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The Painter of Battles: A Novel
The Painter of Battles: A Novel
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Edition: Hardcover
127 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars PEREZ-REVERTE CAN DO BETTER, March 26, 2008
"The Fencing Master" was the first of Arturo Perez-Reverte's English translations, and unfortunately, has yet to be equaled. That beautiful and elegantly written mystery story, whose protagonist personified a disappearing way of European persona, brought him the accord which the rich and fascinating work deserved. Since then, his list of work seems to be a somewhat failed attempt to recapture what he so deftly brought to life.

His newest work;"The Painter of Battles", tries to investigate a conglomerate of issues, with an attempt to interweave them into a story of allusion and metaphor.

A renown war photographer has decided to expiate his moral misgivings, by retiring to an isolated edifice on a small island, where he can try to find peace, by painting a final epic battle, on the inside of a crumbling round building. One day a man arrives to tell him that one of his war photos, which became famous, also had the effect of destroying the man's life. "I'm here to kill you", he tells the Painter of Battles.

What follows, is an interweaving of the meaning of life for the Painter, a treatise on the effects of the work of great artists, and the tangled reasons for the presumed killer's endless observations upon how small things may precipitate events of great magnitude; "For want of a nail the horse was lost."

The slow paced meandering can lose its way much of the time, but picks up somewhat toward the end of the story, when the Painter of Battles confronts his aggressor by finishing his work.

Somewhere in Perez-Reverte llies the seed of another "Fencing Master". Hopefully, we'll se it again.


The Iron Snake
The Iron Snake
by John Gaudet
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $2.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A step towards bringing the modern world into the wild., May 13, 2007
This review is from: The Iron Snake (Paperback)
Because the Colonial forms of African development have been well documented in fact, it is refreshing to discover this subject approached in fictional form. John Gaudet has made capital use of his life experiences while living in Africa. Extremely well researched, and elegantly presented, the book opens a door to the painful, and often mind boggling difficulties faced by those intrepid British, who brought, then modern day rapid train travel, to a country whose former mode of transportation was either by slow ardous river transportation, or the staggering physical demands of hacking their way through the bush. Mr. Gaudet does not shy away from presenting the harsh and brutal treatment used by the Colonials against the natives, although compared to the bestial atrocities of King Leopold, the British seem to have imposed far more lenient treatment to the native populations. Detailing the building a railway through the tropical terrain, with it's innumerable obsticals, is a fascinating picture of a world few if us could imagine being faced with.


The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.20
388 used & new from $0.58

21 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "BORING", THY NAME IS DAWKINS, January 3, 2007
This review is from: The God Delusion (Hardcover)
As I write this, I note that 344 others have felt enough interest to pen their comments; almost all of them well reasoned and clearly thought out. Am I the only reader on the Planet who found this mishmash unreadable? Richard Dawkins is judged to be a giant in his field, yet to me it seems that he has written hundreds of pages of gibberish, most of which sound as though they were dictated, while high, at a sophmore high school friday night get together of a group of would be intellectuals.

One who would undertake a serouis interest in exploring the nature of the existance of a Diety, would do well to avoid all contact with this ametuerish, angry diatribe, whose interminable pages of nothingness blather on and on, into insensability.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2007 5:14 PM PDT


The Road
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.29
324 used & new from $0.25

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatness in Literature, December 1, 2006
This review is from: The Road (Hardcover)
Until the publication of the "Border Series", Cormac McCarthy had been standing in the wings of American fiction, his work admired and loved by a devoted throng of groupies, who felt something that rattled their senses, and held them fast. Vaguely dismissed as a writer with a narrow spectrum of ultra violent work, and with little regard to grammatical niceties, he was loosly regarded as a maverick, with little to offer but gory blood and guts versions of the outcasts of society.

The "Border Series" trilogy, with its beautiful and brilliantly written themes, hugely enlarged his audience. Continued references of his work as "Faulknerian", or Hemmingway-esque", have become inappropriate to one who stands now so firmly on his own.

"No Country For Old Men" showed new developments, as he produced a pulp fiction page turner, still violent, but with a new quirky humor.

Now comes "The Road".

