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Lynchings in Duluth (Borealis Books)
Lynchings in Duluth (Borealis Books)
von Michael W. Fedo
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,95

4.0 von 5 Sternen Compelling and disturbing, 15. Juli 2000
I visited Duluth for the first time last year and liked the town so much, I went back three days ago. The title of this book was enough to shock me into buying it and reading it from cover to cover within a few hours of leaving the shop. The subject is depressing, yet fascinating; the book overturned my outsider's assumptions about the town and the state. Fedo does not get sidetracked by excessive detail or the urge to be judgmental; he tells a horrible, simple story in a way that is both easy to read and deeply disturbing. He tries to understand the motivations of most of the key players, the heroes and the villains, and conveys the difficult choices faced by some of those present. For the police and bystanders in Superior Street that day there was a very thin dividing line between complicity and innocence. As William Green asks in the introduction, "at what point is one's guilt by association manifest?".
This tragedy could have happened in any state in the country and it would be harsh to say the events of June 1920 suggest that Duluth folk were uniquely bad amongst the people of the North. A set of chance occurrences came together at that moment in that place with consequences that reflect badly on the entire nation in that era. If Duluth is stained by the murders it is as much for the shameful cover-up (the collective amnesia that allowed three victims to lie forgotten for so many decades) as for the events of eighty years ago. Fedo deserves a lot of credit for excavating this episode from his town's past.


The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena
The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena
von Jean-Paul Kauffmann
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Likeable narrator transcends the credibilty gap, 29. Mai 2000
As a biography, as an autobiography and as a travel book this works very well - yet we learn more about the author's life from the back cover than we do from the 200+ pages that precede it; Napoleon's life is told in a small selection of anecdotes and the author only visited a few places on St Helena during his brief stay. Some of the best writing concerns the battle of Eylau and the author's visit to the battlefield in Eastern Europe, but many St Helena passages are also wonderfully evocative.
Kauffmann has a good eye for island life and a strange, but likeable enthusiasm for his subject. The book opens with these two lines: "I have never had any particular liking for Napoloeon. In fact I sometimes find the fascination he exerts over certain contempories of mine rather suspect." He spends the next 240 pages failing to hide the fact that he not only likes Napoleon but is so fascinated by him that he has become a posthumous Bonaparte stalker, shadowing the emperor from Cuba to Corsica; Lithuania to St Helena.
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody, yet the Napoloeon who fascinates Kauffmann and inspires so much veneration to this day (letters addressed to the emperor were still arriving on the island in the 1990s! ) is a myth created by Bonaparte and perpetuated by those who came after him. There is a gap between Kauffman's Napoleon and the real Bonaparte. There is something faintly absurd & shocking about the French government retaining an honorary diplomatic presence on the remote island in honour of one of the nastiest, most self-glorying rulers in history, a tyrannical dictator whose lust for personal glory cost so many hundreds of thousands of Europeans their lives; a man of no principles, no scruples, a war criminal who created the sort of personality cult that was a model for half of the Eatern European despots of the latter half of the twentieth century. Kauffmann seems to think there is something perfidious about the Allies treatment of the Corsican monster; something tragic about the fact that he wasn't given one more chance to wreak havoc on the continent of his birth. He even seems to think Brits he meets on St Helena ought to feel bad about the way their government dealt with Bonaparte!
The book works because the author is (in complete contrast to the General) a gentle, generous, modest, self-mocking man with a great sense of irony (about himself, his journey and Bonaparte).


Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (OE, Kenzaburo)
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (OE, Kenzaburo)
von Kenzaburo Oe
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,01

5.0 von 5 Sternen A disturbing work of genius, 18. April 2000
This is not an easy novel to read. From the first page to the last the reader's senses are assualted with descriptions of cruelty, violence and the various perversions of delinquent kids and savage adults. There are some moments of tenderness and consolation, but these are invariably ended by new catastrophes.
A group of kids suffer the savage blows of their elders and are then abandoned in an isolated plague ridden village under the threat of being beaten to death if they try to escape.
Comparisons have been made with Lord of the Flies. This book is stronger, harsher, with fewer moments of affection or kindness. It is set in wartime Japan and this background is quite an important element in the book, yet the story is universal, the characters and events could have been placed in any setting at any time in history.
The novel does not have a strong narrative thread. Each chapter is distinct, built round an incident and then linked into the next chapter. The heart of the book lies in the characters and their environs rather than the plot. There are countless descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, and touch - I got a very strong sense of the place where the boys live. It's an earthy, visceral novel full of blood, snow, guts, mud, sex and death.
If I had read the above description by another reviewer I probably wouldn't want to read this book, but the writing is so powerful that I quickly overcame my natural aversion to such relentlessly sordid and depressing material! A very great book, but hard to stomach at times and definitely not for all tastes.


