Profile for Eric Anderson > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Eric Anderson
Top Reviewer Ranking: 58,810
Helpful Votes: 1622

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
The First Person and Other Stories
The First Person and Other Stories
by Ali Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting to the essential, 16 Nov. 2008
What place do stories have in the great bloated canon of literature? Some consider them as playful side-thoughts compared to the larger in-depth novels that authors produce. Others think of them as an author's most essential ideas pared down to the bare essentials, brief and perfect in their distillation. It probably depends on what author you are reading. This is a debate Ali Smith engages with in the opening story of her latest collection and, as a staunch defender of this literary form, the stories contained in this book are robust examples of how imaginative, important and powerful short stories can be.

In this book you'll find a story which describes the seductive reactionary thoughts contained within each of us in the form of a foul-mouthed abandoned baby. In `Writ' the author shows how alien we are in adult form to the child we used to be, suggesting that a constant dialogue is taking place between our present and former selves by explaining how her 14 year-old self has taken up residence in her home. There is a daring to Smith's writing which pushes the reader out of conventional ways of thinking and the comfortable, methodical way readers might ingest stories. Mythic tropes are invited to engage in the particulars of the present day. Particular people in particular places at particular times expand into what is universal. Paragraphs on the pages refuse to be justified and end on the right side of the page in jagged lines. Quotation marks are abandoned. Forms of narrative are teased and taunted to explore the meaning of points of view. Nameless voices banter back and forth in sensual, intimate, bodily play. Conclusions are written, abandoned, rewritten, erased, rewritten.

Yet these stories are not mere playful experiments with literary forms. They contain real heart. For readers who are familiar with Smith's work, they are probably the most confessional you'll find among her publications. When describing a friend who has cancer, an adulterous affair, a childhood crush on an art teacher, these stories feel immediate, emotional and true (regardless of whether they are autobiographical or not). Consequently, Smith shows in these stories that this literary form provides strategies for confronting what is most vital in our lives right now. Whether you finish reading a piece in this collection feeling touched to the bone or utterly perplexed, these stories make an impact larger than their "short" stature suggests.


Me and Mickie James
Me and Mickie James
by Drew Gummerson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rocking across the globe, 12 July 2008
This review is from: Me and Mickie James (Paperback)
Mickey James is an aspiring pop star that has a huge chip on his shoulder about having a huge hump on his back. Nevertheless, he and his boyfriend form a band called Down by Law and move to London seeking fame and fortune. The two take up residence in a disused room in St Pancras station and find menial jobs to keep them going until they make it big. Through one chance meeting after another, the duo travel around the world working, performing and having fantastic adventures in Denmark, Iraq, Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City. Ever hopeful that they are on the brink of stardom, the two continuously find their dreams of chart-topping success thwarted by unlucky circumstances. Mickey James is plagued by insecurities about his physical deformity, but his steadfast boyfriend who narrates this novel does his best to assure Mickey that he loves everything about him.

This is an incredibly engaging, entertaining and provocative tale about two charmingly ambitious young men's search for artistic fulfillment and success. The author bends the rules of writing for his own purpose twisting language, creating fantastic characters, perverting plot and all to great success. Better than any other writer working today that I know of, Gummerson is able to capture the absurdities of ordinary existence in his writing in a way that reflects the truth of life moreso than conventional realistic fiction.


Self Help
Self Help
by Edward Docx
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest with Me, 29 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Self Help (Hardcover)
Gabriel Glover lives in London and struggles to hold together a self help magazine he despises, basically writing most of the copy and doing the design work himself given his incompetent lazy staff. One night Gabriel receives a distressing phone call from his mother Masha who lives in St Petersburg. She presses upon him metaphysical advice and laments the demise of people's ability to inhabit themselves fully. Bothered by the worrisome sound of her voice and her bouts of coughing, he races to Russia only to find her dead in her apartment. Gabriel and his twin sister Isabella search throughout this novel to discover who their mother really was and, more pressingly, who they are themselves. Amidst their quest, their despised philandering father Nicholas must admit some secrets which both he and Masha carefully withheld from their children. Masha's illegitimate son Arkady holds the key to breaking the silence between the father and his grieving children. The pessimistic Arkady is searching to find some way to finance his musical education and wants to see if the Glover relatives who he's never met will help him. He is a gifted pianist that has seen his talent squandered in the shifting gears of Russia's transforming political system. Even more committed to Arkady's education is his friend Henry who is a teacher with an unfortunate drug habit. In the last hundred pages of this sprawling novel, the strands of these characters' stories come together to unearth some surprising revelations and a heart-breaking climax.

