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Infinite Jest: A Novel
by David Foster Wallace
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 February, 1997)
list price: $18.95 -- our price: $18.95
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Editorial Review

In a sprawling, wild, super-hyped magnum opus, David Foster Wallace fulfills the promise of his precocious novelThe Broom of the System.Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction, features a huge cast and multilevel narrative, and questions essential elements of American culture - our entertainments, our addictions, our relationships, our pleasures, our abilities to define ourselves. ... Read more

Reviews (300)

4-0 out of 5 stars DFW creates a completely "other" universe....
The detail contained within this novel is staggering (as one might guess from the sheer heft of the book itself)--the hundred pages or so of footnotes, in tiny print, are amazing.I found myself marveling, at several points while plowing through this literary monster, at the intricacies of the world DFW has created.The concept of subsidized time, the slang, the "new technology" (most of which we already use in our everyday lives today), the political world of North America and the Quebec separatists.... If nothing else, you have to hand it to the author for even being able to come up with the bizarre and creative universe in which the book takes place.

However, if you're someone who has a desperate need for resolution at the ends of books and movies, you may want to steer clear.There's nothing to give away in that department--no explosive denouement, no shock (except for maybe the fact that you've devoted so many hours to reading the incredibly long novel with infinite plots and realizing there's no way to tie them together).However, I think the fact that there is no shock is a sort of sly "wink" by DFW to the reader; after all, one of the main themes in the novel has to do with entertainment--what qualifies as entertainment, how dependent American culture is on entertainment, etc.Reading a novel is entertainment--so the fact that there's no convenient conclusion ought not upset us, since we've been entertained for hours and hours just by getting through the book.While his version of American culture may be exaggerated, there is some truth to the notion of living and/or dying for the sake of entertainment.

If you ever have a chance to read this novel for a college class or a book club, I highly recommend it.I read it on advice from a friend who finished it and desperately needed someone to talk to about it.I think by discussing it, there may be more clarity to so much information.

So, a few suggestions when tackling this novel:read all the footnotes, esp. the filmography of James Incandenza.Read the book as quickly as you can while still retaining the insane amount of information--stuff from the beginning ties back to things at the end, and it's frustrating to have to go back when you vaguely remember something from 700 pages earlier being referenced later.Have a dictionary handy.
All in all, just enjoy the finely-drawn world that the author has created.Don't expect too much in the way of tying up loose ends.You won't have the chance to read many books like this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Never Ceases To Astonish
I have just finished (today) my third complete read of David Foster Wallace's mammoth, extradordinary 1996 novel "Infinite Jest", and I am every bit as amazed and puzzled as the first time I waded through.It's not to say I'm a glutton for punishment, I have simply enjoyed this book more completely than anything else I have ever read.It is an ambitious work that is staggeringly complex and, very frequently, as magnificent as anything written in a very long time.I won't even try to summarize the labyrinthine plot, I'll just say if you haven't read it, and are not intimidated by the length, or of Wallace's penchance for using $65 dollar words, you will be rewarded with a literary experience unlike any other.This book will make you laugh, cry and most importantly, it will make you think.Wallace may seem cruel in that he offers no easy answers for his tale's meaning, he draws his story in oblique and roundabout lines, and leaves it up to the reader to discern for himself what the connections are and fill in the blanks with the clues he's given.I know, I know, that is one of the biggest complaints of the book, that and after nearly 1000 pages of story and nearly another 200 pages of footnotes, there's no real conclusion to all the myriad plotlines.I for one like the fact that he doesn't feel the need to spell everything out for the reader, and makes one mull over his story, and possibly even go back and piece together little fragments of seemingly inconsequential lines of dialogue and ambiguous scenes.But most people have far more important things to do, I'm sure, than wrap their heads around a magnificent work of an acrobat of the English language.Hey, I hear John Grisham has a new book out (or coming out, who can remember?)and the new season of Survivor is sure kicking into high gear.Ifor one like things that remind me that I have a brain and force me to exercise this wonderful organ.Infinite Jest is quite a workout for the brain indeed.

2-0 out of 5 stars Poor Yorick
Nearly a decade after its first publication, David Foster Wallace's novel "Infinite Jest" remains an ink-blot test for readers -- and writers -- of serious fiction.With its 1,079 pages (including nearly 400 footnotes), and its fondness for gags, drugs, cultural theory, recent US popular culture, scientific minutae, and latinate vocabulary, the novel almost invariably divides on matters of literary technique and the question of Wallace's literary talent.

I tend to fall into the camp that says his stylistic pyrotechnics are not bright enough to hide the comparatively dull substance of his writing; but I find it impossible to fully dismiss Wallace as a literary artist."Infinite Jest," like the rest of the rest of the author's work, is neither the Next Big Thing its fans claim (unless we're talking about one of the weighty tomes itself), nor does it signal the beginning of the end of American letters, as Wallace's harshest critics (Dale Peck et al) would have it.

The most damning criticism of such a putatively bold work is that it lacks emotional depth, and this is the the novel's tragic flaw.Wallace seems more interested in inventing acronyms (though who doesn't get a chuckle out of O.N.A.N., for the "Organization of North American Nations"?) and an "apres" filmography than in rendering the human element underlying these.And while his drawing adolescent tennis phenoms in the terminology and speak of popular psychology and millenial technological frenzy rings true, his doing so with the residents of a halfway house, most who are lower-class urbanites, does not; it's pedantic, and perhaps elitist.Wallace is only able to render some of his characters on -- and in -- their own terms.

Moreover, focusing on such young, shallow characters violates what might be the only rule for compelling fiction: there has to be something at stake for the people described therein.True, you won't soon forget Hal Incandenza, the teenage tennis and linguistic prodigy who is as close to a protagonist as this novel offers; but you'll remember him for this (implausible? irrelevant?) combination of natural gifts bestowed by Wallace, not for his rendering of Hal or Hal's story.Hal's lower-class counterpart, a thirtyish petty thug named Don Gately, recovering in a Boston-area halfway house, is more intriguing simply for the difficulty of his situation; however, as written by Wallace, Gately lacks self-awareness to a degree that makes him sympathetic only for his plight.There is little reason to invest much emotion in the personae of "Infinite Jest."

Wallace's experimental style does not disguise the primary weakness of his writing here either. Few of the narratives coalesce, and it is often difficult to imagine why the book's editor did not send certain passages to the exosphere.The apparently arbitrary chronology works against any sort of pace Wallace might have established otherwise.And, though the novel wisely ends on an ambiguous note, this note is frustratingly oblique.It's difficult to imagine why a writer of Wallace's blinding intellectual gifts and erudition would offer up a metafictional trick as the conclusion to his magnum opus."Infinte Jest" feels like it should have ended at least 500 pages earlier, and yet it hasn't earned an ending.

Wallace seems to be trying to add intellectual depth to modern American fiction, without sacrificing the traditional literary devices of characterization and narrative.The author should also be commended for attempting to dramatize the ways in which our hydra-headed consumerism affects the consciousness, and the conscience, of a recognizable cross-section of America at the cusp of the millenium.However, too often the novel reads like a litany of symptoms of modern social malady, with little interest in the implications of these.
... Read more

Isbn: 0316921173
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - General    3. General    4. Fiction / General   


Flashman and the Mountain of Light: From the Flashman Papers, 1845-46
by George MacDonald Fraser
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 April, 1992)
list price: $13.95 -- our price: $10.46
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Reviews (9)

4-0 out of 5 stars Say it isn't so!Flashman shows some courage?!?
In the fourth installment of the Flashman papers, our intrepid hero is in India, helping the Empire expand into the Punjab.And yes, there are instances where Flashman does seem to demonstrate a little spine - but perhaps this is more a result of his working along side equally manipulative and underhanded schemers that Flash looks downright heroic in comparison.

As Flashman fans would expect, the history behind the story is meticulously documented.The tale is set a few years before the crown assumes control of the sub-continent from the East India Company, as India makes is greatest (but ultimately failed) attempt to drive the English out of the region by force. The history alone makes a fascinating read.With the addition of Harry Flashman's escapades to "liven up" the byzantine plotting of real -life theives, turncoats, cowards and liars you have the best Flashman book to date.

5-0 out of 5 stars History has never been more enjoyable
Neither has historical fiction.Harry Flashman is both.By now you are probably joining me in wishing Harry Flashman was here today.I'd vote for him to President.

5-0 out of 5 stars Flashman's fourth, and best so far.
I read this book as part four of my chronological survey of the life and times of the greatest jewel in the British crown. After greatly enjoying the original Flashman papers and the two following edited packages, I consider this installment the best so far.

Fraser not only gives us the expected portion of ribaldry, but puts our hero in an accurately described historic situation in which some of the players are so spineless that they make look Flashy rather virtuous, by comparison.
The result is a well-documented narrative, describing the first series of big battles of the British in the Punjab in which the local powers did not have any scruples about plotting a defeat resulting in thousands of deaths of their own people, just to hold on to power a little longer.

In style, Flashman, who looks rather upstanding through it all, gets none of the credit that he for once deserved. ...

This book was a great read and I can't wait to devour the next volume in the series. ... Read more

Isbn: 0452267854
Sales Rank: 119489
Subjects:  1. British    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - General    4. Flashman, Harry Paget (Fictiti    5. Flashman, Harry Paget (Fictitious character)    6. General    7. India    8. Punjab (India)    9. Soldiers   


Norwegian Wood (Vintage International Original)
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (12 September, 2000)
list price: $13.00 -- our price: $10.40
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Editorial Review

In 1987, when Norwegian Wood was first published in Japan, it promptly sold more than 4 million copies and transformed Haruki Murakami into a pop-culture icon. The horrified author fled his native land for Europe and the United States, returning only in 1995, by which time the celebrity spotlight had found some fresher targets. And now he's finally authorized a translation for the English-speaking audience, turning to the estimable Jay Rubin, who did a fine job with his big-canvas production The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Readers of Murakami's later work will discover an affecting if atypical novel, and while the author himself has denied the book's autobiographical import--"If I had simply written the literal truth of my own life, the novel would have been no more than fifteen pages long"--it's hard not to read as at least a partial portrait of the artist as a young man.

