Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Listen in Prime Learn more
Profile for Eric Anderson > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Eric Anderson
Top Reviewer Ranking: 189,875
Helpful Votes: 1661

Learn more about Your Profile.

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

Show:  
Page: 1-10 | 11
pixel
Not without Laughter
Not without Laughter
by Hughes
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 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.


A Garden Of Earthly Delights (VMC)
A Garden Of Earthly Delights (VMC)
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Embittered Gardens, 13 Nov. 2002
This is Joyce Carol Oates' second published novel. It is where she proved her ability to write a powerful epic as she would later do again in novels such as Bellefleur. It follows the life of Clara, a woman born to migrant workers in the midst of the Depression. She is born appropriately in the middle of a violent accident. Here we see the delicacy and terrifying indifference of human life swept up in a sea of natural transformation. Children, parents and friends die in this bleak Darwinian environment. It is part of the course and they must accept it as they move to the next field where labour is required. Clara grows into a defensive and powerful woman bent on carving a safe space for herself in this harsh world. She falls in love with a man named Lowry who is independent and intelligent. Through him Clara establishes a new life for herself. Only after the birth of their son, Swan (Steven), must she make the decision whether to join with a wealthy restricted life with a man named Revere or lead a life of tumultuous romance with Lowry. Through Swan, Clara attempts to realise all the desires for living which were denied to her in her restricted upbringing. However, Swan, intelligent and emotional, has desires of an entirely different sort. This is a compelling novel that knowledgably explores the multifarious stages of life: the tense exploration of childhood, the embittered compromises of adulthood and the difficult choices we must make to survive. It is a beautifully crafted work.


Vanishing Rooms
Vanishing Rooms
by Melvin Dixon
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dancing on Broken Feet, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Vanishing Rooms (Paperback)
Vanishing Rooms is an intensely emotional novel. It gives equal voices to three characters: Jesse, a young black dancer who loses his troubled boyfriend Metro; Ruella, a female black dancer who is enamoured with Jesse; and Lonny, a white teenager who prefers the streets and feels he must prove himself to his tough friends. At the centre of the story is the loss of Metro and how it affects all three characters. The death is described flatly, like a piece of impersonal news. This is a contrast to Jesse's deep feelings for him that he describes as akin to his passion for dancing. More than the injustice of this murder, the novel continues on to describe the horrible injustices made toward people who are gay and black as they are forced to be marginal groups of American society. It describes the troubling relationship not only felt in an interracial relationship but also the sad imbalances felt by many gay couples whose definition of monogamy tragically varies. However, the book's attitude toward the varieties of gay life is ambivalent. At one point, Jesse finds himself wandering through a large sex club being led by an older black man who is trying to seduce him. The meaning it has for Jesse is ambivalent. There are wonderful passages describing the scene in a way that is almost hallucinatory. The novel is filled with such morally ambiguous dilemmas such as the way in which Ruella's brother, a convict, arranges special retribution for Metro's death. Ruella's friendship with Jesse is mysterious and their dependency on each other turns out to be for selfish reasons rather than genuine friendship. The delicate relationships are poignantly explored and the ending is characteristic of the character's personalities with their beautifully rendered drama.


Critical Injuries
Critical Injuries
by Joan Barfoot
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary Healing, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Critical Injuries (Paperback)
Simple pleasures lead to dangerous results in Barfoot's deeply compelling and emotional novel Critical Injuries. Isla, a middle aged women goes with her husband Lyle to get an ice cream cone as a small reward. This innocent act turns to tragedy when Isla finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roddy is a teenage boy who makes a foolhardy plan with his close friend Mike to make some quick money in an attempt to escape the monotony of their small town. A thoughtless action at the dairy bar sparks a chain of events that will alter their lives forever. Gradually, as the heart wrenching struggles of the present unfold, the pasts of Isla and Roddy are related to give an unprejudiced view of their development. Each has had to deal with unexpected loss, disappointment and terrifying challenges. Extraordinary decisions need to be made by ordinary people. This novel is a tribute to that struggle. Slowly we are given a detailed picture of the nature of recovery and forgiveness. The brutal honesty of the ending creates a resounding impression.
The tremendous strength of this novel is in the power of Barfoot's prose to create a sense of immediacy. She does this through establishing powerful voices for her characters that comment upon situations as they occur letting their thoughts and memories leak out into the present moment. Her portrait of each character is deeply sympathetic to their struggle to live happily and thus the reader feels a strong connection to them. It is as if, through a slight alteration of fate, these moving characters could be us and their harrowing events might be ours. Each character is neither perfect nor evil. The author depicts with elegantly constructed prose the flaws of human nature using accuracy and profound wit. The intellectual conflicts the characters face are presented with emotionally rounded pictures lending depth and wisdom to their struggle. The novel makes a powerful impression.


