Book 812 Javier Marias – All Souls

 

One thing I noticed straight away with ‘All Souls’ is how a lot of the themes that Marias uses here are found in the rest of his novels. I mean this is common with loads of authors but it seemed so blindingly obvious with ‘All Souls’.

The plot itself is simple. A Spanish professor resides at Oxford for two years. He observes the world as an outsider and in the process has an affair.

What this book interesting is that Marias’ observations are super sharp and slightly humorous. Now and then it drags but on the whole I liked this book, dare I say even more than the your face tomorrow trilogy.

 

 

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Book 813 Paul Auster – The New York Trilogy

 

 

 

 

 

I read The New York Trilogy back in 2000 when I was still a student.  Other than the bits on language and it’s usage in society (hey I’m a Philosophy student after all) I had trouble remembering the other points in the book. Thus a re-read was necessary.

The book is composed of three loosely connected novellas. City of Glass is about a detective writer who assumes a fake identity and prevents a person from being killed, The second, Ghosts is about two spies watching each other and the this The Locked Room is about a writer who tries to locate his missing friend.

As such the mystery is secondary. Within these three novels Auster expands on many post modern ideas such as the use of language, writing and identity. These are all themes which have occurred in later novels.  One thing is that I noticed that after eleven years I discovered more hidden surprises within the novel and it stood up very well – Actually I preferred reading this time round.

Although I cannot find any faults, I still say that next to Moon Palace of Music of Chance , TNYT is slightly weaker than the previous novels I mentioned. But by saying that the rest of these books get a 10/10 while this one receives a 9.5. It’s also the best Auster to start off with.

 

Book 814 Amos Oz – Black Box

 

Sometimes events do have a way of coinciding at the same time. When I was reading ‘Black Box’ there was a huge fracas about the divorce bill being passed in parliament and whether or not if it was going to go through despite the fact that 52% of the Maltese population wanted it (there was a referendum in May) Black Box touches upon the subject of divorce, and this being Amos Oz, much more.

It’s a simple story. Through various letters and telegrams and estranged wife is asking for her husband for funds as their wayward son has caused more problems than the wife and her new husband can handle. From then onwards we discover the couple’s past and the role other characters – mainly the new husband, Michel and the ex’s lawyer, Manfred , and the son Boaz – had to play in the shaping of their destinies. Both parties have not acted as they should and yet it seems that love is being rekindled. This is further emphasised in the final letter when the ex husband undertakes a decision that affects everyone. It is also one of the most melancholy uplifting pieces I’ve read so far.

Incidentally the Black Box is Boaz. Although the couple’s marriage was like a plane crash there was one surviving feature that has remained indestructible.

Black Box is a brilliant novel. I loved every bit of it. If I could describe it in one word it would have to be  ‘Poignant’

 

Book 815 Tom Wolfe – The Bonfire of the Vanities

 

I read The Bonfire of the Vanities back in 2000 and I remember every detail from it so this was one of the few books that I did not have to re-read.

Sherman McCoy is a yuppie and one day while with his mistress he accidentally injures a black man and drives away. The victim of this hit and run is seen by a down and out journalist who whips up a media frenzy about this situation and even drags in a preacher, who starts riots within Harlem and other areas of New York so that the black teenager gets avenged.

By the end of the novel McCoy does get arrested but the only victor in this whole fracas is the journalist, who wins a Pulitzer for his document n the whole affair.

‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ is mainly a book about media manipulation but also focuses on racism and political corruption. Tom Wolfe drives his point home very obviously but his writing style is so good that you can’t help but turn each page compulsively. In fact my only complaint is that I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and could have gone on for another hundred pages or so (it’s already 800 pages but when a book’s so good page length doesn’t matter).

In a way I would say that Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is the perfect companion to this book, for if  you want to see how rotten the Big Apple can be then check out these two novels.

Book 816 James Ellroy – The Black Dahlia

 

I always look forward to the thrillers that this list offers. To date I’ve liked nearly every single one and The Black Dahlia is no exception.

See the thing is that a good mystery is not only about the crime itself but rather other plotlines caused by the crime and this is what this novel is really about.

‘Bucky’ Bleichert and Lee Blanchard are two detectives who are trying to solve the murder of Elizabeth Short (who actually did exist), a person who was found on a L.A. street all chopped up and mutilated. As the focus shifts on ‘Bucky’ we find out that his obsession with the Black Dahlia (one of short’s nicknames) ruins his career and whole life. We also get an image of  L.A. at the mid-point of the 20th century, which is a city full of corruption and violence.

This is not a book for the faint hearted. There’s a lot of gruesome (but essential) detail so do prepare yourself for that. However these pieces are the best ones in the book. Also Ellroy knows how to throw curveballs in this mystery so although I did find out the killer was, I was a little bit far off the mark. I’m glad that I got it wrong.

The Black Dahlia is a masterpiece of hard-boiled fiction. It’s also very addictive . In other words if you’re a fan of that stuff – then read it asap.