05/03/2016 § Leave a comment
Hitler is inexplicably catapulted through time into 2011 Berlin. Making fast-friends with a well-connected Kiosk owner, Hitler, presumed satirical method actor, lands himself his own TV spot.
Although sardonic quips are amusing, they would be none the poorer attributed to any cantankerous old man. The meta-satirical novel, even on a backdrop of Farage and Trump, doesn’t pack enough punch to justify converting Adolf Hitler into a lovably grumpy archetypal grandpa. A distastefully disheartening encounter with a Jewish Grandmother compounds Vermes’ failure to deliver a political point. Genuine YouTube clips of Donald Trump do the job nicely on their own, thanks.
“…my daddy used to say that death was the timing of the world’s worst comedian and I think he was right”
07/02/2016 § Leave a comment
Matt is a sectioned schizophrenic, bound through hallucinations of his disabled brother to the accident that killed him. Matt’s acerbic witticisms cleverly highlight bizarre judgements and nonsensical practices too commonly associated with mental illness. Yet, his poetic insights into his own otherness bring home how close to such an abyss anyone could stand, not realising they are about to fall. As more details of his brother Simon’s death are gradually recalled, the reader is forced to consider Matt’s own dilemma; to struggle out of the grip of insanity would mean killing of the perpetually innocent Simon, once and for all.
“Some madness doesn’t act mad to begin with, sometimes it will knock politely at the door, and when you let it in, it’ll simply sit in the corner without a fuss – and grow”
16/05/2014 § Leave a comment
Piscine “Pi” Patel, the Indian son of a zoo-keeper, recounts a memoir that amounts to much more than floating across the Pacific with only a lifeboat and a cantankerous Bengal tiger. Drifting through the Life of Pi is a meditative, theological experience. Delicate storytelling brings waves of comedic happenstance as well as shocking revelations, which can be difficult to read. Martel successfully strikes a balance between adventure and allegory with a shrewd blend of fact, fiction and a few things in-between. Its messages are sufficiently refined and ambiguous to render the story an uplifting one for atheists and believers alike.
11/10/2013 § 1 Comment
Two estranged, dysfunctional families reunite for a week-long sojourn to a rented Red House in England’s rainy countryside. The consciousness of the story flits between eight characters in a narrative that is sparsely populated with insightful observations and overborne by self-conscious characterisation. Characters, young and old, are excessively cerebral and plagued by supposedly shocking illicit desires. The Red House is a gloomy read, pervaded by resentment and guilt. By the close of the book little has truly changed and the reader is left depressingly aware of the character’s lives continuing to tick relentlessly on beyond the last page.
19/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Richard is a money-driven Misogynistic bigot, happy to discard his dysfunctional family in favour of fast cars, booze and women. That is, until he has a stroke and winds up in a coma; terminal until a disembodied voice seems to offer him a final chance to make amends. In stark contrast to Gibbings’ crude comedy Malice in Blunderland, this parable-like novella reads like A Christmas Carol for grownups. Theological dilemmas are interjected by touchingly believable anecdotes and struggles against every-day excesses and egocentricity. A quick and impactful read; what ‘Remember to forget’ lacks in laughs it makes up for in morality.
12/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.
23/07/2013 § Leave a comment
Sulky drop-out Raskolnikov commits the harrowing murder of an elderly shopkeeper. Ostensibly to spare his virtuous sister the obligation to marry for money, Raskolnikov’s motives are grounded in ego and ennui. Dostoevsky’s tale is spun via the construct of conversation, which dismembers the narrative just as Raskolnikov’s mind unravels with self-doubt. The inconsistency of the murderer’s psyche gives the impression of multi-layering, which is buffered by manifold stories and the illusion of guilt over brooding. Watch as the arachnid character is funnelled into his own web, and wonder whether Raskolnikov believes his tangled yarn to involve either crime or punishment.
12/05/2013 § Leave a comment
Three troubled townies set about renovating a derelict house on an isolated island; soon discovering just how literally the abandoned hamlet can be described as a ghost town. Meanwhile, across the malevolent waters, a young doctor is forced to relive his grief when a series of freakish felonies all seem to have his son, who disappeared without a trace, in common. The seemingly disparate threads of crime and horror are entwined in a truly unpredictable way, with plenty of cliffhangers en route. These tense parallel plots, interjected with increasingly frequent and fervent paranormal activity, are a creep-inducing read.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Book review)
27/04/2013 § 2 Comments
Centenarian Allan Karlsson flees his retirement home-imposed birthday celebrations and, through cantankerousness and folly, winds up on the slipper-cloven-shuffle from the authorities with a suitcase full of cash and a trail of corpses in his wake. This books reads like a bad impersonation of a funny story. The title tries too hard to achieve quirky literalism, and it’s downhill from there. The result is a farcical yarn that trivialises murder and shoe-horns in ridiculously unlikely political figures; all without the laughs to back it up. With flaws that can’t be blamed on translation, this novel is lucky to raise occasional wry smiles.
04/02/2013 § Leave a comment
A collection of medically focused mini-biographies of literary greats, most of who are connected by acquaintance and shared ailments. Although comprising some occasionally tenuous theories, Orwell’s Cough is fascinating whether you’re interested in literary or clinical history. It details the development of medicine via profiles of prolific authors plagued by the signature illnesses of bygone creative minds; mental disorder and venereal disease. From a collection of well researched essays Ross has put together a sinuous and gritty read that will enable you to see the writers of your favourite works (and their doctors) in a new, and not altogether flattering, light.