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Entertaining Strangers (Salt Modern Fiction) Paperback – 15 Oct 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: SALT PUBLISHING (15 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907773274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907773273
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 999,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Taylor achieves a heartfelt yet unsentimental memoir that is also a reconciliation. -- Carol Birch TLS A brave and unsentimental book. -- Diana Athill Riveting, detailed, moving account of his father's Parkinson's, mysterious past, and his own response to it. -- Michele Hanson Guardian A literary novel, with prose like music. -- Sophie Duffy Somehow Taylor has created a penniless, snobbish autodidact who's completely adorable. Prince is the kind of character who comes along once in a lifetime, the kind who echoes in your thoughts for days after reading. The initial absurdity of his preoccupation with ants (and the ensuing repetition of the word 'ants', unleashing laughs which I thought I'd reserved exclusively for Stewart Lee) develops into a more profound leitmotif and ultimately a poignant symbol of his self-destructiveness. The line between tragedy and comedy is redrawn in satisfyingly unexpected ways. Fiction Uncovered This is not to dumb down the novel at all, but to big it up: A literary novel, with prose like music. A novel that demands a reader response. A novel whose many many expletives swirl around hurt lives and confused emotions. A novel that deals with the crunchiness of living on the edge. That deals with families. And the way families can pass on their baggage of abusive behaviour and guilt to the next generation. And the one after that...And it is the stranger who falls through time and space through the front door that holds the key to the past. -- Sophie Duffy Entertaining Strangers is probably one of the more creative and original novels I've ever read. It's definitely an intellectual's book: one clever and gigantic allegory full of surprises, and an abundance of intriguing information about ants. Dreamworld Book Reviews

About the Author

Jonathan Taylor is author of the novel Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the memoir Take Me Home (Granta Books, 2007). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University, and co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators (www.crystalclearcreators.org.uk). He is editor of Overheard, an anthology of short stories for reading aloud (Salt, 2012).


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Jonathan Taylor's first novel, Entertaining Strangers (Salt Modern Fiction) is a very assured and entertaining novel, whether you are a stranger to his work or not. The endnote tells us something of the genesis and it might be worth reading this first, but either way the novel plunges us head first into a world which is both immediately recognisable (who of us has not drunk Vermouth for breakfast?) and utterly alienating. The characters, particularly Edwin and his semi-estranged family, are sharply drawn and their world-that-is-going-nowhere-slowly is chillingly and comically believable. But deepening the impact of the novel is Edwin's (and perhaps Jonathan Taylor's) obsession with ants, which opens each chapter and throws the human world into sharp relief. And this relief - although relief it is not - is thrown into sharper relief by the fate of an Armenian girl in Smyrna 75 years previously; ants/people... people/ants: suddenly the world and its grubby history is refracted through the chaotic lives of a small group of Midlanders. This is the novel's triumph, to explode a moment in history through the prism of a bunch of no-hopers in late twentieth century England. A good read, a powerful story, fiction with an intellectual kick. And not a taxing novel, although there's nothing wrong with tax.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Strikingly surreal, with a metronomic tick echoing throughout the vivid narrative, this is one of the few genuinely original novels published in the last few years. The protagonists are larger than life, so much so that I couldn't help feeling that I was going to trip over one of them as I walked past my front door. The psychology of despair and nihilism is brought sharply into focus, drawing the reader's attention to the hilarity and tragedy of painfully mundane existence gone peculiar.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taylor's literary novel is as vivid as it is enthralling. The poetic prose depicts an unlikely beauty through the bleakness of the novel's setting. The sense of place (namely, the dilapidated and chaotic home of Edwin Prince and his New-Age-Gothic landlady), rings true. Taylor captures a fascinating array of social misfits; each one comic, charming, yet paradoxically, isolated by their own pain and living on the fringes of society.

The main protagonist: the homeless Jules, whose disturbing past cleverly haunts the text throughout, is drawn irrevocably to the eccentric Edwin. She is essentially a tragic character, for whom there seems to be little hope: reliant, as she is, upon the aforementioned who is self-obsessed and stuck between two worlds: the intellectual and the everyday.

Despite Edwin's attempts at escapism via his obsession and study of ants and through the grandiosity of his own intellect; the banality and baseness of his everyday life encroaches, creating a juxtaposition that adds to the novel's vividity, poignance and humour.

It is also a novel that presents a world of inversions: where success means avoidance; where misery is happiness; where 'Spring is the new Winter'. Yet still the characters make attempts to escape their situation. This push and pull of the positive and negative is echoed through the unusual theme of music: major and minor; happy and sad; concordant and discordant, to which the characters are fascinatingly drawn and repelled by, according to their fears, their beliefs and their emotions.

Incorporating an eclectic mix of intertextuality, this novel has strong philosophical undertones running parallel to the plot, yet it still attains the important balance between complexity and accessibility. Littered with comic irony and hilarious one-liners, this novel is full of 'Entertaining Strangers'. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It took me a while to get through this - not because it was hard work, but because I was reluctant to finish. I was laughing out loud within the first few lines and it's a very funny book, but so much more. The writing is immediate, engaging, twisty, smart, touching and with constant switches between light and dark, I was sucked into the story of this weird bunch of people, in their horrible, rubbish-strewn, dust-laden home. I loved the music puns, and Edwin's rants. I loved the New Age landlady. And I learned things too. About ants. About Smyrna. I've bought it for other people, because I think they'll love it as much as I did.
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