Norwegian Wood is a simple coming-of-age tale, primarily set in 1969-70, when the author was attending university. The political upheavals and student strikes of the period form the novel's backdrop. But the focus here is the young Watanabe's love affairs, and the pain and pleasure and attendant losses of growing up. The collapse of a romance (and this is one among many!) leaves him in a metaphysical shambles:

I read Naoko's letter again and again, and each time I read it I would be filled with the same unbearable sadness I used to feel whenever Naoko stared into my eyes. I had no way to deal with it, no place I could take it to or hide it away. Like the wind passing over my body, it had neither shape nor weight, nor could I wrap myself in it.
This account of a young man's sentimental education sometimes reads like a cross between Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women. It is less complex and perhaps ultimately less satisfying than Murakami's other, more allegorical work. Still, Norwegian Wood captures the huge expectation of youth--and of this particular time in history--for the future and for the place of love in it. It is also a work saturated with sadness, an emotion that can sometimes cripple a novel but which here merely underscores its youthful poignancy. --Mark Thwaite ... Read more
Reviews (112)

5-0 out of 5 stars Work of Art
In the 80s I was a young bookworm when the entire Japan was reading Norwegian Wood. I saw advertisement banners in trains, buses, everywhere in town, and of course in bookstores, but I was a twisted kid then that I refused to read it just because everybody was reading it, thinking people were just after a trend that will go away after a while. I hated doing things others did. Many years have passed without reading Murakami, and I now live in America, being told by Argentineans and Americans, that they like Murakami. After 12 years of not visiting Japan, I did visit Japan, and I could no longer ignore Murakami's book. People in Latin America and Europe are reading Murakami, and I would only look stupid if they can talk about Murakami and I, a Japanese person, have no idea what it is. So finally I read Norwegian Wood in the original Japanese language.

I just did not know Norwegian Wood was that good. I did not know that the world was reading it. I kept refusing good things like that for years just because I have been stubborn. Having read Norwegian Wood, I felt as if a huge hammer, as huge as a truck, hit my head at once. For years and years I was assuming that Murakami was one of the silly pop writers, but I could not possibly deny the good quality of the writing when I finally read it. "Work of Art" was what I had to conclude.

I don't like the cover design of the English version. I really like the original cover design when the book was published in 1987 in Japan.

5-0 out of 5 stars Murakami's haunting love story.
"Thinking back on the year 1969, all that comes to mind for me is a swamp--a deep, sticky bog that feels as if it's going to suck my shoe off each time I take a step," his 37-year-old protagonist, Toru Watanabe, reflects in Haruki Murakami's coming-of-age novel, NORWEGIAN WOOD (1987)."I walk through the mud, exhausted.In front of me, behind me, I can see nothing but an endless swampy darkness" (p. 236).Readers soon learn that eighteen years ealier, Watanabe's love affair with an emotionally troubled young woman led him to the very brink of an existential crisis.

Inspired by the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," Murakami's novel tells the poignant story of Watanabe's introspective college days in Tokyo. After his best friend, Kizuki, commits suicide, Watanabe has a sexual encounter with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko, an equally introspective, though emotionally disturbed young woman.Naoko's older sister has also committed suicide.When her life seems unbearable, Naoko enters a mental health facility where, upon visiting her, Watanabe meets her roommate, Reiko, who is also mentally unstable. The three develop an alchemical friendship, which is bound for sadness.While committed to Naoko (a symbol of death and destruction), whose sanity continues to deteriorate as she retreats further into herself, Watanabe becomes enamored with Midori (a symbol of life and redemption), an independent and sexually liberated young college acquaintance.

The relationship between Watanabe and Naoko is truly mesmerizing. Naoko's letters affect her sole lover with the same "unbearable sadness" he would experience while staring into Naoko's eyes. "I had no way to deal with it," Watanabe sadly recalls, "no place I could take it to or hide it away. Like the wind passing over my body, it had neither shape nor weight, nor could I wrap myself in it."NORWEGIAN WOOD is nothing less than a haunting love story written straight from the heart.

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars A Plea For Honesty
This is the first and only Murakami novel that I've ever read.While the story does indeed revolve around Watanabe's choice between a dying and living love, I find the greatness of Murakami to be in the way he gets a small cast of otherwise isolated people to link up with each other in unorthodox but effective ways, like atoms sharing electrons to form complex molecules.The book left me with the sense that honesty is the force that allows the world to unfold as it should. ... Read more

Isbn: 0375704027
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - General    3. Japanese (Language) Contemporary Fiction    4. Literary    5. Fiction / Literary    6. Reading Group Guide   


by Boris Starling
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Mass Market Paperback (01 September, 1999)
list price: $7.50 -- our price: $7.50
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Reviews (143)

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept, but a bit confused
I originally read Messiah because of the recommendations from other reviews on Amazon that compared it to famous serial killer novels such as "Silence of the Lambs".While I certainly enjoyed the novel, I thought it was a bit confused in parts, something that I think Boris Starling can probably blame on this being his first novel.Starling does a good job of attempting to incorporate a great deal of Christian doctrine into the book, which I thought enhanced the storyline.However, the character development was a bit obviously done a la Thomas Harris, and it simply didn't work for me.The nuance wasn't there.

Overall, if you are a serial killer novel fan, this is a good read.If you're looking for something with the richness and color of a Thomas Harris, look elsewhere.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent thriller!
One of the best thrillers I have read. It's characters are complex, the plot is deep and explores every angle and the dialouge is sharp. I had a good idea who the killer was halfway through and then had to totally do a 180 and change my mind near the end. I ended up getting it right but was still not 100% sure. I absolutely love books like this, that keep you guessing until the end and books that you just can't put down.

It is extremely hard to believe that this is the author's first book. He writes with the confidence of a seasoned author and makes no mistakes in this brilliant first outing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes their crime/mystery/suspense books fast paced, bloody, and well written.

3-0 out of 5 stars mediocre execution of interesting premise
Too much fluff, too little crime fighting. Character relationships bog down the middle so much so that we almost lose sight of the pursuit of the killer. The revelation that allows the hero to uncover the key seems a little too convenient (though I was glad something got things moving again). Some unrealistic behavior by characters. For example, Red, the hero, when he discovers that the murders are happening on the feasts of certain saints goes a whole day before he thinks to check the calender to see when the next killing will take place. The detective should be atleast as good as the reader at thinking ahead. One other detail I found annoying: the book is written in present tense. Makes for a weird tone. And the flashback to the actual last supper was weird and completely unnecessary.

On the plus side. The characters are interesting, the serial killer's plan when it is finally revealed is interesting, if a bit unbelievable. The final twists were really good, but just came too late. ... Read more

Isbn: 0451409000
Sales Rank: 322587
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Espionage / Thriller    3. Mystery fiction    4. Psychological    5. Suspense    6. Thrillers   


The Last Samurai
by Helen Dewitt
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (March, 2002)
list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.47
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Editorial Review

Helen DeWitt's extraordinary debut, The Last Samurai, centers onthe relationship between Sibylla, a single mother of precocious and rigorousintelligence, and her son, who, owing to his mother's singular attitude toeducation, develops into a prodigy of learning. Ludo reads Homer in the originalGreek at 4 before moving on to Hebrew, Japanese, Old Norse, and Inuit; studyingadvanced mathematical techniques (Fourier analysis and Laplace transformations);and, as the title hints, endlessly watching and analyzing Akira Kurosawa'smasterpiece, The Seven Samurai. But the one question that eludes ananswer is that of the name of his father: Sibylla believes the film obliquelyprovides the male role models that Ludo's genetic father cannot, and refuses tobe drawn on the question of paternal identity. The child thinks differently,however, and eventually sets out on a search, one that leads him beyond thecertainties of acquired knowledge into the complex and messy world of adults.

The novel draws on themes topical and perennial--the hothousing of children, thefamiliar literary trope of the quest for the (absent) father--and as such,divides itself into two halves: the first describes Ludo's education, the secondfollows him in his search for his father and father figures. The first stressesa sacred, Apollonian pursuit of logic, precise (if wayward) erudition, and theerratic and endlessly fascinating architecture of languages, while the secondmoves this knowledge into the world of emotion, human ambitions, and theirattendant frustrations and failures.

The Last Samurai is about the pleasure of ideas, the rich varieties ofhuman thought, the possibilities that life offers us, and, ultimately, thebalance between the structures we make of the world and the chaos that itproffers in return. Stylistically, the novel mirrors this ambivalence: DeWitt'sremarkable prose follows the shifts and breaks of human consciousness andmemory, capturing the intrusions of unspoken thought that punctuate conversationwhile providing tantalizing disquisitions on, for example, Japanese grammar orthe physics of aerodynamics. It is remarkable, profound, and often very funny.Arigato DeWitt-sensei. --Burhan Tufail ... Read more

Reviews (74)

5-0 out of 5 stars Gapped Teeth
Wasn't there a film made of this story, staring Tom Cruise? Just kidding!

Really enjoyed this book. The mom is quite obviously Helen DeWitt. So, if she's reading this, I'd like to ask what's so horribly wrong with "veritable cathedrals of ice" or "downy plume of feathers"? "Gap-toothed street urchin" is lazy, stupid writing, but maybe I've read too much Gretel Ehrlich, I actually like "veritable cathedrals of ice"; it holds a nice cadence. Maybe you're just a bit of a snob Helen.

4-0 out of 5 stars A homage to _Shichinin no samurai_
The Last Samurai explores the relationship between a single mother, Sibylla, and her highly gifted son, Ludo. From the mother's perspective we see the experience of from raising children in one's own image - and from perspective of thirteen year old Ludo, his quest to `elect' an ideal father. The story explores what happens when we are given the opportunity to raise our children using a model different from the one offered to us by society - as well as what could happen when those self same children are given the opportunity to choose their own parents.

The Last Samurai is written in a style that encouraged me to volunteer much more of my emotions into the interpretation of the events. Freed up of cumbersome adjectives, the narrative became a rapid, thrilling journey into the lives of two extraordinary people.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, engaging book - in a class by itself
I'm no literary critic, but this book is one of the most brilliant I have read in the last year. Not only is the premise of the story engaging but the techniques Ms. DeWitt employs work beautifully to weave a witty and endearing novel. An interesting cast of characters, especially Ludo and Sybilla! Lessons in French, Italian, Ancient Greek, and, of course, Japanese! Travels from the Amazon to the wilds of Central Asia! And select scenses from Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai"! What is there not to love? ... Read more

Isbn: 0786887001
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - General    3. General    4. Literary    5. Fiction / Literary   


The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
by Stephen Jay Gould
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 March, 2002)
list price: $45.00 -- our price: $29.70
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Editorial Review

The theory of evolution is regarded as one of the greatest glimmeringsof understanding humans have ever had. It is an idea of science, not ofbelief, and therefore undergoes constant scrutiny and testing byargumentative evolutionary biologists. But while Darwinists may disagreeon a great many things, they all operate within a (thus far) successfulframework of thought first set down in The Origin of Species in 1859.