Dance Dance Dance (Vintage International)
Dance Dance Dance (Vintage International)
von Haruki Murakami
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,60

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen An enjoyable novel but..., 4. April 2000
Murakami has cashed in on the deserved success of A Wild SheepChase by writing what is superficially a sequel. He grabs a couple ofthe old characters, but quickly drops them. He introduces several new people, but he doesn't do much with them either. He's a writer desperately trying to clutch at wacky sub plots to bolster a weak central story. He alludes to everybody from Agatha Christie to Nabokov and sprays us with hundreds of empty references to popular culture. Where the quirky characters in the Sheep novel propelled the protagonist through the book, here they are just quirky for the sake of it. The one armed Vietnam vet/poet with a talent for making sandwiches is a fairly desperate apology for the author's lack of imagination: the guy has clearly escaped from a lesser writer's menagerie - perhaps an early Ben Elton book. Murakami borrows liberally from other writers and has a lot of pastiche, self-parody and self-deprecation. The novel has a minor character called Hiraku Makimura a novelist (the same age as Haruki Murakami) who by his own admission writes "crap novels". The character used to be the bright young thing of Japanese literature but now everybody has seen through him and he is reduced to cashing in on earlier successes by regurgitating old material! You can't accuse Murakami of taking himself as seriously as some of his readers do! I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anybody who wants a light read, but my earlier reading of Murakami had led me to hope for something more challenging and ambitious. In this novel he's just treading water. The protagonist is likeable, sympathetic and a wonderful companion for this 400 page ride. He is a worthy representative of this post-everything age, an introverted, decent man looking for meaning and direction, but also a man who is reduced to killing time: "I bought this...and this...and this...I didn't need any of them, but I wanted to kill some time. I killed two hours". He's tried everything - money, sex, marriage, cars, travel, business; liked them all, but ultimately found them all wanting. Now in his 30s he's just drifting in search of something...anything? This character was well developed in A Wild Sheep Chase, but he doesn't evolve much in this novel.


Identity: A Novel
Identity: A Novel
von Milan Kundera
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,01

3.0 von 5 Sternen More of the same, 2. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Identity: A Novel (Taschenbuch)
This isn't a bad book. For those unfamiliar with Kundera this is a gentle introduction to the great man, but there is nothing new for his devoteees. We've seen it all before in much better books. His previous novella, Slowness, was more original and challenging. This one is a somewhat misanthropic rehash of all the old themes. He's one of my favourite writers, but he appears to have cut and pasted this novel from material left over from earlier books.


South of the Border, West of the Sun
South of the Border, West of the Sun
von Haruki Murakami
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen A slight, but enjoyable novel, 5. März 2000
This is an intense, entertaining take on a familiar plot. The portrayal of Hajime, a bored, rich thirty something Tokyo businessman who feels that there is a big hole in his life, is intense and credible. Shimamoto, by contrast, is a sketch that the author doesn't want to colour in for his readers. Hajime says of her - "A quiet smile that nothing could ever touch, revealing nothing to me of what lay beyond". We learn little about Shimamoto's personality or her appeal for Hajime. Does the adult Shimamoto really exist or is she just a figment of his adult daydreams? It doesn't matter. The fact that this loose ends are not tied up is for me a strength rather than a weakness, but if you are the sort of reader who likes a tidy, closed ending, you will be disappointed.