Docx has produced a powerful family novel teeming with rich ideas and universal themes concerning identity, loss and social/familial dislocation. Each character is explored in depth and with great sympathy. Nicholas' psychology and relationship with his young male lover who schemes to get a steady allowance from the older man is complexly drawn. Henry sees his resources dwindling in his struggle to assist Arkady and kick his drug addiction. His slow downward spiral is written in a way that feels harrowing and true. However, this portion of the story seems glued on to the larger narrative about this family's struggle to reunite and discover how they fit together. This is a difficult novel which yields many great rewards, but the story can be a bit unwieldy in its focus at times. One of Docx's greatest talents is for describing the numerous cities this novel travels through over the course of the story. St Petersburg, Paris, London and New York are all vividly evoked in rich sensual detail giving real character to the places and making them physically real. More than that, he holds up a reflection of the values and sensibility of Russia compared to the West. Docx has many intelligent and heartfelt things to say about the responsibility we have to accept ourselves fully. While Self Help isn't meant to be prescriptive, it does give you a lot to think about.


This Is England (2 Disc Edition) [DVD]
This Is England (2 Disc Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Thomas Turgoose
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £3.45

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the films of the year - British, English or otherwise, 28 Aug. 2007
Much as I liked Dead Man's Shoes, it was effectively a brilliantly made genre piece - terrifying and moving but a step away from the naturalism which had characterised director Shane Meadows' best work.

This is England is as gripping, heartfelt and well-realised as its predecessor, but cuts deeper in a way that is both specific to these characters (particularly young Shaun, played by the mesmerising Thomas Turgoose) while also acting as a broader comment on issues of belonging, community and national identity which are as relevant to 21st century Britain as they were in the Thatcherite '80s. In short, easily one of the best films of the year.


Mister Pip
Mister Pip
by Lloyd Jones
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Storytelling, 24 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Mister Pip (Hardcover)
This novel is narrated by a black girl named Matilda who is reflecting on her time growing up in an island's small village on the fringes of war-torn Papua New Guinea. The village regularly receives news and gossip about the ongoing conflict between the perceived "red-skin invading government" and the black rebels made up of many young men from local villages. They hear about the vandalism and destruction of communities as well as the gruesome murder of many innocent civilians caught in the civil war. However, Matilda is only vaguely aware of this happening in the back ground. At first, she's more concerned with the daily details of life with her protective mother (her father left them some time ago to do business in Australia), playing with her friends and wondering about the local oddity - Mr. Watts (or Pop Eye as the children call him), the only white man in the village, who is occasionally found pulling his mysterious black wife in a cart while wearing a red clown nose. When the children are left with no teacher, Mr. Watts surprisingly comes forward to educate all the local children. However, with no formal teaching skills, he spends the majority of class time reading aloud to them from the novel Great Expectations. Matilda is enraptured by the story and comes to think of its characters as her friends, finding common themes between Pip's life and her own. However, her strict Christian mother is less than pleased about the way Mr. Watts is influencing her daughter. When the fighters come to Matilda's small village, the girl's adoration for the character Pip inadvertently causes a conflict which throws the village into chaos and threatens their peaceful existence.

Jones masterfully re-creates life within this small village using straight-forward, beautifully-wrought prose. He describes the way in which storytelling can powerfully affect people, letting their thoughts and experience meld with the tales to make them wholly personal and unique. The author also manages to subtly make original and profound statements about racial differences. When scenes of horrific violence appear they are delivered with heart-breaking simplicity rather than artistic flourishes. Jones shows the slow painful destruction which war brings, exhausting and maiming the fighters, creating upheaval and chaos in the lives of ordinary citizens and tarnishing the future of the innocents. This is what makes Mister Pip a truly universal tale accessible to anyone. The thing which is shown to survive, beyond all the villagers' physical possessions, is their imagination and memory. They are what allow Matilda to reconnect with her past and rebuild her identity out of the ashes. She eventually discovers Mr. Watts has hidden stories of his own as does her beloved author Mr. Dickens. Though she endures a painful amount of hardship, it feels like a kind of victory that Matilda's own story can survive despite her childhood world being erased by the march of history.