In The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a monumental labor ofacademic love, Stephen Jay Gould attempts to define and revise thatframework. Using the clear metaphors and personable style he is so wellknown for, Gould outlines the foundation of the theory and attempts touse it to show that modern evolutionary biology has lost its way. Hethen offers his own system for reconciling Darwin's "basic logicalcommitments" with the critiques of modern scientists.

Gould's massive opus begs a new look at natural selection with the fullweight of history behind it. His opponents will find much to criticize,and orthodox, reductionist Darwinists might feel that Gould has giventhem short shrift. But as an opening monologue for the new century'sbiological debates, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory sets amountainous precedent in exhaustive scholarship, careful logic, andsheer reading pleasure. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Reviews (53)

5-0 out of 5 stars Gould's last work sets the standard for the 21st century
Anything and everything by Gould is worth reading. He was aware that he was dying as he finished this book, and it bears the marks of an attempt to cram a lifetime of study and thought into one work. One feels that had he lived longer, the book would have been shorter. The extensive coverage of nearly forgotten figures who represent many examples of one type of opinion is not really necessary to make his points. The reader who is not a specialist will want to do a bit of skimming.

But the length is a minor flaw. The book is an attempt to make all of his conclusions available to both the lay reader and his colleagues. Fundamentalists will read it as a critique of Darwinism; it's not. It represents an extension of Darwin to take into account all that the 20th century revealed about genetics, extinction, cladistics, emergent properties, andastronomical catastrophes. Hopefully it will stand as a monument to empiricism in the face of the new Dark Age that some see coming -- a time when we will forget not only what we knew, bu that we ever knew it.

2-0 out of 5 stars Needs a sympathetic rewrite or at least an editor
I do not recommend you read this book unless you are an academic in the field and need to do so.Although I am unsympathetic with many of the ideas in it, the primary reason for my low rating is that the book was overlong and poorly written where it matters.

I'll start with what I liked about the book.The first chapters were on the history of evolutionary theory, and it is here where Gould's principal strength as a popularizer comes through well.Although these chapters could have been more concise, and they were oriented towards backing Gould's ideas, I enjoyed them for the most part.The last chapters in the modern theory section on the importance of constraint were interesting, though they suffered heavily from Gould's style of discourse.I found the last pages of the book on the importance of contingency to be quite beautiful.

The bulk of the book consisted of the material on punctuated equilibrium and Gould's hierarchy of Darwinian individuals. I had issues with the ideas themselves, but these are a distant second to what I felt about Gould's notion of an argument.Evolutionary biology is not a branch of philosophy and textual analysis should not, as Gould claims, "be pursued more often in scientific discussion."They are not done so, according to him, because of the "philistinistic culture of science."Molecular biology and mathematics are vital components of evolutionary biology, as much and perhaps more so than the incomplete fossil record.Gould gave lip service to molecular biology and much less respect to the now venerable and important discipline of population genetics - except of course when the results from these fields backed up his narrative.

Gould's use of lawyerly argument, where verdict is truth, is the reason why he is rightfully disdained for opening the door to creation "science" in the debate on teaching evolution in schools. By stripping away hard science, and replacing it with metaphors, cartoons, and narratives, Gould took a rigorous theory, based firmly on empirical and deductive facts, and replaced it with a secular creation myth that is open to attack.Although this has made him the darling of what he calls the "literati", it is also what made him a bad scientist.The fact that he addressed modern Darwinism tangentially, chose instead to focus on Darwin's and others Victorian era writings, and rejected ideas because they didn't "feel right," didn't improve his standing with me.

Gould's writing when it came to the science under debate was a nightmare.Intentionally or not, he constructed a complex hierarchy of nested, irrelevant tangents; tangents that were fragments within sentences, which were then tangents within paragraphs, which were in turn tangents within sections, ad nauseam. One of the most frustrating aspects of the book was that he refused to give a clear definition of what he meant by "punctuated equilibrium" until pg 1001: "We locate any revisionary status for punctuated equilibrium in its suggestions about the nature of stasis, and particularly its implications for attributing macroevolutionary phenomena to causes operating on the differential success of species treated as Darwinian individuals.Ordinary speciation remains fully adequate to explain the causes and phenomenology of punctuation."Others, such as Richard Dawkins, have done much on addressing this definition of punctuated equilibrium.My comment here is that it took so long to come to it, and up until this point Gould hinted at saltationist underpinnings to punctuated equilibrium, only to later decry and impugn the integrity of his critics for criticizing these alternative definitions.

My main intellectual criticism was of Gould's hierarchy of Darwinian individuals.I thought this was fine as a phenomenological tool to describe macroevolutionary events, but Gould inverted cause and phenomena to claim that species selection is irreducible to gene or organism selection.His reason why?"Nonlinearities."Along with not knowing what the word "fractal" means, which he used quite a bit to mean either "self-similar" or "scales up", Gould thought "nonlinear" meant "hopelessly complex."His style of argument?Keep repeating the word irreducible until the reader breaks down.Gould was snidely dismissive towards the results of population genetics, but only addressed them directly in a (relatively) brief two page discussion where he claimed that they had to be invalid because population genetics models were able to explain both punctuated equilibrium (stasis followed by rapid change) and his cartoon notion of Victorian gradualism.Since Gould himself was clear that both are evident in the fossil record, it is strength, not a weakness, of a modeling system to be able to explain both.

Although the ideas in the book did not all resonate with me, I would have recommended it if it was more clear and much, much more concise, since the ideas in it are an important part of the current discussion on evolutionary theory.But because of the poor writing in the important scientific parts of the book, and Gould's often unprofessional comments towards critics, I don't think this behemoth of a tome is worth your time.

2-0 out of 5 stars Pathetic
I'm a fan of Gould.I've read nearly all of his books that were collections of his monthly articles in Natural History magazine.I like his style and topics.

However, "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory" (TSET) is not a good book.

First, it is very poorly written.We know Gould can write plainly and clearly, since most of his Natural History books are plain and clear.But the sentences in TSET are overly convoluted.It is obvious that he has fallen victim to PhD-ese, whereby the author tries to impress his peers with verbosity and complexity."Gee, if I (the reader) cant understand it, it must be a really advanced concept!" is what Gould is shooting for.

Second, sadly, he spends a large part of the book defending his theory of Punctuated Equilibrium against attacks from its detractors.Gould sounds very defensive in these chapters.He takes the attacks on his pet theory way too personally.He even accuses the attackers of being jealous.This kind of childish petulance is not suitable for a book that is ostensibly a serious academic tome.Sure, punctuated equilibrium is an okay concept, but let it speak for itself.Let it get judged in the area of ideas.But dont spend hundreds of pages begging for it to be accepted.

Third, the book does not cleary summarize major evolutionary theories. Although he does touch on major evolutionary concepts, he does so in prose only.This is science, so I expect numbers, charts, figures, tables.A picture is worth a thousand words, but there are very, very few pictures in this thousand page book.

In summary, it appears that Gould is trying to establish a legacy as a serious and important scientist.Unfortunately, he appears to suffer from some kind of inferiority syndrome:he is afraid that history will record him as "merely" journalist that had a gift for explaining science to the layman.The sad thing is that his popular layman books are outstanding, and he did not need to write TSET to secure his respect in my mind.
... Read more

Isbn: 0674006135
Subjects:  1. Evolution    2. Evolution (Biology)    3. Life Sciences - Evolution    4. Punctuated equilibrium (Evolut    5. Punctuated equilibrium (Evolution)    6. Science    7. Science/Mathematics    8. Study & Teaching    9. System Theory   


My Century: A Novel
by Gunter Grass
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 December, 1999)
list price: $25.00 -- our price: $25.00
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Editorial Review

Perhaps it's fitting that the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Günter Grass, should be the one to see the old millennium out in style. His My Century is comprised of 100 short chapters, one for each year of the 20th century, each told by a different narrator. And of course, since Grass is German, the century he refers to is German as well--a fact that could prove a little daunting to readers not familiar with the intricacies of that country's history. "1900," for example, throws us smack in the middle of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from a German soldier's point of view. "1903" jumps us into the head of a young student who, clad in a new boater, admires the first Zeppelin, buys a copy of Thomas Mann's latest book, Buddenbrooks, and attends the launching of the world's largest ship, Imperator, among other historical events. "1904" is concerned with a miners' strike and "1906" is all about German-Moroccan foreign relations.

Yet as year succumbs to year and one narrative voice piles on top of the next, My Century becomes more than the sum of its parts. And Grass always manages to surprise. The chapters "1914" through "1918," for example, rather than being narrated by the usual suspects--young soldiers in the trenches, worried mothers at home, embittered war widows or shell-shocked veterans--are relayed by a '60s-era young woman who brings two great German chroniclers of the war together. As the now-elderly Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Ernst Jünger (On the Marble Cliffs) meet and spar over the course of several meals, their reminiscences of the Great War present two radically different views. Jünger, for example, says: "I can state without compunction: As the years went by, the flame of the prolonged battle produced an increasingly pure and valiant warrior caste..." Remarque's response is to laugh in Jünger's face:

Come on, Jünger! You sound like a country squire. Cannon fodder quaking in oversized boots--that's what they were. Animals. All right, maybe they were beyond fear, but death never left their minds. So what could they do? Play cards, curse, fantasize about spread-eagled women, and wage war--murder on command, that is. Which took some expertise. They discussed the advantages of the shovel over the bayonet: the shovel not only let you thrust below the chin; it gave you a good solid blow, on the diagonal, say, between neck and shoulder, which then cut right down to the chest, while the bayonet tended to get caught between the ribs and you had to go all the way up to the stomach to pull it loose.
It may be Remarque and Jünger talking, but the prose is pure Grass. The years leading up to and including World War II are narrated by a variety of voices: a communist in a forced-labor camp in 1936; a schoolboy "playing" Spanish Civil War with his classmates in 1937. The events of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, become inextricably linked with the November 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, as a German schoolteacher gets in trouble with the Parent-Teacher Association for his "obsession with the past." Indeed, it is the way Grass mixes past and present, the voices of the famous and the ordinary, that lends such power to My Century; and by the time he brings the reader up to the last weird and wonderful chapter, his century has become ours as well. --Alix Wilber ... Read more
Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars Anything but a dumb Century
The lives of men and women always intersect with history; it seems a simple truism.Few people understand this as deeply and profoundly as German, and only a few among them understand it with the level of sophistication that Gunther Grass does.Through the narratives of eighty some odd characters each having at least one year to give a bit of their life story in relation to the history of the year that heads the chapter, both real and imagined people try to make sense of how their own lives intersected with history.

