“‘These are not the banu adam you’re looking for,’ he said.” Make that: supernatural Muslim hacker novel with a gratuitous Star Wars reference.
g willow wilson, alif the unseen
“Yet how hollow rings a tradition in which the law, which is subject to interpretation, is held as sacrosanct, yet the word of God is not to be trusted when it comes to His description of what He has created.” The theological stuff here is especially interesting, and I think only partially because it comes out of a different intellectual tradition than my own; there’s this questioning of...
I’ve spent years studying compound nouns, vaguely... →
They really do need to let their copyeditors write more.
“We say things we believe and most often we’re wrong. And even if we’re right, we fight so hard at making someone believe we’re right, we become wrong. Words make us into monsters of ourselves.” A zombie torte is an ambitious dish. And for the most part, the top layer of Zombie works really pretty well, with Jeremy’s coming-of-age lining up nicely with his horror-movie obsessions; there are...
j r angelella, zombie
“Dad and I have seen Planet Terror a trillion times. Shit, we’ve seen every zombie movie a trillion times, but everyone has his or her comforts.” Arguably more than any other monster-based sub-genre, zombie stories work as metaphors. The living dead are an ideal blank slate, a useful way to work out other larger issues with the added benefit of a little splatter and gore. And what J R Angelella...
Well-run libraries are filled with people because... →
Zadie Smith, in the NYRB, on library closures and the public good.
‘Because I’m not going to be replaced! I’m not your...– Raymond Kennedy, Ride a Cockhorse | NYRB 06.19.12
“Mrs. Fitzgibbons’s string of triumphs had not lonly affected her own bearing, as in the proudness of her walk, or the rather impressive set of her jaw, it had also produced a similar result on some of her closest followers. Julie, for example, who was at heart a genial soul, and never wished to make trouble, was showing herslef to be quite acid-tongued when dealing with the staff...
raymond kennedy, ride a cockhorse
“As she entered the room, she threw aside the front part of the newspaper and was holding up the ‘Local News’ section, the front page of which was always produced in color on Saturday. The entire page was devoted to her. It centered upon a full-length shot of Mrs. Fitzgibbons standing importantly in front of her desk at the bank, looking incredibly resplendent in her poison green...
“‘Yeah,’ he says with a soft tone of resignation. ‘But just watch. She’ll leave you too. She quits everything.’” But despite that — the stylistic flatness, the po-faced naivete — there’s actually a bunch of stuff to like here; once Meno brings his characters together (which gives them things to do that are not moping), their stories take...
joe meno, office girl
“But now, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, in the first flush of adulthood, a decided awkwardness has crept into the lines of his cheeks and forehead, and overall, the feeling one gets when looking into his face is that of unquestionable anxiety. There is nothing the least bit remarkable about him; everything, including his facial features, is completely, hopelessly average. Watching him...
“Travis was an avid fan of TV property programmes and felt at ease with the culture of wandering around other people’s houses and passing judgement on them.” But as a novel that partakes so closely of the conventions of long-form journalism, Capital seems unnecessary, even capricious — taking a story that still belongs in the realm of fact and fictionalizing it in a way...
john lanchester, capital
“Peter McAllister sat on the other side of the same desk, with the same degree of non-view our of the semi-window. He was stretching his arms as far back and up as they would go, and his pinstripe suit was riding up. He was looking a bit porky, Alison felt; as if whatever horse-riding-type exercise he was taking at the weekend was not keeping at bay the effect of his eating and drinking...
And so, when he reaches the climax of the story, he includes a paragraph, a projection that begins with the sentence “And now I am Gabcik.” But Binet doesn’t make it a full page before he retracts: “I am not Gabcik and I never will be. At the last second, I resist the temptation of the interior monologue and in doing so perhaps save myself from ridicule at this crucial point. The gravity of the...
It’s interesting, later in the book, when Binet reads Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones — which won the Prix Goncourt in 2006, four years before HHhH won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, and which I thoroughly disliked (actually, looking it up on Wikipedia, I was gratified to see that they say “sales in the United States were considered extremely low. The book was bought by HarperCollins...
“Following this would be a minutely detailed description of the piano, accompanied by a long disquisition on German music at the beginning of the century, its role in society, its composers and how their works were received, the importance of Wagner … and there, only at that point, would my actual story begin. I remember one interminable digression in The Hunchback of Notre Dame on the...
laurent binet, hhhh
“I also read lots of historical novels, to see how others deal with the genre’s constraints. Some are keen to demonstrate their extreme accuracy, others don’t bother, and a few manage skillfully to skirt around the historical truth without inventing too much. I am struck all the same by the fact that, in every case, fiction wins out over history. It’s logical, I suppose, but I have trouble getting...
de la pava continued
“I got out of the car and walked toward them. It was almost one-thirty. There was no one else around. I told them that if we got into a fight, the three of us, it was possible the two of them would emerge victorious and maybe even kill me but that it was certain that one of them would lose an eye. I explained to them that if we engaged in a fight I would dedicate myself almost exclusively to...
sergio de la pava, a naked singularity
“Look, people need to conform the external reality they face daily with this subjective feeling they likewise experience constantly. To do this they have two options. First, they can achieve what passes for great things. Now the external reality matches their feeling; they really are better than the rest and maybe they’ll even be remembered as such. These are the ambitious people, the...
After everything Television’s done for you? When I walk into a store and...– Sergio de la Pava, A Naked Singularity | U of Chicago P 04.19.12
“He made it into the old train’s cargo hold where he discovered that, by happy chance, it had been carrying seeds. These he planted. He continued building until he had made a small township of corrugated iron. His crop grew. Sham collected rainwater & wove flax. He tamed local animals & got more stuff from the train. Sham made bread.” And after another paragraph of this: “That didn’t...
“Some such stories are about the telling of others. An odd pastime. Seemingly redundant, or easy to get lost in, like a picture that contains a smaller picture of itself, which in turn contains — & so on. Such phenomena have a pleasing foreign name: they are mise-en-abymes.” And here’s the thing, which relates to the last book in this space: I didn’t know, not when I picked Railsea up...
china mieville, railsea
“How many of these philosophies were out there? Not every captain of the Streggeye Lands had one, but a fair proportion grew into a close antipathy-cum-connection with one particular animal, which they came to realise or decide — to decidalise — embodied meanings, potentialities, ways of looking at the world. At a certain point, & it was hard to be exact but you knew it when you...
“Something keeps me moving forward, though. A lifetime of watching the Hunger Games lets me know that certain areas of the arena are rigged for certain attacks.” If the constant, telegraphing emotional playbyplay is the most tiresome part of The Hunger Games, this is maybe the nicest: Katniss’s self-awareness as a player of the game, not only working to survive but also to smile for...
suzanne collins, the hunger games
“But a tiny part of me wonders if this was a compliment. That he meant I was appealing in some way. It’s weird, how much he’s noticed me. Like the attention he’s paid to my hunting. And apparently, I have not been as oblivious to him as I imagined, either. The flour. The wrestling. I have kept track of the boy with the bread.” Not that I don’t remember being a...