I have read, about literature, that no writer enters the pantheon of "Greatness" lightly. Reading this book, about the overwhelming power of unconditional love, in a time of unimagable horror, with its sparse simplicity, and its incredulous unfolding, is to me, an affirmation of greatness in this author. Cormac McCarthy is now a true literary treasure.


Black Swan Green: A Novel
Black Swan Green: A Novel
by David Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
56 used & new from $5.82

22 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "COMING OF AGE" meets "RITE OF PASSAGE", OR "DAVID MITCHELL, ARE YOU KIDDING?", May 3, 2006
Judging an author's work needs, I believe, to be done in context with how it progresses, and how it differs from his previous work. If this book was David Mitchell's first piece of work, I doubt that it would begin to receive the attention it is getting.

If you Google the reviews of Black Swan Green, you will hardly find a reviewer who doesn't find all sorts of reasons to praise this work. Particularly silly, are those who find the mention of Frobisher (A Cloud Atlas Character), to be some sort of inspitational bridge to something. What I find in the book, is merely another teen age, angst filled, largely boring and repetative, variation of the same stories we've read so many times before.

Yet, if one has read "Cloud Atlas", and stood in awe of this magnificent literary achievment, I wish one of these reviewers would explain how the same man can have written these two books.

During the span of careers, fiction writers often change style and method. As one ages, outlooks and attitudes change. The importance and relevance of ideas also advances. It's a normal evolution which then reflects itself in his work. Here however,we have in the span of about two years, two works which seem difficult to believe that they were written by the same person.

My thought is that Mr. Mitchell was under great pressure, from without or within, to come up with something quickly. What a great relief it would be, to learn that "Black Swan Green" is indeed Mr. Mitchell's work, but written years ago when he was a very young writer, beginning his journey.

We'll just have to wait and see what comes next.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2011 8:14 PM PDT


Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Memories of My Melancholy Whores
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Edition: Hardcover
182 used & new from $0.01

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love in the time of a 90th Birthday, November 9, 2005
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, after a ten year span, shows once more that he is among the greatest living writers. Call the book a novel, a novella, a long short story; it's irrelevant. What matters, and what shows his genuis, is that he has done in 115 pages, something others try to achieve in four or five times that number.

This beautiful tale of unplanned self redemption, written in short incisive sentences and with gentle humor, in his languid form of Magical Realism, magages to convey all the pleasure one could wish for, in this eloquent tale of love awakened, albeit at age 90.

An unnamed man has feeling for nothing and no one, himself least of all. He has lived a life of self determined solitude. Although a talented columnist whose work is admired, he turns it out without thinking about its meaning. He has, in his intensely private life, but two interests. First is Music; Second are whores. He has kept a meticulous journal, containing the names of each women he has had, but lost interest and stopped after the number exceeded 500. The women have no more meaning to him than his toaster or his phonograph. They provide him the need of a bodily function. He boasts to himself that he has never in his life, slept with a woman, without paying her for service. For him, you see, it's a matter of honor.

Now facing his ninetieth birthday, his thoughts dwell on the inevitable finale. Trying to placate his fears, he concocts a plan. His birthday present to himself will to find and pay, for sex with a Virgin. No small accomplishment.

He proposes his plan to his accomplice Roas Cabarcas, an old bordello madam, as near to being a friend as he has known.

The plan works well, until he arrives to find the young girl in a deep sleep. To allay her fears, Rosa has given her a sedative, just a bit too much however. His efforts to waken her fail, and with frustration he falls asleep next to her. When he awakes the next morning, something has changed.

He, Rosa, and the honorable young girl are determined to put things right. So begins his transformation, ending in the pure and beautiful knowledge, that love, even acquired at the age of ninety, now makes him happily (For the first time in his life) look forward to his 100th birthday.

Read this tiny gem at one sitting, then wait for the pleasure of re reading it often.

"Viva" Marquez


The Historian
The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova
Edition: Hardcover
965 used & new from $0.01

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 642 Pages - Wow!, October 30, 2005
This review is from: The Historian (Hardcover)
Elizabeth Kostova's novel, "The Historian", is an immense undertaking. The time and effort she has invested is extraordinary. The book has received plaudits, rave reviews, and has been translated into multiple languages.

