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Cards of Identity (British Literature) (British Literature Series)
Cards of Identity (British Literature) (British Literature Series)
by Nigel Dennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.50

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond brilliant, 18 Jan. 2010
CARDS OF IDENTITY is one of my very favorite books ever. I first came across it in the early eighties, and because--as the first reviewer notes--it cyclically drifts in and out of print, I now buy a supply of copies whenever it's available, as a hedge against the coming lean times.

This is a hard book to describe, except to say that it's an exploration of the idea of self, which makes CARDS OF IDENTITY sound dry and pompous when in fact it's the absolute opposite. The "scientific papers" delivered by members of the Identity Club perform surgery on ancient tradition, the Church, sexual pathology, the Communist Party, and William Shakespeare, all within the larger framework of sending up village life, science itself, psychiatry (of course), and the family. Its effect is cumulative, but it's also so excruciatingly funny at the sentence and paragraph level that you will find yourself returning over and over to certain passages. I am deeply devoted to the "Warden of the Badgeries" section and can quote rather impressive segments of it, if I do say so myself.

The book has a complicated narrative and will not be to everyone's taste, but if it's your sort of thing--as Justice Potter Stewart once remarked of obscenity--you'll know it when you see it.

The Children's Book
The Children's Book
by A S Byatt
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting topics, clumsy writing, 18 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Children's Book (Hardcover)
I'm giving this book two stars strictly on account of the subject matter--the Arts and Craft movement, Shavian socialism, children's literature, suffragism--which is really interesting. The writing, however, is terrible. Both dialogue and characterization are unconvincing. To cite just one example: Would Olive, the product of a lower-class background, really move so confidently through the bourgeois bohemian world, and speak as ventriloquized by her creator? Unlikely.

The only striking element here is, as other reviewers have mentioned, Byatt's somewhat fetishistic descriptions of fabrics and other visual/tactile materials, which lend a fleeting fairy-tale aura to the story. After the first thousand or so, however, even these begin to pall.

If you're a Byatt fan and simply must read this book, borrow it from the library. The only reason to buy a copy for yourself is the gorgeous dust jacket. It *does* look awfully good on the shelf, which is where I expect it will stay.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2010 1:46 PM BST

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