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R. della Griva (London)

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Roads Ahead
Roads Ahead
by Catherine O'Flynn
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling new voices from across the country, 20 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Roads Ahead (Paperback)
'Roads Ahead' is an anthology of short stories selected and edited by Catherine O'Flynn, to celebrate the tenth birthday of Tindal Street Press, the independent publisher which published O'Flynn's own debut novel.

And I think it is far more than a collection of mere vignettes, but an anthology of thrilling stories from young, exciting authors. The quirky and amusing opening story, 'The Chest', by Kathryn Simmonds, sets the tone for the unique voices which emerge, culminating in Luke Brown's brilliant, Gonzo-esque offering 'Borges in Buenos Aires'. In between, there are stand-out stories by the likes of Megan Dunn, Mehran Waheed and Chris Smith.

I really enjoyed the anthology, and thought it was a great and admirable way of showcasing talented, regional authors, espeically since the short story format seems to have been overlooked recently. If you like discovering strong new voices, too, then this book is certainly for you.

Franny and Zooey
Franny and Zooey
by J. Salinger
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Salinger's witty, deft dealing with humanity, 17 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Franny and Zooey (Paperback)
How can one pin down the ouevre of such an elusive and enigmatic writer as JD Salinger?

'Franny and Zooey' is composed of a short story and a novella - both exquisitely wrought and complementing each other - concerning the existential crisis and emotional breakdown of Franny Lane, the youngest of seven precociously talented and intelligent children.

'Franny' - the short story - brilliantly depicts the young woman's date with her pompous boyfriend, and already the themes that one would expect from Salinger's teasing, tantalising portion of published works are visible: existential anxiety over what exactly is 'fitting in,' the words and actions of the 'phonies' and how they impact on sensitive people such as Franny.

'Zooey', whilst still being concerned with Franny, portrays her brother's growing concern over his younger sister, who has taken to moping around the house in an emotional lethargy following her nervous episode documented in `Franny'. Zooey, at the rather comic instigation of his mother while he is having a bath, realises that he must help her get over it all in some way, though until the end of the story, doesn't seem to know how to. It is a beautifully-measured novella which takes its time, and reveals through its inaction rather than action.

Both pieces are witty, wordy and brilliantly realised. What I particularly enjoy is how engaging Salinger's style is, how he can deal with important themes relating to humanity and the individual's place within it, with the greatest and ease and enjoyment on the part of the reader. Indeed, many people have commented on the underlying allusions to Zen Buddhism and other spiritualism: huge themes that are dealt with in a wryly understated and very human fashion.

As such, when Salinger arrives at some sort of denouement or conclusion, it hits and resonates, as it does with 'Franny and Zooey,' with huge emotional impact.

This is a book to be savoured, to be enjoyed for its great dialogue, its perfectly profound realism and its humanity. That is, possibly, where one can recognise Salinger's greatness.

Island Of The Day Before
Island Of The Day Before
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my best reads ever (...therefore my obviously unbiased review), 29 Oct. 2007
Okay, two things: this is one of my favourite books that I have ever read; I am astounded by some of the poor reviews here!

Contrary to other posters' experiences, 'The Island of the Day Before' was the first Eco book that I read, and what instantly grabbed me was his fantastic style. I know that we're reading it in the English translation (see his book of essays 'Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation'), yet the prose unfurls and unfolds mesmerically, drawing the reader into the novel. The narrator's tone is engagingly learned, affectionate towards his characters, and very, very funny.

Then there's the characterisation. Roberto della Griva himself is such a brilliant creation: a sub-standard Petrarch trapped on an abandoned ship writing letters to the love of his life who doesn't even know he exists; an unwitting witness to some of the greatest occurrences of his age; a figure who lays bare the mixture of disillusion and enduring hope of the human existence. And, of course, we must not forget Father Casper...

So now we come to the brilliant plot, or, perhaps, plots is more accurate. I really don't understand why some reviewers here have said that nothing happens; if anything, there is too much happening, with the flashbacks and the background detail, the stories of warring regions and the conspiracies of Cardinal Richlieu. This is as much of the story as the actual 'present' of the novel. And all these interesting and revealing episodes are framed within each other, creating a fantastic richness and depth that really draws one in.

This is really Eco's most honest novel. I can't agree with those who have labelled it especially intellectually ostentatious. In his other novels Eco can cloak his erudition and intelligence, in a way. In 'The Name of the Rose', for example, it is all wrapped up in a detective-like structure, so it really doesn't matter if all the allusions aren't noticed, or the minor details understood: by the end, it all comes together. Here, however, these reflections aren't just asides, but intergral to the novel. To say it's seld-indulgent or pretentious is completely missing the point: it is simply and completely genuine, and unashamedly so.

It is a novel of reflections; just as Roberto reflects on his life, his past and his love, what it means and where he can go from here, whilst he is trapped aboard the ship in solitude.

Buy this, read it in one go, and simply reflect on it all...

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide from Concept to finished Script
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide from Concept to finished Script
by Syd Field
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Know the rules to break the rules, 29 Oct. 2007
I agree with many of the reviewers here who argue that Field advocates quite a formulaic and almost stifling approach to writing scripts. His approach really is based on what major studios would want to see in a script - quite a safe, bankable structure. Also one could argue this is slightly anachronistic: Field's book was written during the so-called 'Golden Age' of film-making, when Coppola, Scorcese et al were arguably at their best. Since then, times have changed slightly, not only in terms of what people want to write, but even what some major studios might look for now.

Nevertheless, Field teaches what are really the basics of decent script-writing. A knowledge of structure, chracter development, holding audience's attentions are all fundamental to being successful. A more independent writer might take all the important lessons on board, and think how to subvert the predictability of the standard structural devices he teaches.

Really, Syd Field's book is a must for all screen-writers. It is also well-written, engaging and something one can easily build upon. After all, you have to know the rules to know how to break break the rules...

Flaubert's Parrot (Picador thirty)
Flaubert's Parrot (Picador thirty)
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, or a great piece of lit crit?, 11 Oct. 2007
Barne's 'Flaubert's Parrot' does not strike one immediately as a conventional piece of literature. It seems to be more a fascinating work of literary criticism, held together by the journey of Barnes' narrator, who delves deeply into the life and works of his idol Flaubert. There are even several chapters that support this idea, such as the various chronologies of Flaubert's life, and, especially, the mock examination questions near the end of the book.

Yet, despite this analytical emphasis on Flaubert's works, it is really the French writer's personality that is analysed and interpreted here. It is this suggestive, fictive element that I found most fascinating - the way that Barnes tries to work out the essence of this complicated, brilliant man through his own character. It is as if, despite all the facts that one can gain from his books and letters, the truth is that all efforts to work out a writer's life is just like creating a work of fiction.

And that is exactly what Barnes does in this novel. A clever, witty, really enjoyable read.

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