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The Eighth Wonder of the World Hardcover – October 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Handsel Books (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590512502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590512500
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,066,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Epstein's (King of the Jews; San Remo Drive) ninth book imagines a wisecracking American architectural genius, Amos Prince, who, after fleeing America, wows Mussolini with the design for a mile-high skyscraper. The absurdist encounters between these two men—alongside Rome's Arch of Titus or in the staterooms of the Hindenberg—read like scenes from an opera buffa, in which Mussolini's barking, self-aggrandizing oratory is hilariously undercut by Amos's sly wordplay. The novel soon focuses on Amos's young Jewish-American acolyte, Maximilian Shabilian, who shares Prince's obsessive dream of completing the tower and becomes entangled with the architect's dysfunctional family (and, predictably, his beautiful daughter). As World War II intensifies, Amos descends into livid anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, while Max launches a tragic attempt to save the Jews of Rome by enlisting them to work on the skyscraper. The complexly structured narrative leaps between a turbulent present-day plane ride, flashbacks to 1930s and '40s Italy and Amos's rambling journal entries. Some readers may feel uneasy at the mixing of farce and tragic fact, and the novel doesn't shy away from unpleasantness; descriptions of violence are unflinching. But artful writing sustains a novel as ambitious as the Babel-like tower it describes. (Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Epstein's latest novel is no departure from his signature rambling and high-energy style. Traveling back and forth in time between the present day and World War II-era Italy, the narrative mixes real historical figures such as Benito Mussolini with fictional and larger-than-life figures that could only come from a wild imagination. At the center of this absurdist tale is Amos Prince, a blustery and buffoonish famous architect competing to erect a memorial to Italy's triumph over Ethiopia. Amos is attended--and adored--by the story's narrator, Max Shabalian, his right-hand man. Max remembers the strange goings-on surrounding Amos and his entourage with a shell-shocked and nervous, nebbishy voice, despite his true place as the most stable-thinking member of the group. Absurd scenes--like a party aboard the Hindenburg, during which Mussolini's lover is attacked for smoking--abound in this novel, and those, combined with the shifting time frame, can make it difficult to follow, but a patient reader will enjoy the broad scope of this ambitious work. Debi Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael on October 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Oh Joseph, what bad form - if you're going to review a book on Amazon, do read it, from cover to cover. I am not a reviewer of books, except in conversations and emails with friends, but seeing this extraordinary book here with only one review by someone who didn't even read it, who got lost and blamed it on the book and not his own peepers, to ignore this would be unjust. So I'll put down a few words here.

I suppose I can understand someone not 'getting' this novel; I can imagine the style and sometimes-breathless speed might overwhelm some readers. The prose moves so swiftly over the page, nimbly dancing back and forth between the interior and exterior narratives; and it has multiple narrators, so divergent in voice, perspective, and tone; and yeah, it's also set in a few different time periods, different places. This book is a vast wave, and you can go with it or be buried under it. And yet, it is *not* dense, *not* cluttered, never indulgent; if you go with it, you will find how quickly you settle into its rhythm, how quickly any confusion dissipates, as Epstein's control is masterful. The Eighth Wonder of the World does not require a highly sensitive pallet, just a willing audience. And if you agree to fill that role you will become immersed in what poor Joseph failed to notice: the story. I think perhaps by reading a novel in search of a "layered density of historical and literary meaning" one tends to miss the forest for the trees. (Not that his review of those trees is anything more than pseudo-intellectual mush.)

I choose not to cover the plot, here; I dislike being told too much before I read a book, and perhaps you do as well. Just give The Eighth Wonder some pages and you'll find the story rushing forth soon enough.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Tracy on November 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read a little more than half way through Epsteins novel and skimmed through the remains of the remains. Kind of like looking through the entrails to try to divine any redeeming qualities. The Comparison of The 8th Wonder.. by one reviewer to Pynchon must have been based on the inclusion of dirigibles or actual historic characters like Benito Mussolini and Goebbels. There was nothing approaching the inventiveness and constant surprises of Pynchon' s prose, or his layered density of historical and literary meaning. I found all the characters to be standard caricatures with some exception for Amos Prince the central architect who was a kind of Mash-up of Albert Speers and Ezra Pound and could have been ideally played by John Huston. There was some valid insight into the ease with which large portions of a society comply with authoritarian militarism, and the weird bombastic appeal of people like Mussolini. The trouble is that the dark side of fascism is not made real, except for the suffering of the cartoony Jews set in the equally cartoony mash-up of the tower of Babel story and a version of the Biblical Esther story with a catastrophic ending.There is also a subverted combination of Moses and his ark inthe bulrushes and a failed crossing of the Jordan. The superimposition of Biblical themes lacks passion and depth. In the face of the very real devastations of current Imperial plans and wars, Epstein offers a grandiose but insipid fantasy of personal inconvenience. And there isn't enough intellectual power to make this proposed post-modern insight worth the long pages of plot details.

The whole thing falls apart; the figure of the monumental tower is overly contrived and obscures rather than illuminates the historic events in which it is inserted .
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