To be a German in the twentieth century was to be constantly aware of forces beyond personal control and to be caught up events, tragic or joyous, that had historical implications that were far reaching.The narrators are writers of note; academics; refugees from and in Germany, spies; children; academics; veterans of both World Wars in both of the post World War II states that comprised Germany; even the ghost of Grass's mother.Taken as a whole it is a group portrait of a country that has an infinitely complex and tragic relationship with the century that they were such horrifying, but also nuanced, part of shaping.

There was not a single year/chapter of this book that I did not find useful in its ability to shed light on how Germany and the Germans became what and who they are.Grass is an old man from a city that no longer exists-his native Danzig is now the thoroughly Polish city of Gdansk.His life was shaped by the colossal events of the Second World War and its partition after the war.For Grass, like all thoughtful Germans of his generation, there is no escaping questions about the meaning of being a German; most of the world had united to make sure that the Nazi regime that claimed to speak for them would wiped off the face of the Earth.This is no longer the case.The events that animated the experiences of Grass and his generation are slowly but surely, and permanently, leaving the memories of men and women and going to permanently reside in history.The realm of experience is dwelt upon here to make a record for the generations that were spared the experiences of the most deliberately violent century in human history.

This very large story is about the complexities and the sometimes idiocies of national identity.Grass's Germany is at once noble and savage, gracious and vicious, pensive and thoughtless, charitable and materialist, good and evil.Mostly they are all somewhere in between diametric opposites. It shall be as much at the extremes of human behavior that and attitudes that the Germans and Germany will be judged by future generations, and Grass knows it-the novels that made his career dealt with this fact dealt with it very, very, bluntly.The burden of nationality and history has grown lighter with each successive decade of Grass's career and he seems to consciously be doing now what he unconsciously did in his early work; writing for the ages.This is why his work bogs down.

"My Century" is the easiest of Grass's novels to read, but specifically because of the scope of its subject matter it is bigger than any that Grass has ever before tackled it seems to be a bit superficial.The overarching question that is posed to the reader-where are we going and where have we been-German or otherwise, is neither answered fully or left open enough to let the reader answer the question himself.In this respect, the portrait is something of a failure.But it would be wrong to cast it aside as irrelevant because of this.The failure to answer this question shows that Grass sees his people as suffering from adose of multifaceted humanity that they are usually not acknowledged for having; at least on this side of the Atlantic.This humanity will serve the Germans who will only know the twentieth century from the history books well.Unlike Grass, they will be able to escape history.So may we all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Also sprach Gunter Grass
My growing up in the Netherlands in the sixties has not necessarily been the best way towards a longtime love affair with Germany, the Germans and their culture. In addition, I was one among many students to find out that becoming a German language teacher was not often the first career choice for many an aspiring educator, resulting in an anti-German attitude further enhanced by ignorance.

In 1985 I spent some time around Frankfurt, finally learned the language and decided to start reading Grass after enjoying the level of indignation that the writer's frankness about the taboo of his country's modern past aroused in his fellow country (wo)men.

This book is in many respects a further exploration, analysis and critique of the 20th century history of Germany. Moreover, the literary form of one chapter per year and the choice of many different voices, subjects and accents, turns reading this book in the opposite of dragging oneself through a stuffy academic history book. Thanks to his truly titanic literary abilities Grass not only shows the reader what happened, but more importantly what it felt like.

Justifiably, both World Wars feature prominently among the chapters. Deviating from the general method of a different voice for each year, the years of both wars are dealt with in "chapter style" and contain discussions between writers/journalists looking back at the wars from distant perspectives. Thus Grass provides the reader with the central themes, that many German readers/critics failed/ignored to recognize: what happened, why did it happen, what did it teach us, and how can we apply this knowledge that we acquired at such a high price. I can't help but think that a lot of the criticism that this book received in Germany was another expression of the current dogma "that was in the past, enough about that already", replacing the dogma that I heard growing up next door "we didn't know about it and we didn't want it (to start with)".

I greatly enjoyed this masterpiece, it's honesty, it's heart, it's intellect, it's humor and it's uncanny virtuosity. While I do agree that a thorough knowledge of recent German history adds an extra dimension to the appreciation of this book, I would recommend it to anyone interested in great literature.

I read this book in German (get it at the German Amazon site) and ran into a copy of this translation in a sidewalk sale. Grass' language can be best described as German to the nth degree, just like JS Bach's counterpoint to the nth degree. English and German are simply too different to allow an effective translation of Grass' language. Even a decent translation like this one cannot give you more than about 50% of the original. Yet, with a writer like Gunter Grass that still amounts to a very full glass.

The unification of Germany has resulted in a confrontation with and atonement for the past that is genuine and impressive. I hope that books like this one may further help in us outsiders in further changing our attitude to he country/nation that did not only give us Faust, but more importantly, Goethe.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Poignant Glimpse of the Past Century
I began reading this book not knowing much of what it was about or where it would lead me.The brief yearly vignettes that Grass paints are just enough for the reader to gain a sense of time, place, and emotion.As a progressive work, the chapters unfold year by year to yield a personalized account - individual by individual - of what the twentieth century was like in Germany.Having studied the language and worked in Stuttgart, I was familiar with many of the references to cities, events, and jargon that the casual reader might miss.I would recommend the work as a quality introduction (albeit not a historical factbook or almanac) to Germany's recent history.In its historical fiction it reads like a novel - intricate, yet accessible.A worthwhile read from a highly talented writer. ... Read more

Isbn: 015100496X
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - General    3. General    4. Grass, Gunter - Prose & Criticism    5. Literary    6. Short stories    7. Biography & Autobiography / Literary   


Understanding Analysis
by Stephen Abbott
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (12 January, 2001)
list price: $49.95 -- our price: $43.09
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Reviews (8)

3-0 out of 5 stars beware, no solutions
Good book, but no solutions to any exercises. Usually Springer books do have some solutions, so it was a bit disappointing.

4-0 out of 5 stars the missing star
Stephen Abbott is with no doubt a very talented writer in mathematics. The book is a fun to read because
of its style : each chapter starts describing a basic mathematical question that challenged the human mind
in history. This always makes you curious to read further to discover the great constructs made by the creative thinkers who solved these problems. Also, each chapter ends with adescription of related topics and some historical notes . I really like this style ....

However I did not give this book a five star rating for the following reasons :

-Some proofs contain gaps that are left as an exercise to the reader. Not all of these exercises are
staightforward however. It sometimes took me several hours to find a solution for these exercises ...
This is OK for real exercises, though it is no fun to have to spend this time filling up some basic proofs..
Sometimes I also had the impression that the hints were misleading. For example, I completed the proof on the double summation bit did not at all understood why we needed the hint prooved in exercise 2.8.4. Also when I tried to complete the
proof of the sequential criterium for nonuniform continuity (theorem 4.4.6), I did not see why we would need the hint
to take values 1/n for epsilon...
-Some explanations are missing, (maybe this will be solved in second edition). For instance :
a)please give a clear definition of what an interval is before using the name interval throughout the book.
b)In baires theorem, the author claims that every open set is either a finite or countable union of open intervals .... Please explain why ...
-Especially the 'more advanced' topics like baire 's theorem, fourier analysis, metric spaces, ... are rather presented as one big exercise. If you want to learn these topics, there are better books, providing you with much more information....
-This book only covers a limited range of topics. All the analysis is done for real variables in one dimension.

I think we need a broader scope, even for an introductionary course. My opinion is that modern analysis should start from the beginnigwith n-dimensional metric spaces, conveying your mind to the beautifull theories of normed linear spaces and banach spaces.
-Since the book is targeted to the beginning student of abstract math, it would be good idea to include some pages
(appendix) on logic reasoning like second order predicate calculus, and some basic set theory ....

So, no five stars for this edition (maybe for a next edition ??)...
Giving this beautifull book less then four stars however would be unfair, since it definitely has it strengths : the things that are explained are explained very clear and the narrative style of the author always keeps the reader interested!!! Nobody could have done that better !!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Joy to Read
This is my first analysis book.So, I have no basis for camparing it as an analysis book.But, as a math book, it is honestly the most readable and enjoyable I have ever read. ... Read more

Isbn: 0387950605
Sales Rank: 165012
Subjects:  1. Calculus    2. Functional Analysis    3. Functions Of Real Variables    4. Mathematical Analysis    5. Mathematics    6. Science/Mathematics    7. Mathematics / Mathematical Analysis   


Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book)
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (02 May, 2000)
list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
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Editorial Review

From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet--incarnate as the Metaverse--looks something like last year's hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist--hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what's a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible. ... Read more

Reviews (439)

4-0 out of 5 stars Stephenson's unique
Snow Crash is one of those books that will either grab you in the first 30 pages, and hold you to the end, or you will hate.You'll worry about the comic book aspect at first, but quickly get past that.

As with much of Neal Stephenson's writing, Snow Crash is completely unique.It is hilarious through the first half of the book, and has a couple of Stephenson's amazing allegories sprinkled throughout.One in particular describing a Dilber-view of a future Federal bureaucracy is worth the price of the book on it's own.Snow Crash is not, however, at the level of Cryptonomicon.The world of Snow Crash seriously bogs down and becomes Hollywood-movie-clich├ęd at the end.But it's a great ride getting there.

1-0 out of 5 stars Will It Ever End??!?!?!
My gosh, what a complete waste of time.I finally put the book down after 6 weeks and 273 pages.I just couldn't take it anymore.I would have stopped a long time before now, but I don't like leaving books unfinished.In this case, not finishing is better than the alternative...

Nothing every really happened in the book, at least not the part I read.There were a few scenes where something actually transpired besides dialog or author rambling, but the scenes were shallow and short.

I kept waiting for some big event to take place after all the description, but over half way through the book, it never did.I just feel like I wasted the last 5 weeks trying to get through this book, when normally it takes me only a week to get through one that can keep my attention.

I was not impressed.

1-0 out of 5 stars something for a Jerry Bruckheimer film, but that's all...
From what I heard, this was meant to be up there with Neuromancer, but it didn't even come close in my opinion.

After [what seemed like] the first three or four times Stephenson explains to the reader that computers understand binary, and that binary is made up of 1's and 0's, I started to get a bit worried about this novel.

I continued though, thinking that he was just educating the computer illiterate in the early chapters, but it just went on and on...