This is only the first of New Zealand author Lloyd Jones' numerous novels to be published in the UK and US. Hopefully, his back catalogue will become available to the west soon.


What Was Lost
What Was Lost
by Catherine O'Flynn
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Literary Mystery, 15 Aug. 2007
This review is from: What Was Lost (Paperback)
Set in Birmingham in the mid-80s, this is the story of an adolescent girl named Kate who feels different from the rest of the girls her age. She's not interested in playing frivolous games or fashionable clothes. What she aspires to become is a great detective. With the help of a beginner's manual and her toy monkey, she attempts to set up a detective agency. She spends most of her time practicing stake-outs, observing neighbourhood houses or people passing banks while making meticulous notes in her diary. She strives ardently to catch out sneaky criminals and make a name for herself. After a series of family tragedies, Kate unexpectedly finds herself to be at the centre of a mystery. The story leaps forward in time and we meet Kurt and Lisa. They are two people who work for the enormous Green Oaks shopping centre which appears to be swallowing the business of the entire city. Vaguely discontent with their lives, they deliver sharp critiques of their consumerist culture, but are uncertain how to detach themselves from it. A strange ghost of a girl begins appearing in the service corridors of Green Oaks and the pair are entangled in a mystery which stretches back many years.

O'Flynn writes beautifully about adolescent experience without being simplistic or condescending. Rather, she uses her young character to highlight the absurdities of some adult behaviour, critique the culture she is being raised in and peek into the tumultuous private lives of the people around her. The author has a light touch, delivering a story that is both funny (I particularly enjoyed the hysterical increasingly-frenzied mystery shopper reports delivered near the end of the novel) and movingly serious at different times. She also has constructed a compelling mystery which kept me quickly reading along to find out what happens. The thing which elevates this book above a more generic mystery story is its sharp observations about modern urban life, the way in which it captures how people can be caught in a profit-driven corporate machine and be reduced to marketing tools. The book also uses a creative array of narrative voices which deliver snippets from a wide range of perspectives and it shows a deep compassion for individuals caught in mediocre jobs. What Was Lost is a thoroughly enjoyable read.


Seven Sweet Things: A Novella with Recipes
Seven Sweet Things: A Novella with Recipes
by Shaun Levin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous Feast, 30 Jun. 2006
Shaun Levin's first novel is a delicate, poetic, intensely-sexual exploration of a man's affair with a married man. They meet sporadically when time allows them for prolonged sessions of intimacy and rich food. The narrator is a competent baker producing sweets to tempt his lover and he shares mouth-watering recipes such as Rum Glazed Chocolate and Coconut Cake, Banana and Sesame Loaf and Cheesecake Thingies with us in this book. The question of whether to break things off with the lover that the narrator can never fully possess is a complicated one. He wants to savour every moment with him, but knows it can't last. For all his passion he needs a more fulfilling relationship. We slowly acquire pieces about the narrator's life as the story continues. He's able to sum up a lot in terse meaningfully lines like the elegantly sorrowful statement: "Leaving is our family story." He muses upon (and converses!) with Socrates in an amusing and intelligent way. For such a short book, Levin is able to make you feel every heartbeat of these lovers encounters. And that is a very good thing.


Setting the Lawn on Fire: A Novel
Setting the Lawn on Fire: A Novel
by Mack Friedman
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Boy's Journey to Adulthood, 28 Jun. 2006
The series of poetic, sexually-charged vignettes which make up this book create a very different picture of a young gay man from the typical coming out novel. However, the sense of extreme isolation remains, especially after the narrator Ivan is virtually abandoned by his parents. His already itinerant mother dies from a virus and his father leaves the country to pursue his scientific research. But Ivan chooses to isolate himself further by travelling to work in an Alaskan fish factory where he falls in love with a young man he shares a tent with. Ivan has a propensity for rejecting any prospects for a real connection in favour of pursuing the dream of the unattainable. Later, after Ivan moves back home, a young man propositions him in the locker room. But he leaves him in favour of trying to feel up a young Romanian basketball player he's cornered in a parking garage. There's a sense of danger here for the boy's safety as Ivan plays out his sexual fantasy, just as later on when he begins working as an escort we fear for Ivan's safety. The multifarious erotic encounters Ivan pursues turn out not to be for sexual fulfilment, but a desperate reclaiming of his boyhood self: "any boy will really do, as long as he resembles how I used to look, reminds me how I used to feel. I lost touch. You see. I shake myself away." Although Ivan is rapidly reaching the age of adulthood, there is a sense that his childhood has been lost or stolen. His pursuit to reclaim it is oftentimes disturbing like his obsession with medical textbook photographs of naked boys or the series killer who takes the body parts of his gay victims that lurks in the background of this story.

