Kafka on the Shore is the work of an acknowledged master. So why does this book seem so full of pointless – and pedantic – fancy?
One of the pleasures of writing for the Reading group is that it’s a place I can safely get things wrong. Generally, when you write a review, your opinion is pretty final and you don’t get much chance to recant later. I’ve recently been doing some research about HG Wells and there are a good handful of critics whose sole remaining claim on immortality is having written completely wrong-headed reviews about the appeal and longevity of The War of the Worlds.
“What a splendid opportunity is lost in the description of the exodus from London!” wrote the otherwise forgotten Basil Williams. “One thinks what a writer with a great eye for poetical effect like Mr Meredith would have made of such an idea; ...
Only 40,000 words long, this story of colonial brutality is a mesmerisingly ambiguous voyage into the darkest parts of the soul
Conrad’s famous novella is based on a real journey the author took up the Congo in 1890, during King Leopold II of Belgium’s horrific rule. It is a fantastic, imaginative journey to find a man named Kurtz who has lost his mind in the African jungle. It is a journey into inner space; a metaphorical investigation into the turbid waters of the human soul. It is a political journey into the dark heart of European colonialism. It is a nightmare journey, into horror. It is a journey to nowhere, set on a boat lying motionless and at anchor on the river Thames, which also “has been one of the dark places on the earth”.
There’s no shortage of journeys to talk about in relation to Heart of Darkness – ...
The Reading group verdict is in: Patricia Highsmith’s amoral protagonist in The Talented Mr Ripley offers a queasy kind of entertainment – and an armchair psychologist’s perfect case study
“I couldn’t make an interesting story out of some morons,” said Patricia Highsmith in 1981. She explained: “The murderers that one reads about in the newspaper are, half the time, mentally deficient in some way, or simply callous. There are young boys, for instance, who pretend to be delivering, or who may help an old lady carrying her groceries home, and then hit her on the head when she invites them in for tea and rob her. These are forever stupid people, but they exist. Many murderers are like that, and they don’t interest me enough to write a book about them.”
Ripley, however, is a different case. He, Highsmith says, is “reasonably intelligent” and, crucially, amoral. “I suppose I ...
Reading group: In this book we see the author maturing along with his storytelling skills, while losing none of his wit
How’s this for a cynical analysis of last week’s general election?
People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness.
... the bastards, the rich bullies, the wheelers and dealers in people’s fates, the leeches, the hangers-on, the brown-nosers and courtiers and smarmy plump devils in expensive clothes, all those people who didn’t know or care about the machine, but stole its grease...”
Related: Is The Colour of Magic a good introduction to Terry Pratchett?
There was a rustle of hessian, and then:
‘Er... it’s half a brick,’ Ned reported.
Reading group: Although Discworld’s vast fictional realms are not yet fully developed in this novel, it is already extraordinary – and extraordinarily funny
Would you recommend The Colour of Magic as a first book to someone who has never read Terry Pratchett before? Is it a good place to start with this month’s Reading group?
Those aren’t questions that I’d have thought of asking two weeks ago. But now I realise that they are open to debate. Not least because there’s been a fair bit of back and forth about them here. The argument goes that since The Colour of Magic is not Pratchett’s finest work, to focus on it is to undersell him.
Related: May’s Reading group: the novels of Terry Pratchett
Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he ...