Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Comprehensible (and Comprehensive) Than Most Manuals, 28 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Life: A User's Manual (Paperback)
'The perceived object...is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analysed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element's existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it...'

For me, the most remarkable thing about 'Life: A User's Manual' is its scope, and the impression it leaves once finished. The quotation above is a good introduction to the book: you will find the mundane jostling with the fantastic in seemingly random patterns in the author's attempt to represent life at a single, isolated moment in time.

The exhaustive lists that populate this book can get a bit tedious but boredom is sometimes necessary to make the climactic moments more powerful. Think the final 20 minutes of Takashi Miike's 'Audition (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2001]' after two hours of soporific non-action. I don't think I would have had as much sympathy for Valene's and Bartlebooth's ambitious yet ultimately pointless projects (or the book for that matter) if the humorous and exaggerated yarns hadn't been weighed down by something a bit more 'down to earth'.

This book is more than just 'worth a read'. To quote Victoria Glendinning, it has the same 'hectically ingenious intelligence' as Jean-Pierre Jeunet's inimitable Amelie (Two Disc Special Edition) [DTS] [DVD]: by turns surreal, whimsical and sinister. A series of still life scenes pass by with a peculiar ebb and flow, drawing the reader in without the need for a steady build-up and release of tension that comes with linear narration.

Whether or not the novel was generated in the manner of a laboratory experiment is beside the point - you don't need to know its methods to marvel at its intricacy and depth.
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4.1 out of 5 stars (28 customer reviews)
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