The whole thing just seemed to be made up of a mish-mash of 'cool' images like hackers, samurai, the Mafia, skateboarding, etc, etc, etc... All just thrown into the mix for the sake of being cool.

The only interesting thread of an idea in the book just sort of trailed off into nothingness, just like the rest of the story.

I give it one star for the mythological storyline [which was the only thing that kept me reading], and for resisting the urge to write the protagonist from the first person. Everything else just annoyed me.

If you're after a cyber-novel with genuinely creative ideas (not just a Neuromancer wannabe), try Permutation City (Greg Egan). ... Read more

Isbn: 0553380958
Subjects:  1. American Science Fiction And Fantasy    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - Science Fiction    4. Science Fiction    5. Science Fiction - General    6. Science Fiction - High Tech    7. Fiction / Science Fiction / General   


The Apprentice
by Lewis Libby
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 February, 2002)
list price: $12.95 -- our price: $12.95
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Editorial Review

Setsuo is a young apprentice at a remote mountain inn in turn-of-the-century Japan, who falls in love at first sight of the beautiful Yukiko, one of a roving band of actors who have come to stay. Trapped at the inn by a blizzard is a larger group of strange travelers. Emotionally wrought by his feelings for Yukiko, Setsuo cannot see that he is getting involved in political skulduggery as he tries to fathom the increasingly odd behavior of the guests. The finding of a corpse and a mysterious small box keep the reader guessing too. ... Read more

Reviews (13)

1-0 out of 5 stars Go to Japan, my man!
Thank god this book is out of print.I lived in Northern Japan.I took the time to learn the language and the culture.The mystery of this book was not the murder that took place in the middle of a snow storm it was that it was published despite a weak plot and even weaker characterization.Stick with what you know, Mr. Lewis.Writing novels and Japan are not it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa's Name of the Rose.
After having been exposed to an avalanche of adds in the Washington Post, that cleverly juxtaposed literary ability with it's author's prominent membership in the current Bush administration, I decided to give Libby's Apprentice a fair chance. I'm glad I did.

While others have already made remarks on the similarity between the narrative structure of The Apprentice and some of Kurosawa's movies, the combination of a young man finding his way through snow and life amidst a web of intrigues also brought Eco's "Name of the Rose" to mind.

While using a style of prose that sometimes approaches the "twisted level" dangerously, Libby gives a masterful impressionistic picture of a gathering of strangers inside a small inn, while a blizzard is raging outside. The young apprentice, who is in charge during the innkeeper's absence, sets out on a rescue mission during this storm and unwittingly gets caught up in a political intrigue. Intertwined with this main plot is the apprentice's growing infatuation with an adolescent girl accompanying a performer, who is among the guests in the inn.

While Eco showed his semiotic background in his Name of the Rose, Libby explores his judicial background both subtly and effectively in this novel. In despite of the lack of a central older guide the apprentice finds his way out of the maze. On top the mystery part of the novel, Libby's description of the storm and all other manifestations of Mother Nature reflect a non-apprentice level of impressionistic poetry. While Libby is too skilled an author to provide the reader with airtight evidence at the end of the book, I was impressed by the subtle way in which the apprentice drew his conclusions after leaving the maze and stepping out of the metaphorical snow.

Just like Helen Dewitt, Lewis Libby is an author whose debut already reflects seasoned mastery

5-0 out of 5 stars Sexy stuff....
Libby's story builds and builds and builds until it reaches a crescendo of sexual and political tension.What a great read!Hope he is working on something new.... ... Read more

Isbn: 0312284535
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Historical    3. Historical - General    4. Suspense   


Wittgenstein's Nephew : A Friendship (Phoenix Fiction Series)
by Thomas Bernhard, David McLintock
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (15 February, 1990)
list price: $12.00
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars "To Receive An Award Is To Be Pissed On"
I'd heard about Thomas Bernhard's 'rant like novels' for years, but had dosed myself withso much literary pessimism that I needed a break.After reading the first few paragraphs of "Wittgenstein's Nephew", I knew I had misjudged the man's writing beforehand.This is not so much Schopenhauer or Cioran as it is Ionesco or Gombrowicz; there is an element of humor in Bernhard's work (although not overt) which exposes the comedy of human existence in a comedic, rather than depressing and foreboding, way.

Bernhard's narrator is a close friend with Paul Wittgenstein, nephew of the famous philosopher.Paul, while as brilliant and analytical as his prestigious nephew, is unfortunately quite insane and completely misanthropic.Bernhard takes pains to highlight the fact that Paul, despite his pronounced writers' block and inability to produce anything (except a few scattered memoirs, which are apparently destroyed before his death), is as much of a giant as his nephew.The absurdity of life surrounds the two friends, as they are both incarcerated for more-or-less terminal illnesses, the narrator's being physical, Paul's being mental.We watch the sad deterioration of this once outgoing genius to a raving maniac, unable to pass a homeless man without giving away his life savings.The narrator describes his nearly inescapable feelings of hopelessness as his troubled friend Paul responds to everything with a disturbing:
"Grotesque, grotesque."

The narrator hates nature, and here we are reminded of Huysmans.His descriptions of the 'walks' he is recommended to take ("I was never a walker") arouse in him nothing but the most repulsed feelings.Bernhard's writing sometimes reminds one of Schopenhauer's essays; once he or his character voices an emotion or thought on human existence, they feel the need to repeat it five thousand times in five thousand different ways.In Schopenhauer, this is merely annoying.In Bernhard, it is funny.

The ending is the saddest part of the novel. The narrator, out of a "sickening instinct of life preservation," avoids his friend. He appears psychotic and talks of nothing but death.Paul, hated by his family (along with his nephew, the two are the familial outcasts), decides to play a "prank" which does not go over well.The last line by the narrator is crushing: "I have not visited his grave to this day."

5-0 out of 5 stars an bernhard for a start
i am a 23 old from austria, and like reading bernhard for a couple of years now. but its not just his books, but the person itself that fascinates me (and many others) a lot. i actually live 30min from bernhards farm near gmunden/ohlsdorf in upper-austria, which i visited a couple of times. is bernhard a missanthrop, or not? is he a pessimistic, or not? i came to the conclusion that he is not. in many times and ways he was fooling medias, newspapers and interviewers, he had his fun, he sold lots of books, he made a point, lots of money and he is a legend. his books are translated in over 30 lanuages. if you want to learn about bernhard you might read the book from karl ignaz hennetmair called "ein jahr mit thomas bernhard". that hennetmair is b. neighbour, and close friend for some 10 years until they disbanded for some reasons, nobody knows. actually, i tried bernhard in english, but, its not meeting the spirit of b. at all. maybe the meaning is still there but in german, the text reads like music. its unique...
"wittgensteins neffe" is a good bernhard starter, including the musical writing, and the bernhard world, without digging too deep (if you wanna dig really deep, choose "frost").
my favourite bernhard book is "das kalkwerk", and "der untergeher". - any emails are welcomed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Forgive Me Friend, Here Is The Eulogy I Promised
"Wittgenstein's Nephew" is a reflection on friendship and loss, a remembrance of a dear friend, and a regret for a missed eulogy. It is written by Thomas Bernhard, about Paul Wittgenstein, who were good friends for over a decade. It ranks unquestionably among Berhnard's finest works. (The book was written in 1982. Bernhard was Austrian, 1931-1989, and met Wittgentstein (1924-1979) in 1967).

The book holds to no fixed plot, but is a series of discursive episodes about the author and his friend engaged in various episodes: meeting in a hospital, attending the opera, visiting a once-cosmopolitan friend now living in the remote rural lands of Austria, frequenting the same literary clubs and cafes, and many similar tales.

Every vignette is a jewel, and they are plenty, but few are about Paul directly, or reveal Thomas's feelings explicitly. Each time Bernhard begins talking directly about Paul, or his inner feelings, he diverts attention quickly to another story. His heart is so obviously broken he cannot bear to talk about his friend, but only their good times together. Still, it is abundantly clear from his story-telling, Thomas loves Paul like a brother, truly a "best friend."

Paul was a brilliant man, like his famous uncle Ludwig, the philosopher, and musically talented, like another Paul Wittgenstein (Ludwig's brother, the pianist) but also emotionally unstable, and financially irresponsible. After a late-life divorce, in his usual ill health, Bernhard describes Paul crying, in his dark and empty apartment, in rough condition despite its prime city location, but tells us he left Paul alone in his misery, to go sit in the park. Thomas cannot face his emotions at all. He cannot express himself this way, and to this day it eats him up inside. As an author, and a man of erudition and education, he does his best to express himself in the only way he understands, which is through intellectual discourse.

During their friendship, Paul asked Thomas to speak at his funeral of an optimistically projected "two hundred friends." "Wittgenstein's Nephew" is essentially that eulogy, delivered with loving tenderness, and heartaching apology. It is not melodramatic, it is always in intellectual control, but it communicates its tragedy effectively clearly nonetheless. It begins unremarkably, and seems to wander thereafter without much direction, but by the end it has proven itself compelling and interesting. We are delighted to read the personal tale of two best friends, yet also sympathetic toward Thomas's need to unburden his soul. It is undoubtedly one of Bernhard's superior works, like "Yes" before it (1978), and "Extinction" afterward (1986). ... Read more

Isbn: 0226043924
Sales Rank: 464174
Subjects:  1. 1907-    2. Authors    3. Bernhard, Thomas    4. Fiction    5. Fiction - General    6. General    7. Philosophers    8. Wittgenstein, Paul,    9. Biography: general    10. Fiction / General    11. German    12. Modern fiction    13. Novels, other prose & writers: from c 1900 -    14. Wittgenstein, Paul   

The Life of God (as Told by Himself)
by Franco Ferrucci, Raymond Rosenthal
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (15 June, 1996)
list price: $22.00 -- our price: $15.40
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Editorial Review

In this comic yet poignant novel, God emerges from primal chaos, creates the cosmos, then realizes that His creation is monstrously flawed. As he agonizes over the limitations of human intelligence, He realizes that He's lost control over the earth's destiny. Although He encounters many heroes of the human spirit including Moses, Buddha, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, and Mozart, He is ultimately frustrated that no one sees that self-understanding offers the only path by which mankind can save the world. Defeated, God retreats to the borders of the universe to "rest in the late ripeness of my years," reflecting as much Franco Ferruci's disappointment in humankind as His own. ... Read more

Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars beautiful blasphemy
I don't understand why anyone would judge this book on its historical or Biblical accuracy, which is in fact rather childish. This is literature at its best, where the pages come to life as the history of humanity is altered to fit the tale. Nothing is sacred in this book, and thank God for that. In fact, better to say that humanity is made sacred in this work, for all its mistakes and errors.

