by Harold Pinter

This is my first Pinter and I should mention that I had no idea what I was getting into before I read it. I suspect that it would have made more of an impression on me had I seen it, rather than read it, simply because some of the tone of one of the characters …

1995, Books, Fiction

A Fine Balance (1995) by Rohinton Mistry

Every day, but especially days in December, I see someone in Canada or the US on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter who is complaining about how awful our world is. If it’s not an individual, it’s an article or other post about something terrible happening. And this really drives me crazy because I know that …

1969, Books, Fiction

Runaway Horses (1969) by Yukio Mishima

All of us approach anything new from our frame of reference. And so I cannot help but liken this novel, the second part of a tetralogy the rest of which I haven’t read, to Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (aka Demons). It’s been years since I read it, but I felt strong echoes of it in this …

1982, Books, Fiction

Space (1982) by James Michener

The older I get the more I seem to be winning the battle – or at least not losing the battle – with my completist streak. I am writing a review of this flawed novel after having read only 470 pages as a celebration of defeating my completist impulse yet again. I do not need …

1903, Books, Fiction

The Ambassadors (1903) by Henry James

I hate giving up on a book – I just hate it. I have a really strong completist streak in me that has helped me endure through things I’ve really disliked. Since I graduated university I can count the number of books I’ve given up on, on one hand. Usually, it’s non-fiction (such as The …

2007, Books, Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini

This is, for the most part, a compelling, affecting and, at times, devastating novel of what it was like to live as a woman in Afghanistan for the last quarter century or so of the 20th century. It is particularly effective of giving insight into men who hate women – into a whole society that …

2013, Books, Fiction

The Dilettantes (2013) by Michael Hingston

Full Disclosure: This novel was written by a friend of my brother. When I was younger, I reviewed everything without regard to who created it and so wrote some reviews of music made by friends that I didn’t love (though I couldn’t tell them this to their faces because I’m a coward). As I’ve gotten …

1906, Books, Fiction

The Prodigy aka Beneath the Wheel (1906) by Hermann Hesse

This coming of age story is quite affecting and feels like a much better glimpse into the youth of a German male of the era than I am used to, either from Hesse himself or from someone like Thomas Mann.

1919, Books, Fiction

Demian (1919) by Hermann Hesse

This is the kind of book I’d have eaten up when I was in my early 20s, I think. It’s one of those novels of ideas, and the ideas are vague enough that one can project one’s own feelings on them. That’s one reason it would have appealed to me. Also, I was a young …

2011, Baseball, Books, Fiction, Sports

The Art of Fielding (2011) by Chad Harbach

This is an excellent debut novel, featuring a richly constructed world and (mostly) believable characters. It works as both a baseball novel and a college novel. It has been a long time since I cared about characters this much.

1915, Books, Fiction

The Good Soldier (1915) by Ford Madox Ford

Sometimes I can handle stories of the idle rich, sometimes I cannot. This is one of the latter, where I really struggled to care about any of the characters, their rich, bored lives and their endless emotional struggles. I can understand why this novel is so well regarded: it exposed the fraud of “keeping up …

1985, Books, Fiction

Less than Zero (1985) by Bret Easton Ellis

On some level, this feels like an ’80s LA Catcher in the Rye, albeit with richer and older kids, and drugs and prostitution. I feel like this may have been Ellis’ intent, I also think that the acclaim that greeted it upon its release likely was due, in part to that comparison, however misguided. Holden …

2007, Books, Fiction

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks (2007) by Christopher Brookmyre

This is not only  a well-done mystery but it is also a fine indictment of a certain kind of chicanery, one that drives me particularly crazy. SPOILERS

1954, Books, Fiction

Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis is a laugh-out-loud novel about what it’s like to feel like a fraud teaching at a university – something I can sort of relate to – while you hate your (sort of) girlfriend, hate your boss, hate your subject matter and generally hate your life – and that hate manifests …

1959, Books, Fiction

Things Fall Apart (1959) by Chinua Achebe

I love the slow burn of this. Putting aside its importance – isn’t it one of the first major novels by an actual African, if not the first? – I love how this unfolds: you have no idea the real crisis until well into the book. This is just begging for a movie adaptation. But …

1953, Books, Fiction

The Ponder Heart (1953) by Eudora Welty

I’d like to believe that all my favourite funny things – Python, Kids In The Hall, Mr. Show, and numerous others – transcend time and place, and are objectively funny. I know that’s not true, as tons of people don’t like Python, for example. But I’d like to believe. And I’d like to believe it …

1995, Books, Fiction

The Essential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1995) edited by Leonard Wolf

This is an immense edition of what is otherwise a pretty short novella. It is nice that a story like this would get this kind of treatment, but it’s kind of over the top. For example, the novella itself is rather over-annotated. How is that possible, you ask? Well, even one of the footnotes has …

2006, Books, Fiction

The Poe Shadow (2006) by Matthew Pearl

This is a novel about a fictional lawyer investigating the death of Edgar Alan Poe. I appreciate the effort that went into this to make it historically accurate. And I appreciate that, instead of writing a work of scholarship, he tried to make it exciting by writing a novel.

1952, Books, Fiction

Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison

As a white Canadian born in the last quarter of the 20th century, I do not know in any way shape or form what it means to be a Black American (or any other oppressed minority in a European-derived country) but I think perhaps this is the closest I will ever get to understanding it. …

1936, Books, Fiction

The Big Money by John Dos Passos

Whereas I found Nineteen Nineteen to be a significant improvement on the first book, this one feels like he has lapsed back into his bad habits, and he gets confused between the form and the storytelling. He is still writing reasonably compelling stories but he can’t decide whether he wants to tell one person’s story …

Personal

I should get off my ass and do things when I have ideas

So the new John Favreau movie is called Cowboys and Aliens. This bothers me. It bothers me because I had an idea for a cross-genre Cowboys and Aliens film over ten years ago. If only I had done something with it, maybe somebody would have thought it wasn’t terrible and would have paid me money …

Philosophy, Religion, Society

Polytheism is the better fiction

The more I think about it, the more I find polytheism more compelling. I used to think: monotheism is simpler therefore more believable. But on the level of fiction, which it is, polytheism is more believable. Which is more believable: one being with special powers or many? I say many. If it was a film, …