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Page: 1
by Nick McDonell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still waters run deep, 21 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Twelve (Paperback)
Professional circumstances forced me to read this novel, and I must say I wasn't very keen on doing yet another book about drugs, parties and misguided youth. My first impression of it could hardly have been worse. A 17-year-old published author who happens to have important contacts in the publishing world makes me raise an eyebrow alright, but not necessarily in admiration. Plus, just flick through the book and you'll probably think the narrator deems his average reader a serious ADHD case, given the length of the chapters.

But I had to read it, so I read it, and after having done so a couple of times I realised that it's actually a rather complex work of fiction. The brusque dialogue style is more an homage to Hemingway than carelessness. The seemingly pedantic references to Nietzsche and Camus turn out to be vital clues for the understanding of White Mike in particular (the novel's only round character) and the novel in general; no cultural reference is put there as a whim, they all serve a purpose. The very flatness of the secondary characters and the plot's depressing lack of substance are terrific indictments of the reality portrayed. And Claude's nature is, brilliantly, quite inscrutable - any other way of going about it (like in Schumacher's dreadfully Hollywoodesque film version) would have been disastrous. The vignette-like episodes are not consistently good, but some, like the creepy teddy bear talk show, are so sharp you can feel their sting.

When I think of serious setbacks, the first (and perhaps only) thing that occurs to me is the 'Afterword'. Not only does it decide to defuse the book's perfectly fittingly absurd climax (and I mean 'absurd' in the best sense of the word), but also does it unnecessarily make a muddle of the nature of the narrator figure, and this in no way materialises into added value to the novel as an interesting and intricate work of fiction.

In the end, I suppose this novel grew on me. You may or may not read it (by this I mean that you won't really miss out on a 21st-century masterpiece), although I'd particularly recommend this raw, biting and unapologetic novel to teens and young adults. If you like the themes but would prefer a distorted, perfectly insipid and brain-dead rendering in moving pictures, then and only then go ahead and watch Joel Schumacher's 2010 film 'Twelve'.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 5, 2015 12:45 PM BST

Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writing of Daniil Kharms
Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writing of Daniil Kharms
by Daniil Kharms
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absurdly enjoyable read, 1 Dec. 2010
I have nothing but praise for this book. Finally, a window for us non-Russian speakers into the brilliant and yet so often neglected mind of Daniil Kharms.

Matvei Yankelevich writes a terrific introduction (with plenty of helpful notes and references), in which he alerts us to the dangers of both oversimplification and overinterpretation. In a nutshell, he argues that neither is it fair to regard Kharms as an eccentric man who wrote nothing but nonsense nor is it particularly helpful to regard him as a mere martyr whose apparently absurd texts were nothing but a cover to subversive, anti-Stalin rhetoric.

As for the texts themselves, it's a great selection indeed: not only do we get Kharms's most famous pieces ("Blue Notebook #10" and "The Old Woman" among them) and other miscellaneous texts, but also the transcript of his famous "blue notebook". This was, for me, a most delightful surprise: his notes are in turn hilarious ("Returning home after my walk, / I suddenly exclaimed: Oh my God! / I've been walking four days in a row! / What will my family think of me now?"), poetic, mundane and insightful, and sometimes they even allow a hint of his tragic "hungry artist" condition to show.

Some interesting notes to the texts are unobtrusively placed at the end of the book, as well as a most enlightening glossary of names (of Kharms's fictional characters and real-life companions). The only problem with it is that you never know if a name you come across will be in the glossary or not until you actually flick through it.

All in all, an engaging and accessible edition to an estranging and obscure writer.

Selected Poems of Lord Byron: Including Don Juan and Other Poems (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
Selected Poems of Lord Byron: Including Don Juan and Other Poems (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
by Lord Byron
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great edition, great selection., 10 Dec. 2008
I'm also reviewing the edition, and not the author himself: that's a job for the literary critics.
Formally, this edition has many good features: the font size is just right, not too common in cheap editions for 800-page tomes; the notes are very helpful; and succint introductions are supplied.
It doesn't get 5 starts for a minor flaw in the content. A very good surprise was that it contains the whole of Don Juan, arguably Byron's masterpiece. However, I can't disguise my disappointment at not finding two of Byron's most famous short poems, "So we'll go no more a-roving" and the superb "She walks in beauty".
Overall, a fairly good edition. Byron is a must in any library, and this book fills the gap in the Romantic period shelf neatly.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2015 9:44 PM BST

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