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Tlooth (American Literature (Dalkey Archive)) [Paperback]

Harry Mathews
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 1999 American Literature (Dalkey Archive)
This novel begins in a Russian prison camp at a baseball game featuring the defective Baptists versus the Fideists. There is a plot (of sorts), one of revenge surrounding a doctor who, in removing a bone spur from our narrator, manages to amputate a ring and index finger, a significant surgical error considering that the narrator is, or was, a violinist. When Dr. Roak is released from prison, our narrator escapes in order to begin the pursuit, and thus begins a digressive journey from Afghanistan to Venice, then on to India and Morocco and France. All of this takes place amid Mathews's fictional concern and play with games, puzzles, arcana, and stories within stories.


Product details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; New edition edition (1 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564781941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564781949
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 14.2 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,206,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A brilliant book, in a very special way... While the method of telling it is quite sober, and the language plain, what actually happens is bizarre and wonderful. The descriptions that are blandly handed to you show an imagination and an ingenuity that are often just as astonishing. The details are sometimes savage and scabrous... But the book has nothing to do with modish sick humor... It is, for all its incidental excesses, fantasy, pure and simple... If you can take it, this is a journey worth taking." -- Harper's "[ Tlooth and Conversions are] comic extravaganzas that play mockingly with every device of fiction." -- Washington Post Book World "An imaginative free-form exercise in the best advanced style, one carefully planned with conventions of plot meticulously disregarded... with an emphasis on bizarre subject matter paramount... Here in brief is a literary "happening" not without some interest for its motivations in technique in a world evidently prepared to abandon the old and tried for the new and quite experimental, at least in prose fiction." -- Virginia Quarterly Review

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad it's back in print! 15 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This, Harry Mathews' second novel, has been out of print for far too long. Translated by Georges Perec as Les verts champs de moutarde de l'Afghanistan, Tlooth is, like Gray's Lanark, a novel of incredbile and impossible occurences told in a deadpan manner. Set in a Russian prison camp, this novel begins at a baseball game featuring the Defective Baptists versus the Fideists... and it gets progressively stranger and more interesting from there.
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4.0 out of 5 stars DmENTAL 9 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Written in short chapters, the narrative of TLOOTH is awash with absurdist digressions and surreal imagery. Halfway through I was somewhat confused. By the end I was pleasantly bemused. All in all I enjoyed the author's limpid style and the many dreamlike happenings. The point of writings like this isn't necessarily the story, more the incidental side-stepping and strange instances that occur along the way, and this novel is loaded with such deviations - "play with games, puzzles, arcana, and stories within stories" as it says on the back cover. I'd define it as elegantly mind-boggling. A curious creation.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed 31 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
I suspect there may be a lot going on in this book that I didn't spot - then again perhaps it's just a bit of a jumble. The "plot" is severely disjointed, and the discursions don't seem to connect up in the end. I expect some of the odd bits add up to games and puzzles, but it's not obvious where some of them begin and end, assuming they are there at all! Someone with a more literary brain than mine may well make sense of it all, but I don't see enough sense in it to make me want to work hard to find the rest.

If it's simply intended to be absurd and confusing I don't need it - I've got the news for that!
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful and brilliant 30 Jan 2000
By Matthew L. Moffett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wow! This is the first book in a long while that I sat down and read straight through in one sitting, and then read it again the next day. This book is layered and layered again, twisting through puzzles, puns and wordgames that revolve back into itself. It's wildly imaginative in its style and content, and the over the top humor would suit fans of Pynchon and Barthelme, but his control of the language and playfulness is even more extreme once you allow yourself to dig in. This is not a quick read for the subway, but a novel that will challenge your expectations and ideas on what a piece of fiction should and should not be.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take that, Oprah! 24 Jun 2000
By B. Drake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The imagination runs wild in this book -- rather like a chariot with a wheel slipping from its axis. A maddening read -- I couldn't finish this book in one sitting , as someone commented above. One chapter a night was all I could handle, and with the plot and locales veering all over the map, I had a hard time remembering what I had read the night before. And yet, I knew that I absolutely HAD to finish Tlooth, and when I did, I was glad; the end reveals what this book is about (and it is about something after all). Erudite, staggeringly digressive, subversive, dreamlike, pansexual: TLOOTH gives mainstream fiction a rousing slap on the behind. (Expand that metaphor into something more knuckle-y, and you'll get the gist of what I really mean.) It's not a book in the usual sense of the world. It's a disorientation. Either you are up to it, or you aren't. NOT an Oprah Book Club selection (thank God)!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad it's back in print! 15 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This, Harry Mathews' second novel, has been out of print for far too long. Translated by Georges Perec as Les verts champs de moutarde de l'Afghanistan, Tlooth is, like Gray's Lanark, a novel of incredbile and impossible occurences told in a deadpan manner. Set in a Russian prison camp, this novel begins at a baseball game featuring the Defective Baptists versus the Fideists... and it gets progressively stranger and more interesting from there.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 1 Jun 2011
By G. Choy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Excellent word puzzles. I would recommend 2 readings of the book, the 1st time for the story and the 2nd one for the puzzles.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enigmas and ambiguities 13 Mar 2011
By Steven Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Beginning with its title, Tlooth is a novel of enigmas and ambiguities. It is mostly nonsense, but quite inventive and entertaining nonsense with a sly purpose behind it.

The story begins in Jacksongrad, a detention camp of sorts in Russia. (It is described as being in "South Siberia," but various clues place it in what is now Uzbekistan or one of the neighboring republics.) The narrator, a prisoner in the camp who works as a dental assistant, is a former concert violinist whose left hand has been mutilated by a doctor, a fellow prisoner, named Evelyn Roak. The (thus far unnamed) narrator has vowed revenge against Dr. Roak, leading to a bizarre series of acts and events, eventually leaving the camp and traveling to Afghanistan, India, Italy, Morocco, and France.

The novel is built around wild inventions and clever deceptions. The author creates religions, diseases, musical forms, medical disciplines, folk practices, and industries--each absurd, yet described with enough sincerity to test the reader's credibility. There are also codes, puzzles, and scrambled text designed, I would supposed, to examine how we process incomplete or garbled information. At one point, for example, the narrator is commissioned to draft a scenario for a pornographic movie. The draft is being recited orally at the same time that other events are happening, with the result that events are commingled. Then, at the steamiest point in the scenario, the narrator becomes ill and begins to transpose letters. If you want to know who is doing what to whom, you bust me ready do tecipher lords thike wese.

Tlooth is a book that will appeal to those who enjoy experimental fiction, who don't mind having a mirror held up to their preconceptions, and who aren't overly disturbed by a few grisly depictions of medical procedures and sexual violence.
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