With respect Ms. Kostova's years of work, I disagree with the majority. The Lady has spent years trying to tell a story, which I confess to not understanding. It's not that I don't know what the story is about; I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Fiction should above all entertain, hold the readers attention, and follow coherent and understandable goals.

Though I was determined to finish it, which I did, I am at a loss to understand the brilliance others see.

The book takes place in the present, still the characters speak and behave indiomatically as though they live in the Victorian era. The stilted use of speech is puzzling, and seems to indicate that either Ms. Kostova has led a sheltered life somewhere, years away from current diction, or thought it appropriate to use this as a device to bring us into the time of Bram Stoker.

The characters seem, much of the time, little more than paper mache cutouts, absent feeling, humor, or any reality of awareness.

The endless visits to Libraries and Monasteries, the constant clues thrown in, are non stop cliches. Unending letters written from A to B explain virtually nothing, yet go on and on.

By the time I neared the end, I was not only confused, but much worse, bored into insensability. It was only in the final chapters when the finale approaches, does the work seem to come alive, and interest awakened - but for far too few pages.

For all the tedious work that went into the writing of this novel, it is unfortunate that the Author, despite her meticulous (and undending) attention to detail, seems not to have understood that a work of fiction, needs to be both interesting, and to tell a tale which captures the readers interest and attention.


No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Hardcover
164 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Work, but far from his Best, July 29, 2005
This review is from: No Country for Old Men (Hardcover)
Cormac McCarthy's excellent new Novel, "No Country for Old Men" is receiving generally outstanding reviews. That it is indeed a fine piece of work, should not assure readers that he is at his best here.

The Story: A lone hunter finds in the desert, the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. He arrives to find dead bodies, burnt out cars, and two million in cash. When he leaves the scene with the money, the story is in play. In a whirlwind of non stop action, the tragedy unfolds, and leads to its sad conclusion. Although different in style and content from previous work, it continues to explore violence, goodness, and godliness, themes which have pervaded his work almost from the beginning.

As in the earlier tales from the Border Trilogy, we have the adventurer, innocent of the role he plays. There are the Violent and Cruel, whose roles are less rather to bring any sense of justice, than to live out their legacy of barbaric cruelty. Lastly, there is "Chorus", here in the form of the gentle Sheriff, who between his crusade against evil, plays Thespian to the reader, a much used tactic in McMarthy's work.

Among the loyal group of readers who consider Cormack McCarthy's work unique and monumental, there is a larger segment that has shown marked indifference. How Unfortunate. McMarthy has found a way to integrate spellbinding storytelling, with a core belief that violence by man against man is neither caused, nor judged by God, and that the Lord is impassive in the face of evil. He who judges and acts is man himself, guided by a force within him; his own personal God or Devil.

What lessens this work is the relative absence of character development, which has shone so brightly in earlier work. "Blood Meridian", as violent and bloody a work in recent memory, pictures a man, (Judge Holden), as a supreme example of the Devil on Earth. Cruel beyond description, he was revealed nevertheless, as a man one felt as a real and compelling person. In The Border Trilogy , characters came alive with such force that a reader could feel a kinship, with even the minor people who drifted in and out of the scenarios.

"No Country for Old Men" is new McCarthy, this time a pulp fiction page turner, with twists, and even comic interludes. Missing however is the genius McCarthy can evoke when he records the plain and idiomaic speech of his actors, and which brings them so brightly to life.

In the end, McCarthy continues his assertion that God, or the Devil will reveal himself as he inhabits every man. Men are born, and grow, with God and truth in their bones, or soulless and depraved, and neither can be learned or instilled.


I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel
I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel
by Tom Wolfe
Edition: Hardcover
703 used & new from $0.01

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poor Tom Wolfe, November 21, 2004
Poor Tom Wolfe. He's the literary equivalent of the President. Readers love him or hate him. There's no middle ground.

For those who appreciated "Bonfire of the Vanities", and "A Man in Full", "I am Charlotte Simmons" is more of the same. But "Terrific" more of the same. No one does biting sardonic social criticism with the same elegant style, panache, and dark gleeful humor than Wolfe, standing up there in his white suit.