Look elsewhere for a cruel and heartless diety of scripture, look here to find a God gifted with the highest quality--that of being human.

5-0 out of 5 stars Imaginative tale
This is a very creative and thought-provoking book.I definitely recommend it and hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

1-0 out of 5 stars Is anything considered sacred anymore??
From the opening paragraph throughtout this entire book, basic
premises of the Bible and the sacred beliefs of millions of Christians are assaulted. Omnipotent God is portrayed as forgetful, purposeless, inept and clueless about managing what he has created. Indeed, God attempts suicide only to rise out of the muck(promoting evolution rather than Creationism). Ferrucci's God decides not to hang around at the Nativity because he isn't sure he's the father. Further idiocy has Jesus getting drunk before the Crucifixion and flinging the cup at God. Most reviews have found this book entertaining. My Bible says, "How can men be wise? The only way to begin is by reverence for God. For growth and wisdom comes from obeying his laws".Psalms 111:10. This work is totally irreverant, blasphemous and discounts the power and wrath of Holy GOD. ... Read more

Isbn: 0226244954
Subjects:  1. Allegories    2. Autobiographical fiction    3. Fiction    4. Fiction - General    5. General    6. God    7. Italian (Language) Contemporary Fiction    8. Fiction / General   


Beneath the Skin
by Nicci French
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 June, 2001)
list price: $7.99 -- our price: $7.99
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Editorial Review

"When she laughs, she makes a pealing sound, like a doorbell. If I told her I loved her, she would laugh at me like that. She would think I was not serious. That is what women do. They turn what is serious and big into a small thing, a joke. Love is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. One day, soon, she will understand that."

Zoe, a pretty blond schoolteacher. Jenny, a former hand model turned model wife and mother. Nadia, an irrepressible free spirit who entertains at children's parties. Three women living in different parts of London, grappling with different problems, sheltering different dreams--their lives and narratives linked only by the singular madness of a sadistic stalker. As they move slowly through the sweltering heat of summer, someone is sending these women letters that let each know she is being watched, studied, and loved from afar--even unto death.

Beneath the Skin is a spooky, highly effective psychological thriller. Initially, the women refuse, as do the police, to take the threats seriously--they are happy, they are inviolable; surely these letters are the work of a harmless crank. But the novel watches Zoe, Nadia, and Jenny move from blithely insouciant denial, to frustration, to creeping terror, and finally to the stark realization that neither they nor anyone else will prevent this killer from destroying them. French skillfully evokes the insidiousness with which the letters invade the women's lives, straining and shattering relationships, pushing each toward fearful insanity. Perhaps the novel's greatest appeal lies in its mordant irony: not only do the stalker's threats push and fester "beneath the skin," but they also draw out the flaws and terrors that are already there. French sketches the women's weaknesses and fears with merciless accuracy, stripping them naked long before the killer arrives to finish what his letters have begun.

The author's talent for psychological portraiture is, in fact, so great as to undermine, however slightly, the novel itself. We become so aware of the women, of their responses, of their needs, that the actual murders arrive as an almost superfluous intrusion. We respect the demands of the genre--a thriller needs thrills, after all--but wistfully regret the loss of the victims, even as we guiltily acknowledge our own voyeuristic culpability in their disintegration. --Kelly Flynn ... Read more

Reviews (48)

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Thriller
This book was passed to me by a co-worker, and I am now interested in reading all of Nicci French's novels.This story is about three different women and the effect a killer has on each of them.I found the story line believable and the characters interesting especially Zoe.I like mystery and suspense stories but lately I have become very disappointed with many story lines that want you to accept unbelievable plots and characters (e.g. she knows a killer is chasing her, but she has to go for a jog; or the package left on the doorstep even though the place is surrounded by agents).

This novel has a solid plot, and all of the characters and their actions are believable.This story is about three different women and their contact with one killer who is stalking all three of them.The first woman is Zoe (who is my favorite character), she is lonely and loveable and you want to protect her.Then there is Jenny who is a shrew and you hate her and her annoying attitude, but at the same time, as you find out why her character is the way it is, you begin to feel a bit of empathy for her. Then there's Nadia, who is tough and strong and a fighter.The novel is pretty much about how each different personality reacts to this serial killer stalking them.

Excellent Excellent Read!I would highly recommend.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Thriller I've Read in the Last Couple of Years
Take three women with nothing in common, add in a serial killer who wants them all dead, give the story to Nicci French to write and you have the best thriller I've read in the last couple of years. Ms. French tells the story of three women, all in the first person, who wind up victims. Yes, I'll admit it was a little surprising when Zoe wound up dead, because how could she be telling the story if she's well, you know, dead. Okay, it's an author's device and once you get past it, you pretty much know what's going to happen to the next girl. And most likely to the third.

The thread between the story of each of these women is the investigation to catch what the police don't want to admit is a serial killer. This book not only keeps you guessing, but it has the absolute best ending I have ever run across in a mystery or a thriller. Never have I finished a thriller more satisfied. This book was so darned good that not only was I up all night reading, but I restarted it as soon as I finished and got halfway through the second reading before I turned out the light.

If you like thrillers, if you like mysteries, if you want to see a woman take matters into her own hands and triumph, then this is the book for you. I just loved it, but I guess you've figured that out by now.

Review by Captain Katie Osborne

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Characterizations
I just finished this novel.I liked the fresh character viewpoints. The women being stalked seemed like they could be real people.A whole new angle to figuring out an author's plot.I think the serial killer was identified too quickly in the story.The author does keep you guessing, but to a point.I would recommend this book and probly read more by the author. ... Read more

Isbn: 0446609781
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Psychological Suspense    3. Psychological    4. Suspense    5. Thrillers    6. Fiction / Thrillers   


Flash for Freedom! (Flashman)
by George MacDonald Fraser
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 August, 1985)
list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
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Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars Flashman comes to America
Fraser has created another excellent Flashman adventure.The first half (or so) of the book concerns how Flashman ends up serving unwillingly in the crew of a slaving ship (after running afoul of his despicable father-in-law).The second half of the book - a bit weaker than the strong first half, I think - involves Flashman's exploits in the American South after he gets dragooned into helping the Underground Railroad.Flashman encounters a soon-to-be retiring Congressman Lincoln a couple of times during the course of the novel, and these scenes should be fun for fans of Abe.

The plot is strong, the pacing very fast, as we've come to expect from Flashman, and the dialogue is lots of fun.Fraser's historical accuracy is as good as ever.This is the third Flashman book I've read, and it's almost as good as the first book in the series ("Flashman"), which I liked quite a lot, and it's considerably better than "Royal Flash," the second book in the series.I'd recommend "Flash for Freedom" to anyone who's enjoyed the series so far.As with other Flashman books, if you're easily offended by bawdy - though not obscene by any stretch - language or activities, you should take a pass on this one.

4-0 out of 5 stars The ultimate in historical fiction
Accused (falsely, amazingly enough) of cheating in a friendly game of cards, the Victorian rogue Harry Flashman injures the accuser in a rage.His reputation damaged, Flash joins a ship's crew until the scandal cools down - only to realize to his horror (his own neck being on the line, of course) that it's a slave ship.Here begin Flashy's adventures on the high seas and America, where at various times he is dragooned and bluffs his way into nearly every role concerning the slave trade: buyer, trader, seller, driver on a plantation, underground railroad smuggler, anti-slavery double agent, almost even a slave himself at one point.It's all tremendous stuff, full of the usual (on Fraser's part) erudtion and wit and (on Flashy's part) lechery, as well as, of course, the historical tweaking: Flashman meets a young Disraeli, a young Lincoln, and even serves as the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous book.Superb historical parody, historical fiction, and pure entertainment all in one.Oh, a final thought: Flashy's definitely gotten a lot braver since the first book.Scared or not, it takes guts to pull a gun on a killer, or even keep one's wits enough to play-act in the face of danger.That's most likely a good thing, of course; as a reader, one can take only so much helpless, quivering terror from the narrator.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hilarious
Harry Flashman is Horatio Hornblower without a conscience and afraid of the water.Great series. ... Read more

Isbn: 0452260892
Sales Rank: 81230
Subjects:  1. 1815-1861    2. Africa, West    3. British    4. Fiction    5. Fiction - General    6. Flashman, Harry Paget (Fictiti    7. Flashman, Harry Paget (Fictitious character)    8. General    9. History    10. Soldiers    11. United States    12. Fiction / General   


Gerald's Party: A Novel
by Robert Coover
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 October, 1997)
list price: $12.00 -- our price: $9.00
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Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Humanity: What a riot!
"Gerald's Party" depicts a single evening in the life of Gerry, a married man who has opened his home to a flood of strange friends, and describes the chaotic string of strange events which occur. The book is written in real time, its 300 pages comprising a single narrative, unbroken by chapters, from the party's beginning to its end. Gerry is the narrator, proceeding from event to event, unable to control anything, and hardly able to understand anything, including himself.

The book is experimental, but does have a plot, concerning a murder-mystery at Gerry's party of strange guests. The story is told in the tradition of surrealists, however, and not a straightforward narrative. Once the reader settles into understanding how the story works, it becomes a joyful romp through mad times.

The theme of the book is very simple: life is a major mess, and it just keeps going. People eat and drink, sleep and sex, live and die, digest and waste, kill and protect, mate monogamously and share polyamorally, control themselves and let themselves go, have children and have fun, grow up and act childish, dirty and clean, dress and undress, lie and speak true, think scientifically and think artistically, fantasize and live pragmatically, search for philosophical meaning and live hedonistically for today. And they never stop! Robert Coover pushes all the buttons in the psyche of the human animal, as if writing a reference manual for an extraterrestrial, telling it: "Here's humanity. Welcome to it!"

This book is experimental and surreal, but arguably more accessible than Beckett, and certainly more earthy and explicit. (This is so Coover can push all your buttons.) It uses an interesting form of dialog occasionally: two or three different conversations interweave their lines, making it a joyful challenge to follow along, and creating interesting intersections at times. There are two dozen characters, all with their own independent dynamic, and Coover mixes them with entertaining effect. Some are consistent, such as the wife, the son, the mother-in-law, and others, who exercise their own unique idiosyncracies steadily throughout the book, like pschological points of reference interweaving with the other characters.

This book is very well done. I cannot praise it highly enough. Coover deserves immense credit for pulling it all off. Once the reader understands the story is meant to be absurd, not literal, it becomes great fun, very vivid, and memorable. Coover is extremely imaginative, and "Gerald's Party" is a fantastic riot.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wild, wacky, wicked and very smart.
In my journey through the landscape of contemporary post-modern fiction it was about time that I paid some attention to Coover's work. Based on the reviews of his novels at Amazon, I decided to give this book a try. ...

