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Kingrizla "kingrizla" (San Francisco, CA)

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English Passengers
English Passengers
by Matthew Kneale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent polemic, 11 Feb. 2003
This review is from: English Passengers (Paperback)
This magnificent ensemble piece, crafted beautifully by Matthew Kneale, tells the tale of a desperate clergyman attempting to prove the existence of the Garden of Eden (and, by implication, the central proposition of his own religious belief) in the face of an ever more secular society. In order to execute this doomed adventure he enlists the assistance of the incredible Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley along with his ragamuffin crew and duplicitous ship: Sincerity. Along for the ride is the Reverend's bigoted friend and surgeon, Dr Potter, who is seeking to prove his theory on the superiority of the Saxon race. Awaiting the arrival of this crew of half-wits, liars and thieves is the unwitting Peevay, whose life is about to be turned upside down and who will serve as a metaphor for the destruction wrought on foreign lands by the English's relentless Empire building.
The most charming element of this novel is in the characterization. Kneale tells the tale skillfully through the first-person narrative of each of his main characters, allowing the peculiarities of their personality to come out. The Captain steals the show, with his determined stoicism and dislike of the English; indeed, all of the Manx crew are wicked delights. The Reverend's piety is the foil to the Captain's cynicism and his perpetual dithering and hand-wringing does little to endear him to his companions.
This is a romp across the high-seas which leaves the taste of salt water in the mouth and a yearning for weevil biscuits. Although it is great fun it is also a historical polemic, however, the reader never feels subjected to sermonizing because the message is delivered so subtly, wrapped in humor.
I was moved to read this novel when it beat Zadie Smith's 'Whit Teeth' to the Whitbread prize; I couldn't believe that a bolder, better and funnier novel could have been written that year, but I was wrong. Although I loved 'White Teeth' the judges got it right: Mathew Kneale deserves his victory for this masterpiece.

The Autograph Man
The Autograph Man
by Zadie Smith
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The difficult second novel, 11 Feb. 2003
This review is from: The Autograph Man (Hardcover)
After the flourish with which Zadie Smith delivered White Teeth upon an unsuspecting readership it perhaps comes as little surprise that her second offering, The Autograph Man, is somewhat self conscious.
The protagonist, Alex Li, is crafted unsympathetically and one is left with the impression that Zadie Smith is venting her frustrations of fame upon this emotionally retarded looser. Alex Li is fame's hanger-on, trading in other peoples' celebrity, and the author's dislike for this character, and what he stands for, is all too evident. I was intrigued by the author placing a male character at the centre of this novel, as she did (albeit more sympathetically) with White Teeth. I don't understand why Zadie Smith writes about subjects that are so clearly very personal, heart-felt statements, but are subjected to confusion by gender translation.
The strengths of White Teeth were in its characterization, scope, humour and inventiveness, all of which seem to be missing here. Although The Autograph Man can be amusing and engaging, the characters simply lack the depth that allows the reader to empathise with them. When the suspension of belief is called for from the reader at a particularly convoluted plot twist it is granted reluctantly: with Archie the reader really believed anything was possible whereas, with Alex, it often seemed implausible that he was capable of anything.
This is an adequate, plodding read that I was looking forward to finishing. I hope that Zadie Smith can return to form now that she has had her poke at the lunacy of fame and got the 'difficult second novel' out of the way.

Sticky Fingers
Sticky Fingers
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £8.95

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the money making machine is all about., 11 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Sticky Fingers (Audio CD)
For those, like me, unable by the cruelty of birth to have seen the Stones at their best, this is a reminder of what today's monstrosity is all about.
If you were to wake up in the darkened corridor of a washed-out hotel at 6am with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and no money to your name, this album would provide the soundtrack to make it all seem OK. Keith's enthusiasm for his craft was matched at this stage of his career only by his appetite for the fullness of life, and both collide here to devastating, knee-trembling effect. The songs all come equipped with down-and-dirty guitar riffs fitted as standard, while Mick is able to wring every last sneer of emotion from his vocals.
This is where rock & roll meets the blues, gets laid and gives birth to a bastard love-child that the parents can be proud of.

Wide Open
Wide Open
by Nicola Barker
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard fought journey to your own identity., 6 Nov. 1999
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
Although a considerable effort is required to open yourself to this book, perseverance is reward with an ending that is both poetic and traumatic. A book focusing on the very nature of identity, and the consequence explicit in it, it shines a light deep into your soul. Indeed, as the title suggests, to enjoy this fine novel at its best one must be wide open.

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