Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Books: Biographie de la faim, A Novel by Amelie Nothomb, AKA The Life of Hunger, 2004

The Independent called the book a "memoir of a megalomaniac" and I can't agree more. Who would not stop talking about herself and her childhood as if it is something so exceptional that every detail deserves attention. Can't understand authors that consider their childhood memories worth sharing with the world. And, yet, I would read Knausgaard childhood memories...What makes Nothomb's childhood memories so annoying is that sugar-syrup-dripping cuteness and narcissism that lives in every single page. Even the self-deprecating statements ("I am ugly and have a big head") make a claim for exceptionalism. And why would I want to learn that she was finishing the glasses of champagne (such an exquisite taste at three!) of the guests of her "diplomat" father? This book is as annoying as the self-indulgent banter of a smart-ass child who has been told many times (by her parents) that she is so smart and so cute.
Unfortunately, there are still some guests lingering and watching the infantile woman play cute. The French reading audience amazes me. The woman with the big hat is their cult figure! No wonder Michel Houellebecq emigrated to Ireland.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Books: La Première Chose qu'on regarde. A Novel by Grégoire Delacourt

Have the French totally lost their taste for good literature? This is a best-selling author? Gregoire Delacourt sucks! This can't be possibly "literature" -- the writing is bland, transparently commercial, feels like reading the yellow press. The "idea" of the novel (if we can call it that) is so banal and tired... A looser imagines himself being visited by Scarlett Johansson but actually he's fallen in love with another regular looser and since both are so messed up by the entertainment industry and gossip media, Scarlett Johansson becomes a vehicle of their dreams and desires. The author actually cannot even pull off that "idea". The main female character is killed in a car crash because Delacourt does not know what to do with her and his story. The book lacks intelligence, the narrative revolves around the literal. The alleged sense of humor is pathetic. The novel falls apart before even having assembled. It probably intended to say something about the effect of the entertainment celebrity on the life of ordinary people but is so literal and unimaginative as literature that eventually it is just puzzling how it can hold any reader's attention to the end.

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Books: "Deep Water", A Novel by Patricia Highsmith, 1957

Returning to Patricia Highsmith is always such a pleasure. And this novel in particular is such a delightful, despite late, "discovery" (thanks to Gillian Flynn.) A suburban marital thriller plays out like a magnificent war of the sexes tragedy where no extreme is incredible. The wife is pushing all the buttons, the husband is taking all the imaginable abuse, and then punishing her by killing others. The killer is both sympathetic and sociopathic. The wife is not a victim, she playfully and spitefully explores the boundaries of someones submission. And despite some critical opinion, this is not a "loveless" marriage that both characters are trapped in. A fatal marriage never is. One of the characters, in this case the man, is pathologically in love. And he is quietly destroying both -- himself and Her -- one chilling murder after another. Immediately after the second murder, Vic Van Allen, goes to a school concert to hear their daughter sing. He hands in his ticket at the entrance and the ticket says "Admit two". Highsmith's sense of humor is superb - it never fails to bring chills in the appreciating reader.

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