Gerald's party is a prime example of postmodern metafiction. The story and its plotline function as mere vehicles for the exploration of a number of ideas/concepts, while the fiction is expertly geared towards the reader experiencing this wild party.

Integrating elements from two movie classics -a lot from Fellini's Satyricon and a little from Ferreri's La Grande Bouffe- injecting copious amounts of de Sade in the "party scene" from Gaddis' Recognitions and appropriating the play within a play concept from Hamlet at its zenith, Gerald's party uses theatre and time to analyze the process of perception and its resulting reality. In addition, Coover provides the reader with an encore that ranks high on the list of most cynical analyses of human relationships on record.

Coover has done a masterful job of throwing the reader in a party that has too much of any imaginable thing. While reading the discourse provides a lot of fun, it takes an effort not to get lost throwing darts in the basement. Yet, this is the work of an evil genius and finishing it left me with a feeling of awe for it's creator, while not necessarily agreeing with Coover's philosophy.

So prospective reader is this a book for you? In case you belong to the fans of Fellini's masterpiece and/or have enjoyed works by Gaddis/Pynchon/Wallace/de Lillo, I would certainly join the party.

3-0 out of 5 stars f'd up.
This is a very intelligent, beautifully written book; yet, for me, there just was not enough natural momentum to carry the whole thing off.Time...one of the main obsessions in the life of this novel, and the idea of Time being nonexistent, and ever the same with only spacial relations changing is one that is dwelled on by some of the characters.And that's the problem with this novel, with the idea of time thrown out the window every page read the exact same.Read any 30 pages and you will enjoy them immensly but to keep it up for 300 pages is more stamina than i could produce.

There were so many funny scenes though!! But, like a David Lynch movie, after awhile the bizzarities just become repetitive and annoying, with nothing deeper underlying them.Some of the kids from Coover's generations (Barth, Vonnegut, kind of Barthelme) seem to do things that would be more fun to think up and write than to actually read.With these guys (i hate to group, but oh well) you can almost always imagine them slyly smiling behind the page at their zany little creation or attack on the prevailing form of fiction.It often comes off as too academic.

At the same time not at all... there is way more chaos and madness than most uptight, imaginitively limited professors could ever handle, brimming in blood, unsound meditations, dizzying desire... i guess i dont know what to think about this novel... i kind of think Coover may be one of those writers who sometime down the road i will want to scream at myself for ever criticizing. ... Read more

Isbn: 0802135285
Sales Rank: 558544
Subjects:  1. Detective and mystery stories    2. Dinners and dining    3. Entertaining    4. Erotic fiction    5. Fiction    6. Fiction - Mystery/ Detective    7. Mystery & Detective - General   


The Tattoo Murder Case
by Akimitsu Takagi, Deborah Boliver Boehm
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 May, 1999)
list price: $12.00 -- our price: $9.60
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Editorial Review

If you read mysteries for insights into other cultures and differentperiods, this excellent translation of the first novel by Akimitsu Takagi, who became one of Japan's leading crime writers, is an eye-opener. In 1947 Toyko, the limbs of a murdered woman are discovered in a locked bathroom. Her torso--covered with intricately beautiful tattoos by her late father, a highly controversial artist--is missing. A doctor finds the body, and his detective brother is put in charge of the case. They bumble around until the doctor's friend, jokingly called "Boy Genius," leads them to the murderer. Fans of golden-age mysteries by S. S. Van Dine and John Dickson Carr should enjoythis unusual combination of ingredients. ... Read more

Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Series of Murders
I like the post-war Tokyo setting of this story. References are made to the horrors and trauma of war suffered by former Japanese soldiers. It also describes the wide discrepancy between different groups of people as they hold onto wealth and status, or madly scramble to grab them. We also see glimpses of black market and yakuza life styles. The murders are creepy and disturbing, and the psycho-sexual world of tattoo customers is nicely underlined. I'm not sure I quite believe the Boy Genius as a viable character, but I'm going to read the other books by Akimitsu Takagi as they become available.

5-0 out of 5 stars A classic.
Takagi's masterpiece combines the virtues of a mystery story that is in the same league as Conan Doyle's very best stories, with an intricate description and analysis of the effects of the second world war on Japanese society. The choice of the tattoo as leitmotiv was really a stroke of brilliance. On the one hand it plays a central part in the solving of the murder plot. Moreover, the taboo status that has surrounded the tattoo due to Western influences on the land of the rising sun, gives the (sexual) fascination of its admirers a metaphorical depth. As such, I disagree with a previous reviewer who saw Kenzo's ongoing fascination with Kinue as a manifestation of necrophilia. I feel it represents an expression of nostalgia to the pre-western "good old days".

In closing, the translator deserves some kudos for the excellent translation. The subtly inserted short explanations provide the novice with direct understanding with many concepts and the atmosphere of the original text has been carefully preserved.

4-0 out of 5 stars Post War Dead Culture Intrigue
Akimitsu Takagi's The Tattoo Murder Case is a crime novel that fits comfortably into its genre.The nourish elements are all presenting the narrative.The troubled detective is following the trail of a crime that has inherent mystery surrounding both its perpetrator and its victim.But the novel is more enthralling than just these basic details.The detective, Kenzo, is locked in the culturally ruined Japan of post World War Two.The after effects of the Atomic Bomb are scattered throughout the narrative.This leaves a dark residual cast over all of the characters.The sense of a seedy underworld is revealed to reader as the narrative carries on.Another aspect that is uncovered is the sense that Kenzo is trapped in a necrophiliac relationship with the dead tattooed woman who has been stripped of her prized full body designs.This post-mortem aura surrounds all of the characters and draws parallels to the `dead' world in which they live.A strong commentary is made on the after effects of world war.Altogether it is a fantastically well crafted novel that will draw readers into an unfamiliar cultural moment and a mystery with uncertain outcome. ... Read more

Isbn: 1569471568
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Mystery/ Detective    3. Mystery & Detective - General    4. Mystery/Suspense   


The Way We Live Now (Oxford World's Classics (Paperback))
by Anthony Trollope, John Sutherland
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 December, 1999)
list price: $11.00 -- our price: $9.56
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Editorial Review

Trollope's 1875 tale of a great financier's fraudulent machinations in the railway business, and his daughter's ill-use at the hands of a grasping lover (for whom she steals funds in order to elope) is a classic in the literature of money and a ripping good read as well. ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars If you liked Edith Wharton's "Custom of the Country"
If you liked Edith Wharton's "Custom of the Country" & Thackery's "Vanity Fair", this is a version of such. More political & less entertaining. I'm a fan of Trollope's
oeuvre but books specified above are better. But it's worth owning & reading!

5-0 out of 5 stars It is "The Way We Live Now"
Though written in the 19th century, "The Way We Live Now" is very relevant at the beginning of the 21st.

The book concerns the activities of a fradulent financier who is making his way in London society. He preys on the weaker elements-in the form of dissolute young lords-as he climbs to greater heights in the social world. At the fringe of this social world, one also encounters people just trying to get by--the wife of a dead peer turning out hackneyed prose for example--as they cling to the appearances of respectability.

Trollope's description of this world in many ways evokes the Internet bubble of the late 1990's. You see the same types of behavior and meet the same types of characters in this world.

In this novel, Trollope has also created two very strong and memorable female characters. Hetta is the daughter of the "lady turned writer" and the sister of a very dissipated peer. Yet she somehow has a sterling character though less than sterling judgement in her suitors. Marie, the daughter of the shady financier Melmotte, is even more fascinating. At the start of the novel, she appears to be a weak little thing who is basically being auctioned off to the bidder with the most prestigious social credentials. However, after a disappointment in love, she finds the strength within herself to beat her father at his own game. Trollope develops characters so fully and with such depth that you feel as if they are living and breathing in front of you.

I would recommend this book to lovers of serious literature everywhere. Yes, at times the language is dated and there are some horrifying anti-Semitic passages. But the book is a fully realized portrait of a society that still has relevance to readers today.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best book for an intro to Trollope
I would beg to differ with the reviewers who discourage those unfamiliar with Trollope from starting with this book.Because of its modern theme and relevance to our age this should be the first on any new Trollope reader's list.Even the casual Jew-hatred of the English upper class portrayed by Trollope has been in the news within the last year or two (at embassy parties in London). ... Read more

Isbn: 0192835610
Subjects:  1. Classics    2. English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh    3. Literary    4. Literature - Classics / Criticism    5. Literature: Classics    6. 19th century fiction   


Anna Karenina (Modern Library Classics)
by Leo Tolstoy, Mona Simpson
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (10 October, 2000)
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Editorial Review

Some people say Anna Karenina is the single greatest novel ever written, which makes about as much sense to me as trying to determine the world's greatest color. But there is no doubt that Anna Karenina, generally considered Tolstoy's best book, is definitely one ripping great read. Anna, miserable in her loveless marriage, does the barely thinkable and succumbs to her desires for the dashing Vronsky. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that 19th-century Russia doesn't take well to that sort of thing. ... Read more

Reviews (218)

5-0 out of 5 stars !!!ZESTICA!!!
how anna karenina's struggle to tame love's seagullusiveness causes our souls to melt!this woman, refusing to accept life's dust-nausea, incapable of feeling more razors within her heart scrape and tear, yearning for love's maximo and its bullion, even fighting against her desire for impropriety when she re-bukes vronsky, castigates him and orders him to leave, un-doubtedly will maintain a chamber in ever soul who familiar-izes themselves with her dilemma.she hungers for a bloom that will invest her life with lustre and meaning, she demands that existence vibrate with more spasmo than a meaningless slog through the congo jungle, mosquitos everywhere harassing, steam arising from the ground, a goat for a guide.she wants eldorado, scintillata, moon-foam and love silk.she wants her soul to enflame itself in the arms of a man, satisfaction, the orbs of jasper, yet once more love proves ephemeral at best, elusive at worse.we all have wrestled with these demons.even if our society doesn't nail-punish extra-marrital discourse as her culture did, nevertheless we have still been oppresed by venus delight in torture.for a time anna does triumph, her and vronsky do taste for a brief time aphrodizjum's wealthy acuity and its gentles luxo-balm, yet, like all great things, it inevitably fades into the sands of the sahara, vronsky flames diminish slightly and anna is left suffering in the gobi desert, her soul affamished for throb.it is a powerful story, robust, quaking and formidible.we razor-lament the truths it reveals and we shrink in apathy that we will ever overcome the spears at aphrodite's disposal

kyle foley, author of Lorelei Pusued, Wrestles with God

4-0 out of 5 stars Tolstoy At His Best
Adultery has been a popular topic for novels throughout the century but no one has ever done the lucid subject justice except for Leo Tolstoy. In the glamorous society of mid 19th century Russia is where Tolstoy lays his scene. Anna Karenina, a beautiful, spirirted woman meets a handsome and distuinguished soldier, Alexis Vronksy, who falls head over heels in love with Anna. Meanwhile Constantine Levin, an awkward and shy farmer comes to propose to his beloved Kitty Scherbatsky who is in love or believes she is in love with the elegant Alexis Vronksy. What occurs afterwards is a suspenseful and beautifully written piece of literature about these four main character. The work was to orginally have been titled, "Two Marriages" but the intriging character of Anna Karenina pushed and shoved her way on top. This novel has the same intricate plot as "War and Peace" but it is not as burdensome with long essays about the art of war. "Anna Karenina" is an awesome piece of work!