What his critics usually do is jump onto the artificial and outlandish use he makes out of the characters. They are caricatures that could jump right out of "Punch". Oafs, boors, egomaniacs, slobs, manipulators and manipulated. They're all there, bigger than life, because his work is not about stories, or relationships, or deep messages. His work is about Social Commentary. The wooden characters and simplistic plots are just the frames for the message.

It's commentary that stings; which lets us see the raw nastiness of a Society we were never raised to expect. It's one of the hardest of illusions to penetrate and expose, and here is where Tom Wolfe's genius shines.

Wolfe's perceptions are deep, the questions he asks are key. What are our colleges teaching? Math, science, and literature alone; or should the schools of higher learning be making an attempt, any attempt, to deal with young people's knowledge of themselves? If a student who arrives at school is a mess, can, or should the school have a role in dealing with the issue. Wolfe is not trying to answer the question, he's trying to show us the extent of the problem.

Schools have spokespersons, ready to tell us that their most cherished goal is not the pursuit of the diploma, but rather the inner growth of the young person entrusted to their care. Mr. Wolfe thinks otherwise.

Charlotte Simmons, raised dirt poor in a small rural community,with God and truth in her bones, has won a scholarship to one of America's most prestigious Universities. She arrives, certain that the glory and beauty of higher education here, will show her the way towards a pure and wonderful life. What now, does Charlotte find when she lands in the middle of Dupont University? She finds every despicable evil that her Momma and her teachers at home, never got around to telling her about, if in fact, they even knew existed.

She finds a repudiation of all that she thinks she is. Sex, alcohol, drugs, non stop profanity, unfriendly, rude, shallow classmates, sex crazed drunken fraternity parties, cheating, no respect, no standards, the "Seven Minute Seduction", and above all, an overwhelming belief embedded in all these folks, that "Sports" are a holy and religious calling. The jocks are this book's "Masters of the Universe". Male students envy them, female students dream of the status they can achieve from ten minutes in the sack with one of them, or better, with several of them.

"Sports" are what runs the engine, what makes the school important, what makes the old Grad happy and weepy, happy enough to write a large check to the old Alma Mater, which is of course the bottom line, and what the thing's all about.

And here's Charlotte Simmons in the center of all this clatter. Poor thing! Doesn't anyone know she was a Star back in High School? No, she discovers, no one knows, and certainly no one cares. Then, after months of despair, it occurs to her that all these horrible and gross people seem to be having one hell of a good time, and she's just a miserable lonely little girl from the sticks.

So, out she goes to discover, and get a piece of the action. Slowly, tentaively, she starts to get herself noticed, and all of a sudden the world lands right on top of her.

Who's going to win here? Read it and find out - you'll love it or hate it.


The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.93
116 used & new from $0.01

433 of 476 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Critic's Rave Reviews are all Correct, May 25, 2004
This review is from: The Shadow of the Wind (Hardcover)
The enthusiastic praise and adulation which critics have accorded the english publication of Carlo Ruiz Zafon's first novel, "The Shadow of the Wind", may trouble the reader who begins the book, worried that little might match his expectations. After all, reviewers who compare a writer's work to a combination of Umberto Eco, or Jorge Luis Borges, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or other literary giants, compel the reader to expect to be transported when they open the book.
Not to worry.
Once started, the single downside for the reader will be knowing that the experience must end. The plot is quite complex, the jacket cover's synopsis will give the reader all he needs to know. The important thing is to read it slowly and carefully.
A mystery story, a fairy tale, a love story (actually several love stories), a passion for literature, a treatise on politics, a bawdy tale, with love, hate, courage, intrigue, loss of innocence, humor, cowardice, villainy, cruelty, compassion, regret, murder, incest, redemption, and more. Add to this delicious mixture characters who come alive, and whose thoughts and feelings you will feel deeply.
What a great pleasure to discover; an extraordinary first work, one which towers over the endless and repetative volumes which inhabit today's "Best Seller" lists. Read it, and become hypnotized.
Edward Jawer
Wyncote, Pa.
ejawer@comcast.net
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2014 2:28 PM PDT


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