Profile for Eric Anderson > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Eric Anderson
Top Reviewer Ranking: 87,653
Helpful Votes: 1578

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11
pixel
Middle Age: a romance
Middle Age: a romance
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Starting New, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: Middle Age: a romance (Paperback)
Middle Age is about several upper class characters exploring potential new paths at the mid-point of their lives. At its centre is Adam Berendt whose life is unexpectedly cut off, but whose influence and Socratic interrogation of life acts as a catalyst to transform his friends in the tight-knit community of Salthill. Their lives, as they understand them, dissolve upon his death to be reformed. The mystery of Adam's past is threaded throughout the novel opening dozens of different possible beginnings to his life at the same time as multiple endings to the other characters' lives are imagined. Oates' tremendous skill is to draw a multitude of realistic detail while emotionally constructing her characters' thoughts. This method works to unearth strange revelations in her contemplation of mortality and the depthless possibilities of experience. The characters tear off the costumes of their present identity to wear new masks and reconstitute their sense of being. Marina Troy's potentiality as an artist has lain dormant for many years, but, through Adam's bequest of a residence for solitude, she is given the possibility of expressing her vision. Augusta Cutler leaves her secure life to pursue dangerous new possibilities and trace Adam's past. These stories as well as those of the other characters are told in a revolving narrative focus that juxtaposes the characters' intentions with the dramatic realizations of their experiences. Their middle age lives turn out not to be about just endings, but multiple beginnings as well. The novel gives a heartfelt portrait of characters that identify themselves alternatively as amorphous and fabled beings and desperate to break from their identification of an ordinary life.


The Dark Room
The Dark Room
by Rachel Seiffert
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Lives, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Dark Room (Paperback)
There have been many narratives which deal with the world's reaction to the atrocities caused by the Nazis, but few have dealt so directly with how Germans feel about inheriting the knowledge of these crimes. Does sharing a national identity with people who have committed such crimes make you a criminal as well? This is the issue that Rachel Seiffert follows with such tenacity in her incredible first novel. The question is beautifully threaded throughout the three narratives of Germans at different points in the century. The final narrative of Micha's digs the deepest into the problem. The three central characters are connected to the Nazi warfare and are trying to understand if their relation to it is something integrally related to themselves. What emerges is a well-rounded picture of the difficulty of living with the fact of this history and trying to peacefully make it a part of your identity.
Yet, this novel isn't a meditation only for Germans to deal with their own history. (After all, who doesn't belong to a nation that has committed governmentally enforced crimes against a group of people?) It makes an important statement about World War II but also one about the human condition and our relation to the past. The human relationships are tenderly drawn. All the characters are intensely selfish in their own way, but have encountered numerous difficulties in their lives which have moderated the way they relate to people. The book moves much more slowly at the end and becomes very meditative. At times this becomes more tedious than insightful. However, the final picture is a complicated portrait of national guilt wrapped with small examples of human kindness and forgiveness.


I Lock My Door upon Myself
I Lock My Door upon Myself
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delivering Herself, 13 Nov 2002
Inspired by the fantastic poem by Christina Rossetti, I Lock My Door Upon Myself is a tremendous novella that recounts the life of Edith "Calla" Freilicht from the perspective of her granddaughter. Calla is raised in a small New England community in the early 20th century isolated and detached from her surroundings. She lets others decide the course of her life because she has little interest in the major decisions and is trapped instead inside conundrums of existence: whether life is a dream and if it is who dreams it? Only rarely does she wake from these deep thoughts to reality of the world and the decisions she makes when she does are staunchly opposed to the opinions of society. Her actions though sparse leave her family befuddled for generations so that her granddaughter constantly wonders who Calla really was.
This novella questions strongly the location of narrative. The granddaughter tells the story, but it is not really hers and often it is broken by the voice of Calla herself in Oates' characteristic italicised sections which mark the sharp emotional responses of the characters. There is great attention paid to the way the tale is told as the story of the tale itself. It also explores the repression of women in this time period as well as the inherent racism of America. The central theme of the book holds close to the dilemma of Rossetti's poem asking how the self can be protected from others who it recognises itself as separate from and, more importantly, how can false conceptions of oneself be separated from the physical reality of being. This is an emotional and serious tale that makes you think how we are bound to each other and how we place ourselves in the world.


