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Darconville's Cat Paperback – April 15, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 728 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (April 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805043659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805043655
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having thumbed through this book at a bookstore, I was immediately intrigued: flipping through the chapters, I encountered poems, catalogues, a dialogue in the form of Greek tragedy, essays, rich descriptions, hilarious excerpts from a naughty novel, even a page that was completely black. If this makes the novel sound fractured and confusing, that is far from the case--the perspectives are woven together in a beautiful and engrossing synthesis, and each voice that he speaks in adds a new (and typically extremely enjoyable) facet to his story.
As another reader said, its kernel is a love story, and it is a beautiful and lovingly-crafted tale of the relationship between Darconville and his young love, Isabel. It is a romance, completely, and dwells a great deal on the beautiful winging idealism that lovers share, but at the same time, it is continually and alternately varied through Theroux's unbelievable and skillful array of voices and beautiful, poignant description.
This book is a masterpiece, but it's not everyone's masterpiece. He does get carried away from time to time on his vast lists (most notably the library of misogynistic literature and "The Unholy Litany"). His thoroughness and vocabulary used in description often requires a more rigorous attention. Finally, I encountered many a suspected hapax legomenon whilst reading his book, words that Theroux has coined by drawing from his multi-linguistic mastery: "gynotikolobomassophile?" Well, he could have said something to the extent of "woman's earlobe-lover," but that wouldn't be Theroux, and that wouldn't have made his book better: it is the differences I savor, the unconventionality, and the color and richness with which he can imbue a scene, an emotion, or (especially!
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Format: Hardcover
If you do a web search on Alexander Theroux, you won't find much of substance (other than Steven Moore's interview), but you will find the quote I used, because, like all quotes trimmed of the excess fat of context, it shimmers - like raised gold lettering - momentarily arresting the consumer's eyes as they scan the brain candyshop window on a day s/he has decided to splurge and "treat themselves" to a piece of edification.

Theroux comes from a family of writer siblings, of which he is the eldest (His brother Peter has translated the Cities of Salt trilogy from the Arabic of Abdelrahman Munif). In true Corvine form (see, and read, Hadrian VII), he is an arch-curmudgeon - seldom leashing his razor-edged tongue which, after flaying his target, typically recoils and takes his nose off (he's lost jobs, the warm and fuzzy ambience typical of family reunions and some - but not I - would argue, any chance of major publication as a result). The Corvo comparison ends there. Though he also shares Rolfe's penchant for intricate phrasing and wild hybrid/archaisms, Theroux is a writer in the a more authentic, Joycean sense. Corvo was more an autodidact and whose "calling" had its source in a monstrous ego that intuited and constantly inveighed against its insubstantiality

Theroux is, I think, a believing Catholic - but more so a faithful individual - singular, in love with literature and a living incarnation of the English language. No one alive (no one since Joyce or Beckett) writes as he does. He spent time in a Trappist monastery. He was a monk of academia: his doctoral thesis is a several hundred paged monster on the language of Samuel Beckett. He is in that line of intellectual-artistic priesthood that began more or less with Augustine and passed on through Dante, ..., Flaubert,...
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Format: Paperback
Alexander Theroux is America's greatest living author, but you would never know it by listening to him speak of his own work.
It is not that he is particularly modest, although he maintains a comport you come to expect from PhDs in English.
It is, rather, the unshakable, low-Boston accent that gives his speech a "Tweety Bird" sort of twang, and may tend to throw you off the fact that the man is a veritable OED of literary and etymological integrity.

It could well be argued that the reason he is not currently lauded as being our greatest treasure is the fact that he does open his mouth, and some of what he has to say strikes the ear strangely. And some of those whose ears are so stricken have the power to keep the man's deserved reputation from full-dazzling.
Time, however, will give him a thousand tongues. And it will be this work, at least to date, that will be most remembered.

Of all his works, Darconville's Cat is the one where his imagination is allowed its most full expression, and the results are Joycean in their sheer intensity, breadth and color. His mastery of language is most apparent in this, his best work.

If you get this book, hang on to it. It has a way of finding its way into other's hands. . . and never making its way back. That is because it is so much like candy. You want to relish it. Coddle it. Bring it into a salad with a good dictionary and revel in this most entertaining way to expand one's vocabulary while expanding one's philosophy.

If you enjoy words and well-constructed sentences, paragraphs and chapters -- you will find much to keep you satisfied in this great work which deserves a place on your top shelf, along with Joyce, Shakespeare, Sterne, Rabelais, Erasmus, Voltaire and Dante.
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