Family Matters
Family Matters
by Rohinton Mistry
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wise Tale of Family Life, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Family Matters (Paperback)
This novel takes place in Bombay in the mid-90s. While it's story makes many interesting specific statements about the politics and social climate of Parsi life in this time period, it holds timeless meanings for any family that exists anywhere in the world. This immensely readable novel tells the story of Nariman Vakeel in his last years and his relations with his two stepchildren Jal and Coomy, his daughter Roxana and her family. Nariman, debilitated by Parkinson's, has come to a point in his life where he can no longer take care of himself and so must rely on the attention of his children. Throughout the novel, we discover the details of Nariman's tragic past while we simultaneously experience the fascinating and harrowing trials his children undergo. As the family struggles to decide whose responsibility it is to care for the aging man, Roxana and her husband Yezad labor to make ends meet while raising two enduring boys. Yezad, whose dreams of an idyllic life in Canada are thwarted, works in a sporting goods shop and finds the amount of comfort he receives returning each day to a loving family decrease. Through several trials of transgression, the family learn that chance alone can calculate when their fortunes will arise. Peace is a certain uncertainty. The only times that are certain are fleeting moments of contentment wrought from loving gestures.
This is a beautiful and heartfelt novel. Mistry is thoroughly familiar with the tedious existence wrought from working in an uncreative job in order to keep the family going. (He worked in a bank for many years before beginning his writing career.) This is evident in Yezad's daily struggles. However, each character is sharply drawn making them seem instantly familiar as if they have long been a part of our own family. Therefore, the connections become extremely personal and during tender moments you may find yourself moved to tears like I was in one scene. The book also makes powerful statements about living in postcolonial India where the shadow of English culture still weighs over life. Yezad witnesses his son falling under the same amorous spell he submitted to as a child reading heroic novels about an England that only exists as an idea of England. Family life according to Rohinton Mistry is not a happy matter, but it is enlightening, complex, rewarding and surprisingly rich.


Sticky Kisses
Sticky Kisses
by Greg Johnson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Them Last, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Sticky Kisses (Paperback)
Sticky Kisses is a bright, innovative novel throbbing with pertinent ideas. It is the story of a family focusing more on the uncommon theme of sibling relationship rather than the more popular area of complexities between parents and children. Thom, a gay real estate agent has been estranged from his family for years. When his sister Abby comes to visit him, both Thom and their mother have expectations as to the reasons for her visit. However, it is Abby's determination to use the visit as a means for exploring her own needs as she was unable to do in the sheltered nest of her mother's home. From there follows a moving story of the changing relations of this family in the midst of confronting unexpected obstacles and overcoming bitter resentment.
The characters have slow, contemplative natures. Both Thom and Abby, the most intensely "real" characters, don't seem to make decisions for their future based on moral deductions but through carefully filtering their emotions of the past. This is really against their catholic upbringing in a strong, but understated way. The way they moved between memories of the past and the actions of the present was quite eloquent. It's very sad in a way, not just the multiple tragedies which besiege the characters, but their inability to communicate their pain to each other amidst such close, free relationships. The thing that stays with me the most is thinking of Connie's character. He's quite a perplexing person since he's so outwardly jubilant, but inwardly tortured by drugs and his tumultuous relationship with his father (imagined or not?). It's interesting how the families are paired: the connection that Connie and his mother were unable to form because of death, Thom and Lucille find because they both seem to realize how fleeting their chances are. Or at least this is Thom's realization as we're not given Lucille's "reasoning" for her change of heart rather than her declaration of the importance of family. It is touching also how each tragedy seems paired with a reprieve from suffering, through moments of isolated joy like Thom's encounter with the boy in the public toilet or his "angel" male nurse. At one point Philip quotes to Abby: "Sick people form such deep, sincere attachments." This mysterious quote sets the tone for the rest of the novel. It gives the character's moments of blissful revelation a sinister edge, like deceit and tragedy are just around the corner. This is a novel of compelling strength rendered with a fine talent.