5-0 out of 5 stars Happy Families are All Alike . . .
I first read Anna Karenina as a young women entranced with the milieu of Anna's character and Tolstoy's depiction of her romantic and social dilemmas. In the story of Anna Karenina, the conundrums surrounding Anna's pursuit of emancipated life with her lover threatens to consume everything meaningful to her; social position, wealth and family. Yet she remains an enormously sympathetic character as she is borne along by desire.

Anna's compelling love is wrested from the dreary ruins of an emotionally unsatisfying marriage. The price extracted from her for the experience of fulfillment is destruction of her life. Someone, somewhere once said: "half the sin is scandal."

Anna's fate is a great work of archtypal denouement that ends in tragedy. Yet importantly, Anna's ending is not the end of the book, nor is her saga the complete "story." Anna Karenina's character embodies the conflict of individual fulfillment in opposition with social obligation. Like the world of the late 19th century, the greater world of those obligations remains a painfully unromantic place. This what makes Anna Karenina both devastating and timeless.

I have read Anna Karenina four times. After finishing the bookfor the second time, I began to see the deeper parable of Tolstoy's story. I realized that a second, less obvious story exists within the novel that bears truth to Tolstoy's first sentence of the book, the great classic among famous opening lines . . ."Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way..."

The characters of Kitty and Levin provide the wisdom of Tolstoy's legendary first sentence. Though less dramatic than Anna and certainly more conventional, Kitty and Levin are as much tortured by their desire to achieve the ideal of true love as Anna.

In contrast to Anna's character, however, Kitty and Levin stay within the prescribed social boundaries of their positions. For this, Tolstoy accurately portrays Kitty's severe depression and Levin's (Tolstoy's autobiographical character in the novel) withdrawal into self-imposed exile as he attempts experimental reform of his country estate.

"Anna Karenina' is a classic study of the human condition, examined from the heart and viewed from within the operation of ever-fallible society. Everyone, from family servant to society dame within Anna's circle is affected by her affair and by theactions put in place by her husband. While Anna's husband embodies propriety, he is officious, bureaucratic and unsympathetic. Tolstoy shows us how the figures surrounding Anna though separated by temperament, class, and fortune are inextricably linked to her actions.

A strong spiritual message exists in "Anna Karenina" ending not with Anna's death, but with the birth of Kitty and Levin's child. Perhaps Tolstoy's ultimate message is that suffering is necessary to human fulfillment.Despite the permissivness of our times, "Anna Karenina" remains as relevant as when it was first penned.

Rereading "Anna Karenina" allows us to experience a profound novel progressively, with each reading revealing new and greater meaning. This is why I continue to undertake periodic re-readings of it. Some stories are timeless simply because they are too profound to be completely "read."
... Read more

Isbn: 067978330X
Subjects:  1. Adultery    2. Classics    3. Didactic fiction    4. Fiction    5. Literary    6. Literature - Classics / Criticism    7. Married women    8. Russia    9. Fiction / General    10. Reading Group Guide   


Perfume : The Story of a Murderer (Vintage International)
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (13 February, 2001)
list price: $13.95 -- our price: $11.16
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Reviews (303)

5-0 out of 5 stars So very unusual!
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a boy with no scent!He is like the invisible man...noone notices him.He is also not very
pleasant to look at.He manages to hone his skills as an
excellent maker of perfumes in 18th century France.While he has no scent, he can detect scents like no other...adding the
exact proportions of each flower, spice, bodily fluid.When
he detects the most perfect scent in a young girl, he must
kill her to capture her essence.
The story proceeds to a town where he murders many young
girls to create the perfect perfume.A noble tries to save
his daughter from this fate.Will it happen?
This was a wonderfully written book!

4-0 out of 5 stars Would make a great film...
Well written and somewhat hypnotic reading.

It would make a great film if someone could just figure out how to portray the killer's sense of lust brought about by smell alone. And it's not just that... the killer collects smells, or at least the memory of them, cataloging them in his head in order to revive them at will and re-live the circumstances in which they came to his attention. Exactly... not an easy feat but no-doubt someone will do write/film it (and hopefully do it well).

My one complaint is the book's ending (which I won't spoil for you)... it had its roots in believability... BUT, it was very much overdone in my opinion. The author is trying to shock the readerwith the revelation (which was good) but then elaborated too long on details that didn't ring true or made little sense (at least to me).

However, I would recommend this book as Suskind did a great job (originally translated from German?). If you're anything like me, this story won't creep you out along the lines of "Silence of the Lambs"... instead you'll be curiously watching some strange goings-on.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lethal Scents
A boy with no scent.

From the minute his mom left him in the streets of Paris until the end of his life he continued to be unusual, others did not want him, people did not know how to approach him, and his looks scared people away.

One of the most fascinating books I ever read. A book that talks about a genius (others could differ) that is able to create the most amazing scents in the most creative way, would do the impossible, the unheard of to get to self-satisfaction, and to the ultimate desire (scent).

You won't be able to put the book down; you would be amazed how all France kneeled to him without even wanting it. How his mistakes were forgiven, how luck turned his way, and how his story is just so unusual.

How far can a person can go has no boundaries...

... Read more

Isbn: 0375725849
Sales Rank: 4679
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Historical    3. German (Language) Contemporary Fiction    4. Historical - General    5. Literary    6. Suspense    7. Fiction / Literary    8. Reading Group Guide   


The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michel Faber
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (16 September, 2002)
list price: $26.00 -- our price: $16.38
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Editorial Review

Although it's billed as "the first great 19th-century novel of the 21stcentury," The Crimson Petal and the White is anything but Victorian. Thestory of a well-read London prostitute named Sugar, who spends her free hourscomposing a violent, pornographic screed against men, Michel Faber's dazzlingsecond novel dares to go where George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss and theworks of Charles Dickens could not. We learn about the positions and orificesthat Sugar and her clients favor, about her lingering skin condition, and aboutthe suspect ingredients of her prophylactic douches. Still, Sugar believes shecan make a better life for herself. When she is taken up by a wealthy man, theperfumer William Rackham, her wings are clipped, and she must balance financialsecurity against the obvious servitude of her position. The physical risks andhardships of Sugar's life (and the even harder "honest" life she would have ledas a factory worker) contrast--yet not entirely--with the medical mistreatmentof her benefactor's wife, Agnes, and beautifully underscore Faber's emphasis onclass and sexual politics. In theme and treatment, this is a novel thatVirginia Woolf might have written, had she been born 70 years later. Thelanguage, however, is Faber's own--brisk and elastic--and, after an awkwardopening, the plethora of detail he offers (costume, food, manners, cheap stageperformances, the London streets) slides effortlessly into his forward-movingsentences. When Agnes goes mad, for instance, "she sings on and on, while thehouse is discreetly dusted all around her and, in the concealed andsubterranean kitchen, a naked duck, limp and faintly steaming, spreads itspimpled legs on a draining board." Despite its 800-plus pages, The CrimsonPetal and the White turns out to be a quick read, since it is trulyimpossible to put down. --Regina Marler ... Read more

Reviews (395)

3-0 out of 5 stars good news / bad news
Mr Faber seems preoccupied with displaying his incredibly thorough knowledge of 19th century England at the risk of nearly sabotaging the plot, but this knowledge is so evenly and expertly distributed that it never jumps out and clobbers you. The story could be half as long without all the historical insights, but I rather enjoyed being so submerged in such details and texture. In fact, without it the plights of prostitute Sugar and perfume manufacturer William and his emotionally stunted wife might appear less severe. By today's standards, these problems might not warrant a byline on Yahoo news, but because of Faber's deft weaving of background into the action, we see and feel how traumatic it must have been to suffer such problems a hundred and some-odd years ago and, indeed, have a greater appreciation for how things have changed - and for how they have not.

Still, the ending had me searching for more pages (and wondering if they hadn't been torn out of my copy), leaving me with the impression that Faber had simply given up trying to resolve the mess he had created. Yet on further scrutiny, I gained an appreciation (albeit, a weak one) for the realistic, inevitable choices the characters made. Unfortunately, reality (as my screenplay instructor was fond of saying) is free; fiction is expensive, and worthy of an imaginative ending.

3-0 out of 5 stars Sequel please! Then two more stars awarded!
Loved the narration (fun writing style) - loved and hated the characters (good character devlopment) -plot was interesting but ultimately dropped us to figure it all out for ourselves - clever if there is a sequel to come - enraging if no sequel to come - illnesses are mysterious, deaths are mysterious, disappearances are mysterious, moods are mysterious, actions are mysterious - Agnes, Sugar, Sophie, Mrs. Fox, William, Henry, Mrs. Castaway, Caroline, manuscripts, diaries, and material possessions are all left floating around in my mind with no comfortable place to settle - HELP! Will I have to write a sequel to settle my mind? Michel Faber, will you give me permission?

3-0 out of 5 stars it started out good....
I am an avid reader and looked foward to this great big book.But I thought that Sugar became weaker as the book went on and after days of reading - to come to that abrupt ending!I was very disappointed.It didn't have to have a pretty ending, but I thought it would be nice to at least have an idea that Agnes found her place in the world and even if Sugar and Sophie got away. ... Read more

Isbn: 015100692X
Subjects:  1. English Historical Fiction    2. Fiction    3. Fiction - Historical    4. Great Britain    5. Historical - General    6. History    7. Perfumes industry    8. Prostitutes    9. Victoria, 1837-1901    10. Young women    11. Fiction / General   


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