“Much of his life in the past years was a matter of making it so that things could not get worse. He tried to, through a series of habits, insulate and barricade the life that he and Molly lived, so that it could not be invaded or altered.” But The Curfew is the best thing I think Ball has written, certainly the best thing of his I’ve read, because it combines his specific sensibility, and his...
jesse ball, the curfew
“A servant led him down a tiled passage. The tiles had pastoral scenes: cows, gypsies, birds of different sorts, wattle buildings, haystacks. No two of them were the same. This had a disquieting effect. You would obviously never have time to sit and look at all of them, even were it possible, and so it gave an elusive impression. William wouldn’t like to be forced to give an opinion about it.” ...
duane swierczynski, fun & games
“The stairway was lined with cardboard standees of 1980s white tough-guy actors, arranged Sgt. Pepper-style. Clint. McQueen. Bruce. Sly. Arnie. Van Damme. Segal. And, strangely, Gene Hackman. This was seventies Hackman. Crazy-man Hackman. Night Moves and Conversation and French Connection Hackman. The collage of 2-D tough guys looked like it had been stuck up there for a while. The edges of the...
There are a million titles a year being published, and millions already...– Tom Lutz, reviewing a review of reviewing.
With any novel of that difficulty and length (976... →
Mark O’Connell, The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels (I, on the other hand, tend to adore long novels, and William Gaddis especially)
darren shan, city of the snakes
“I take Ama to a restaurant, Sultry Sally’s, situated by the river. We study the menu leisurely — this is Ama’s first date in ten years and she’s savoring the moment — before ordering. When the waiter departs, Ama asks me to tell her what Ford Tasso said.” Not quite plucked at random, but pretty emblematic of what the problems are here. This is a functional scene in a...
“A couple of times we got asked to help people make difficult decisions, the outcome of which will affect whether they live or die. We do this quickly too. If there’s a clear solution, it would have presented itself up front, and since it didn’t there’s not much to say to these people. That’s what crackpots on the internet are for.” Then again, the velocity and the humor don’t detract at all from...
“The reason they tell you revenge is best served cold is not so you’ll take the time to get it right, but so you’ll spend longer on the fun part, which is the planning and the expectation.” And the establishing humor is welcome, because Beat the Reaper moves very, very quickly. It does so because of its setting — sleep-deprived medical residency — and because of effective plotting;...
josh bazell, beat the reaper
“The tattoo on my left shoulder — winged staff, two snakes — turns out to actually be the symbol fo Hermes, and therefore of commerce. They symbol of Asclepius, and therefore of medicine, is a non-winged staff with one snake. Who knew?” An early footnote (in a book full of chatty, explanatory footnotes) that shows not only how funny Bazell can be, but also how that humor builds his...
“A banner is posted along one side advertising a new British film starring Rowan Atkinson. It looks like a Bond spoof — Johnny English — when I see the tagline beneath the predictably idiotic image of Atkinson, wearing black tie, I have to smile: ‘Preparate para tu intelligencia britanica.’ Prepare yourself for British intelligence.” But where the tradecraft stuff relies on a...
Zulaika has to pick him up off the floor and pat him on the back and, to judge...– Charles Cumming, The Spanish Game | St Martin’s Griffin 10.13.09
charles cumming, the spanish game
“Two or three times a week I follow a short countersurveillance routine from the flat to El Corte Ingles via the post office off Calle de Quintana. The ten-minute route provides several opportunities to observe for a tail, while the department store itself is an ideal location in which to flush out a hostile team. In tradecraft terms, this process is called ‘dry cleaning.’” One of the specific...
nicola griffith, stay
“I drove through the toylike downtown to carefully streetscaped Wall Street, with its new old-fashioned lights and neatly ordered trees. Everything was very clean and very open. Healthy-looking people smiled. It was like moving though the set of a 1960s TV show of the utopian future.” Asheville, NC. is every bit as toylike as Griffith suggests; it has that veneer of engineered cleanliness, that...
patrick dewitt, the sisters brothers
“Dredging my finger along the bottom of the cup, I brought up a mound of grit. I smelled and then licked this and identified it as dirt. People will often describe something as ‘tasting like’ dirt, but this was not the case, here — my cup held earth and hot water, nothing more. I believe the man, through some lonely prospector mania, had begun brewing dirt and tricking himself into believing...
She dropped the coin into her pocket. Peering down the hall in the direction...– Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers | Ecco 05.03.11
le carre continued
“Tiger’s wafer-thin lips have drawn together in a white crease. ‘Curiosity is worse, thank you, Oliver. Idle, callow, misinformed, self-indulgent, gratuitous, moralistic problem-making. Was Adam the first man? I don’t know. Was Christ born on Christmas day? I don’t know. In business, we play life as we find it. Not as it is handed down from the infant throne of the liberal newspapers.’” Of...
john le carre, single & single
“You’re never ahead of him, thought Brock, facing out Oliver’s glower: you never fool him, you never deflect him, he’s thought out all the worst things for himself long ago. All you do is tell him which ones have come true.” Never mind that this is specific rather than general: this is what we go to LeCarre for, the confirmation of our worst suspicions. Scribner 03.01.00
“In a way, it really made sense. That kind of willingness to give in is rampant in this society of ours. From banks to ponzu sauce … well, those are just examples. The point is that people have found a gazillion little opportunities to profit in questionable ways. I’ve seen tons of cases, all across the board, where in order to grab onto those tiny profits people studiously adopt another...
banana yoshimoto, the lake
“I still believed, back then, much more than I do now, that the world was essentially a happy place, full of the sounds of families having dinner together, the smile on a mother’s face when she sees her husband off to work in the morning, the warmth radiating from a loved one in bed beside you when you wake up in the middle of the night.” There’s not much to the movement of this book; it’s a...