A Quiet Life (OE, Kenzaburo)
A Quiet Life (OE, Kenzaburo)
von Kenzaburo Oe
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,45

5.0 von 5 Sternen A beautiful book, 22. Februar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A Quiet Life (OE, Kenzaburo) (Taschenbuch)
The book has a slow start and proceeds at a similar pace for most of its length. As the title suggests the lives of the two principal characters are quiet and have little impact on the world beyond their family. One of the six chapters is devoted to an analysis of a Russian art house movie. A French novelist with fascist leanings is discussed at similar length - and in sympathetic terms!
This description might sound dull, but for readers not put off by the paragraph above, this is a great novel, a stroll through the mind of one of the best novelists of the latter half of the twentieth century. The self-effacing narrator Ma-Chan and her handicapped musician brother Eeeyore are the main focus for the book's little dramas, but we learn as much, perhaps more, about the absent father (presumably a thinly disguised portrait of the Oe) - and many readers may feel that he is the principal character, albeit one who is observed from afar.
The meditations on Celine and Tarkovsky do not slow the book down: they are intriguing and drove me straight to the nearest bookshop selling the neglected French writer. The diversions to the family's home village; Ma-Chan's introspection and Eeeyore's piano lessons at the home of the Shigetos are all beautifully rendered by Oe. There are echoes of Shusaku Endo's novels and the gentle poetic films of Ozu. The villian is too crudely sketched, but this one of the few weaknesses in a great novel.


Pig Tales: Unknown Paris (New Press International Fiction Series)
Pig Tales: Unknown Paris (New Press International Fiction Series)
von Marie Darrieussecq
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Pretty in Pink, 18. Februar 2000
After looking at the front and back covers I feared this might be yet another overhyped little novel about sex by an overhyped writer - a book that would start with a sprint and then run out of ideas after 40 pages. Although the novel sags half way through, it recovers well and exceeded expectations. Apart from the obvious winks at Orwell and Kafka, the book also reminded me of Zahavi's Dirty Weekend and Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. It's like a Will Self novel, except that it it has humour, heart, narrative skill...and truffles. Four Oinks.


Name of the Rose (Harvest in Translation)
Name of the Rose (Harvest in Translation)
von Umberto Eco
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,67

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Worth the effort, 6. Februar 2000
This is an interesting book, often well written, occasionally addictive, but it reads like a first novel - the glue shows through. The book's greatest strength is the character of William of Baskerville - Eco has created a funny, likeable, flawed hero who is able to hold together an uneven book. Adso is quite well drawn, but there are numerous inconsistencies in the characterisation of the young narrator. Sometimes he reveals a precocious intelligence in his dialogues with William; other times he is unbelievably dense -how could he fail (even under great stress) to differentiate between a book in Greek and one in Arabic script?
There are several long descriptive passages. Some of these are extremely tedious, adding nothing to plot, character or the fascinating ideas Eco is exploring. One or two such passages can be useful in adding "local colour" but Eco overdoes it. He doesn't integrate the various elements in the book: he spends a few pages developing plot, then cuts and pastes a few pages of history, philosophy or church politics; then returns to the plot. The quality of the writing in each section is good, but at times one could be forgiven for wondering if it is a text book or a novel. The previous book I read on medieval heresy was a history book, yet the plot was stronger and more compelling than Eco's despite the fact that the former was restrained by historical fact.
The above criticisms aside, Eco clearly has a great imagination and a witty, playful personality, The book has a beautifully written ending, many delightful passages and left this reader wanting to know even more about some of the many topics dealt with in the book.


Seville Communion
Seville Communion
von Arturo Perez-Reverte
  Taschenbuch

2.0 von 5 Sternen Where's the beef?, 16. Januar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Seville Communion (Taschenbuch)
This is quite an enjoyable book, but it never gets into top gear. The pages turn over quite quickly, but neither the plot nor the characters are convincing or particularly interesting. There are too many characters and most of these are rendered purely for comic effect. The shabby villains are very reminiscent of the losers who perform similar functions in Graham Greene's early thrillers. They may work as amusing caricatures and one might argue that the book's collection of failed flamenco singers and useless ex-bullfighters is ironic - a mockery of other countries perceptions of Spain, but the book needs more than irony, jokes, lustful priests and glamorous aristocrats. Neither the Vatican nor the computer angles are rendered with much conviction and there are many long passages that add nothing to the slim plot or our understanding of the characters.


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