While Friedman's beautifully written chronicle of this unique character's early life can at times become disjointed and confused, he has a stunning turn of phrase that oftentimes yields startling insights. After a hurried session with a john in his attic, Friedman describes how Ivan psychologically deals with the horror of the encounter in a very haunting way: "I replay the scene over and over until I sense him as vague spirit, bearing just the remnants of its form." This is a powerful insight into the way people can continuously conjure up events beyond their control in their own minds as a way of emotionally owning them. This provocative book is insightful, wryly funny, daring and a challenge that is really worth undertaking.


Send Me
Send Me
by Patrick Ryan
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Family in Pieces, 31 Jan. 2006
This review is from: Send Me (Paperback)
Patrick Ryan has made some bold stylistic choices in composing his first published book and to great effect. It's not a novel, but it is composed of multiple stories which all involve members of the same family. Most focus on a single character. Only three show the entire family together. So you come to know this family very intimately both as individuals and as a group which is something most traditional novels are unable to do when trying to balance diverse members of a single family. Send Me spans from the mid-60s to the near future, but each self-contained story is not arranged chronologically. Instead you hopscotch through time with this family joining them at different points in their lives which are often sadly disconnected from one another. This has the effect of juxtaposing the emotional peaks and valleys of their lives to provide greater insight into each of the characters than if you were to read about their lives from start to finish.

Here we have the wronged mother, the straying father, the rebellious daughter, the precocious boy, and the son with AIDS. All are familiar and recognizable, but none fall into stereotypes. Their life stories are fresh, compelling and unmistakeably their own. Ryan's great ability as a writer is to show real sympathy and respect for each of his complex characters. Some make very questionable choices, but the writer shows through crucial events in their lives how they came to make these decisions. These stories show that the real tragedy is not what they do, but what they fail to do. It's in their vulnerability, their tendency to neglect the family that they should try to form a tighter bond with, that their stories acquire a universal meaning. The way in which the writer chooses to tell only fragments of their stories in a carefully structured form yields many surprises making Send Me an utterly compulsive read. This eloquent, moving, fantastic puzzle of a book is the debut of a brilliant writer.


My Lives
My Lives
by Edmund White
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Thing, 4 Nov. 2005
This review is from: My Lives (Hardcover)
For over thirty years, Edmund White has written some of the most insightful fiction and non-fiction about American life. He's successfully blended autobiography and the novel to capture the startling ideological and political changes of the country. The scope of his books range from a time when homosexuality was branded a psychological disease to recent strong campaigns to legalize gay marriage. The vivid experiences he's written about are artistically shaped to allow the reader to see things from an entirely new perspective while also finding common emotional ground. This memoir allows us access to White's own true experiences for the first time. After rewriting his life so thoroughly in his popular novels A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty, The Farewell Symphony and The Married Man, one would assume there would be nothing left to tell. But, in fact, White has led such a rich and varied life that there are numerous important moments which haven't yet been committed to paper. My Lives allows us intimate access to the real man while still providing thoughtful commentary on affairs beyond his own experience.

Rather than write a straightforward account of his life, White has organized his memoir in sections about particular aspects of his experience such as My Shrinks, My Hustlers, My Friends, etc. At times in this book his pithy summation of a period of American life can be startlingly insightful. In other parts, the intimate details he reveals about his life are so shocking that White humorously guesses at some people's reactions: "'Must we have every detail about these tiresome senile shenanigans?'" However, White's probing exploration of his past has much more value beyond mere gossip. This book is not the great elder artist, purveyor of gay literature and international lover boasting. Rather, he reveals that he is still a fragile and tender individual who is prone to despair, hopeless infatuation and self-doubt. Bravely and with his usual beautifully crafted prose, the author proves that there is still so much more to tell.

If you are a fan of White's fiction and are looking for insight into his real life, this book is a treasure filled with sumptuous and enlightening details. And if you haven't read anything by White before, this memoir makes a great jumping off point.


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