I'll Take You There
I'll Take You There
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arriving Where She Needs To Be, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: I'll Take You There (Hardcover)
I'll Take You There is a story divided into three sections concerning crucial stages of a girl's development and narrated in the first person by the girl, Anellia, herself. This is the same structure Joyce Carol Oates uses in her 1986 novel Marya: A Life though the stories of the two novels differ in some crucial elements. The first section, The Penitent, is primarily concerned with Anellia's torturous time spent in a sorority called Kappa Gamma Pi and her relationship with the foreboding and ultimately tragic English headmistress Mrs. Agnes Thayer. Her entrance into the sorority sparked by a timid desire to gain acceptance from her peers, gradually reveals the shallow nature of the sisters and the vacuous symbols of their elite collective. The second section, The Negro Lover, explores Anellia's complex relationship with brilliant and troubled Vernor Matheius. Her obsession with the philosophy student blooms into a tumultuous relationship based on passion that is stirred by feelings of alienation. Each of them are fiercely intelligent and trapped by a societal definition based on the exterior that they cannot escape. But unlike Vernor, Anellia embraces this identity distinction, her Jewish heritage, in order to exile herself from the repugnant normality she has discovered. The third and slightest section, The Way Out, finds Anellia extracted from the developmental struggle of university and unexpectedly driven to a reunion with her estranged father. As he is slowly dying, she develops a relationship with his caregiver and fiancee Hildie. The feelings of opportunities lost and emotions wasted are gradually excavated over their time together as they come to terms with losing a man who will always remain an aloof mystery.
This novel is brewing with complex ideas all delicately arranged around an intricate plot. The sections of the novel could stand quite independently from each other. But together they draw an intriguing picture of Anellia's development and her discovery of the woman she wants to become. The frame she has set around her life is designed to mollify her qualms with existence but it is also a trap that limits the freedom of her individuality. The language she composes to liberate herself is also an unbearable burden. This is revealed in the telling line: "In fear I seemed to be plucking at, with childish fingers, a consolation of philosophy." Anellia's relationship with Vernor is akin to an artist gazing upon her muse, drawing inspiration and guidance to create an artwork, an identity for herself. Unhesitating in her confrontation of the troubles of racial relations as Oates always is, the denial of the language which defines Vernor's color provokes the collapse of any true connection between them. This, paired with Vernor's own inability to divert from the path he has limited himself to, makes their coupling wildly antagonistic and dangerous.
It is significant that Oates has dedicated this novel to Gloria Vanderbilt, the visual artist, on who's work Oates has written: "It may be that Dream Boxes represent an elliptical, subversive reclaiming of identity by one who has, unlike most of us, been over-defined - 'over-determined' in psychoanalytical terms-by the exterior world." Anellia is also unique and this confession to an unknown companion is her psychological triptych. Engagingly emotional and philosophical, I'll Take You There is a deep study of a difficult climb to adulthood. Its artful composition produces a compelling novel. It is a skillful accomplishment that can be enjoyed by both the passionate thinking and the romantic reader.


Edinburgh
Edinburgh
by Alexander Chee
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ingeniously Conceived Modern Myth, 13 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Edinburgh (Paperback)
Alexander Chee's first novel is the tale of a demon fox who is finally captured. Aphias Zee or Fee is an American of Korean and Scottish descent. In early age Fee's grandfather tells him the tale of Lady Tammamo, a fox who fell in love and, after being ridiculed by the community after her husband's death, engulfed herself and her husband's body in flames. He believes himself to be a fox in the shape of a man. Greek mythology informs his destiny as well, subtly setting the stage upon which the events of his life play. Yet, above the decorous theatre is a profoundly human story of Fee's experience growing up in Maine and, along with eleven other boys, suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a Boys Chorus instructor named Big Eric. Sex and suicide surround Fee through his entire adolescence and teenage years. He learns somehow to survive with the elements of creation and death orbiting him constantly, but it is an empty sort of existence for him. Passion is expended on lovers he doesn't care for. The guilt of his former instructor attaches itself to him as he discovers quickly that he is a homosexual himself. His natural desire is tragically intertwined with the other's perversity. His first love, Peter, becomes for him a distorted mirror image of all he is not: blonde, straight and freed by death. Thus, he embarks on an endless struggle to merge with this image, to fall into it, be devoured and emerge cleansed by flame. Despite surviving (barely) through college, making close friends and finding a lover, Bridely, who he marries in a commitment ceremony, Fee is unable to escape from his past and the conception of his own destiny militated by his demon fox spirit. He is paired finally with a spectre from the past and the mirror image he longed to meld into.
The first most striking quality of Chee's unique prose style is his use of metaphor. With a lyrical intensity, the world is shaped by Fee's subjective understand of what surrounds him. Like the best of Eudora Welty's stories, the author uses metaphor to beautifully invoke experience with hyper-intensive feeling. The most emotionally unsettling moments of the book are captured with startling imagery. These moments not only convey the essential elements of the story, but also distort the world in a way to disturb and inspire your conscious interpretation of it. The understanding of desire and love are wildly twisted to unsettle and force you to think of the nature of their meaning. You are pushed to re-evaluate your own experience: "Do you remember what it was like, to be young? You do. Was there any innocence? No. Things were exactly what they looked like. If anyone tries for innocence, it's the adult, moving forward, forgetting." The structure of the novel impresses the need for these contemplations all the more. The first person, present tense of the narration impresses a sense of immediacy relevant for the dramatization of the characters' consciousness. Noticeably, the quotation marks of speech are experimentally removed letting the words uttered float freely in the air along with the sensitive impressions of the characters' thoughts. Yet, Chee's impressive expansion of the novels form does not delineate from the impact of the tale told. Although it is anything but a light read, it is still a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable novel. This is anything but a common coming of age story. The book is packed with intense, fully realised characters each of whom radiate a need to have their own stories told. The primary setting of Maine, so often an idyllic stage in fiction, is depicted as a troubled landscape, both turbulent and beautiful. It is interesting the final scene takes place in Cape Elizabeth's Fort Williams, an army fort well stocked in WWII that never witnessed the battles it was prepared to face. Now it is a popular park. The ruins left may speak more for the characters they surround than the characters speak for themselves. Sparkling with impressive imagery and powerful wisdom, Edinburgh is an incredible artistic accomplishment and a powerful debut.