The Book Of Lies
The Book Of Lies
by Felice Picano
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Men with their False Words, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Book Of Lies (Paperback)
Ross Ohrenstedt is a literary scholar whose interest in the Purple Circle (fictionalization of Picano's Violet Quill Club) borders on obsession. He methodically searches out the widowers of the group's members and the few members who remain alive in search of a mysterious man who was rumored to be associated with the group. Amidst his literary finds we are given glimpses of his personal life, aspirations as a scholar and his ambiguous sexuality. This is a book of mysteries layered upon mysteries and the reader ultimately has to draw his own conclusions about what actually happened within this group. The lush prose and biting dialogue lead to a triumphant climax where the ground beneath your feet is obliterated.
The mysteries of this book are only a costume for the real problems it is working to unravel. It is a quest to understand the male identity and how we negotiate sexual relations. Its most pressing issue probes the meaning of a self-defined gay literature which the group claims didn't exist before they established it. The need for a category of gay literature extends to sociological issues, but the primary focus of this novel is to explore the impact of this literature upon the general population. By unearthing the multifaceted expressions of homosexuality it celebrates both love and the problems which inspire the need for a defined gay "community". Ross's primary search is for scholarly achievement, but his desire is to find an understanding of himself which can encompass a fluid sexuality. This is an involving tale and a deep meditation on gay writing itself.


Iris Murdoch for Beginners
Iris Murdoch for Beginners
by Bran Nicol
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Way to Begin, 13 Nov 2002
I only bought this book because I thought it was hilarious that the Beginners series did one on Iris Murdoch. It just seemed a strange choice. However, now that I've read it I feel that Bran Nicol gives a very comprehensive and entertaining introduction to one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century. The most insightful thing about the book is his very concise, but pointed explanation of Murdoch's philosophy. He does this systematically by explaining the terms of philosophy she was working with in her time period and giving short summaries of the influential thinkers like Plato, Sarte & Freud. He also does a fair evaluation of some of her most important fiction and gives a summary of the most poignant events in her life. While he could have written much more as she wrote so many interesting and diverse novels, the aim of the book and the series is only to give a beginning to the author and there are tips at the end of the best books of Murdoch's to begin with to understand her work. I'd recommend this book to not only anyone who hasn't read books by Murdoch and wants a starting point with her work, but also to people who've read several of her novels and want a better understanding of her place as a great philosophical thinker. This naturally gives further insight to the books you have already read by her. It is a comprehensive and rich start.


The Corrections
The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen
Edition: Paperback

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America Unbound, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
The Corrections is a large-scale examination of American culture focused through the eyes of a "typical" American family named Lambert. Each of the members of the family are dysfunctional and tortured in their own ways, but Franzen gives an equally critical and sympathetic attitude toward each. One of the children of the family, Gary, is a determined businessman, bent on a self-help book form of fulfilment. It seems to me ironic that Opera initially wanted this book as part of her club when her show so commonly preaches his kind of internally motivated and overly analytical desire for bettering the self. The novel revolves between the family's perspectives drawing you to understand with the mysteries of their different personalities. They all exemplify classic stereotypes of their generation captured in the transformative nature of chance. Franzen loads us with their sensations mounting to an enormous accumulation of detail and description of life in America. It addresses international relations, drug addiction, homosexuality, capital underhandedness, Alzheimer's disease, environmentalism and many other loaded issues of relevance. Many novels have given us a broad look at a culture such as this, but where this novel truly excels is the way it cuts through the cynicism which so naturally accompanies a survey of this kind, especially one which the author himself comes out of. This is exemplified in the character of Chip, second son of the family, who is an anxious young man whose authority is undermined in scenes such as a cultural studies class he teaches, by his students' reactions and the cynicism is turned on its head. Chip himself actually becomes a very hopeful character (as do some of the others). This attitude isn't a melodramatic twist as it may have been in some other novels which try to do similar things, but feels entirely earned by each of the characters who struggle for a new form of happiness and peaceful coexistence in culture as turbulent as this.


Proust
Proust
by Edmund White
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making the Enormous Manageable, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: Proust (Paperback)
This is not a deep study on the great French writer's work, nor is it meant to be. However, it is a slim, fascinating and surprisingly penetrating insight into the life and writing of Proust. This tale is consciously told from White's perspective touching on issues and aspects about Proust's life he is interested in. This includes the way the world perceives Proust & interprets his work, how his homosexual status effected his work and public persona, the interaction between his writing & life and citing the most interesting work that has been done preceding Proust's life. It follows the basic time line of Proust's life and is related in a gossipy though highly intelligent fashion. The most interesting aspect of the book is the way it examines the way he is able to historically place the opinion of homosexuality at the time with other writers and the politics of the time and explain how it effected Proust's life. It relates how his life was really guided by a need for love and approval and how this was reflected in his relationships with his mother & lovers and filtered into his writing. The border between fictionalization and wishful thinking is finely tread in Proust's work because of this. White also gives an interesting insight into the way Proust worked as a craftsman playing with and mixing the genres of novel and the essay. Though this book touches on many interesting academic issues such as this, it is a very entertaining read and can be read easily by anyone who is a large fan of Proust's work or a complete novice. It is admirable White is able to touch on aspects of the writer's life that have not be ever deeply explored before.


Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction
Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction
by Bill Henderson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Less Than Ivory, 13 Nov 2002
Against all logic, Bill Henderson travels to Maine in search of a quiescent state of mind. The editor of Pushcart Press is a married middle-aged man who has just completed his memoirs and is now searching for... what? A tower. His own tower. This compulsion to create a space of fortified solitude is an impulse that is as equally mysterious to the writer/builder himself as to the reader. This curious book is a hodgepodge of details of some of the most acute personal events of his life, the practical construction of a tower from the allocation of a plot of land to the ideal decor for a tower and a scattered history of tower raising. It is a meditation on the compulsive need for solitude in a world where religion falls short of answering our metaphysical questions. The details of the tower's construction are threaded with Henderson's anecdotal accounts and justifications for the project. Illustrations of the tower he builds and various historical towers are scattered throughout the book. Unfortunately, he spends a tad too long summarizing the major points of his two previous memoirs instead of digging into new areas of his literary and personal life. Far from solving the problem of why he wants to build his own tower, this book is a testament to the impulsive desires of our lives. It is meant not only as a practical guide to building your own tower but dealing with the oddities of individual existence. Like Thoreau's Walden, this book is a novel, memoir, philosophical essay and social commentary touching upon universal issues through a moving personal account.


Quartet (Penguin Modern Classics)
Quartet (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Jean Rhys
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget Me Knots, 13 Nov 2002
Quartet was Jean Rhys' first novel. It is the story of Marya, a British expatriate living in Paris in the early part of the 20th century. She is acutely self-conscious and yet utterly incapable of changing her life to achieve happiness. Her life revolves around two men: Stephan, her vague Polish husband and HJ, a married British ex-pat who is extremely social and active in the arts. Marya's life has been pared down to essentials: dining, drinking, reading and waiting for her husband to return. When she finds Stephan has been unexpectedly arrested her attachment to him is disturbed. Craving affection and financial security, she desperately attempts to discover why Stephan has been arrested and how she can stay in contact with him. However, she quickly takes up with HJ and his wife, Lois. Her emotions become dangerously tangled between the two. Meandering through defeat after defeat entirely unsatisfied and pining for the money to pay for her rent and a glass of brandy, she ultimately has to face the consequences of her love affair. Marya is vaguely dissatisfied and compulsively tragic. In her life which closely parallels Rhys' own, she finds no remission for the terribly existential fact of life.
In this novel Rhys subtly satirizes her affair with Ford Madox Ford and the life she led with him in Paris. This time of great artistic innovation is reduced to the bare facts of the debased livelihood of the expatriates: their drinking and intertwining sexual affairs. Rhys is unremittingly spare in her emotional honesty. Her prose are hollowed out just as the main character's personality is hollowed out. There is nothing tender about this fictitious recreating. It is brutal, just as Rhys' vision of life. Emotions seep out in sporadic bursts and the rest is contemptuously smoking a cigarette and watching passers by. But the gaze of Marya's is incredibly telling. Her feelings are projected outward onto the people surrounding her. A man or woman witnessed walking by or sitting on the opposite side of a café will inhabit the emotions Marya does not allow to pool inside her. In this way, Rhys fiction is a strong precursor to Alain Robbe-Grillet's because of the intensely violent subjectivity of the character's perception of the world. The solemn nature of novel evokes powerful feelings of sympathy and sorrow.


Not without Laughter
Not without Laughter
by Hughes
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughter and Living, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: Not without Laughter (Paperback)
Despite his considerable output of poetry, short stories and autobiographical work, this is Langston Hughes' only novel. It is the tremendously crafted story of Sandy, a black child of the 1920s in rural Kansas. In poignant tightly written chapters, Hughes' depicts various events in Sandy's life often slipping into the perspective of those closest to him. Sandy lives most his life with his strong-willed and deeply religious grandmother Aunt Hager. She is a benevolent woman who desires peaceful racial relations despite the overwhelming amount of racism and discrimination professed by both white and black community members. Sandy's mother Annjee is a loving and hard working woman eternally devoted to her husband Jimboy who is a good hearted man constantly on the move. Sandy's aunt Tempy is a well-off woman trying to immerse herself in white society and denigrating her own race in the process. His other aunt Harriett is a wilful woman who turns from the church for a different kind of existence. Through these expertly drawn characters, Sandy views their examples and he must make the choices that will effect his future. The novel is a tremendous chronicle of the struggle of a family to survive financially. It gives accounts of the psychological dilemma created by growing in a racially divided society and the diffuse joy in life that can be found even in troubling circumstances.
Maya Angelou wrote of Not Without Laughter: "This book was written when preachers had to be poets and poets were preachers, because they needed to be available to all the people all the time." The messages this novel gives are not subtle. But, through its varied perspectives and eloquently written prose, it envelops the issues it preaches with emotionally edifying ideas. It leaves the reader with a feeling of deep connection to all the characters, particularly the beautiful Sandy in whom we invest our hope and trust to fulfil his potential to become a good, intelligent and strong man who does not feel limited by his racial heritage despite any restrictions society may attempt to place for him. Although it may be a shame that Hughes never wrote another novel as he aptly demonstrated his skill in this one, Not Without Laughter stands as shining work be a skilled artist.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11