Fingersmith
Fingersmith
by Sarah Waters
Edition: Hardcover

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pickpocketing the Pages of History, 30 Oct. 2002
This review is from: Fingersmith (Hardcover)
Sarah Waters' third novel begins simply enough. Sue Trinder is a teenage orphan who lives amongst a group of confidence men, thieves, baby farmers and fingersmiths (a 19th-century term for a pickpockets). An unscrupulous man commonly and ironically known as Gentleman compels Sue to join in his plot to win the heart of an elderly bookish man's niece named Maud. Maud is heiress to a fortune, but she can only claim it if she marries. The plan is: win the lady, ditch the wife in an insane asylum and split the fortune. Sue becomes Maud's maid and when the plot is reaching its timely conclusion is the exact point where it is fractured and split like a forest path into numerous twisting paths revealing long held secrets and hidden strife. Sue and Maud are made to endure separate trials in their journey including the incarceration in a mad house, the subjection of reading and transcribing appalling pornography to a perverted old man and a dangerous journey through treacherous London in search of a friend in order for them to discover what their true pasts consist of and what predestined traits may tweak their futures.
It is fitting that at the beginning of this novel a reference is made to Dickens' Oliver Twist. Fingersmith is a novel descended from Dickens voluminous library as well as much 19th century sensualist fiction. Waters skilled use of language to evoke characters and a sense of place through physical detail and psychological mapping of experience is a distinct characteristic of this descent. She also has a tremendous ability to use fabulous names such as (Mrs Sucksby and Miss Bacon) as Dickens did to mark poignant traits of her characters. Where Waters veers from Dickens is in her conjuring of robust female characters who can dominate the novel, not through the circumstances of their plight and their representation of certain social injustice, but through the powerful voice they use to assert their individual positions. Of course the great descriptions and plotting Waters uses to conjure this tale of a 19th century English plot to capture a family fortune makes a great many statements about the ways in which women were marginalised and the bizarre social positions they were forced to inhabit. However, the great strength of her brilliant protagonists Sue and Maud is in the way their actions are guided more by their impulsive desire to survive rather than to spur the trim, thrilling plot or subscribe to any societal roles presented to them. Their struggles led by these natures produces a longing for a happy resolution built not out of sentimentally contrived conventions, but a deserved reward for revealing to us their faulty human natures.
Sue and Maud are not angels. They both deceive and betray each other, but they discover in this Darwinian world a rare affection for each other and a chance to share confidence when one's closest family is apt to betray you. The curious mirroring effect Waters uses with them, mixing pasts and characteristics of them, is descended from a more recent literary genius, Angela Carter. There are elements of her ideas (particularly realised in her novel Wise Children) on the way identity can be splintered, performed and reimagined which correspond to the ways Susan and Maud's fates are intertwined. Their relationship is drawn out as a struggle to express their mutual love and define their suppressed lesbian desires. But this is also presented as an arduous task to realise the aspects which make them powerful individuals. This novel makes the remote past enticingly familiar and relates a harrowing story that makes you wish it to continue on and on.


Page: 1-10 | 11