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Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes Paperback – November 1, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life, Kehlmann (Measuring the World) probes issues of identity in nine overlapping narratives, with each pivoting on a moment where a commonplace event becomes a crack and then a flood gate for existential horror. It begins as computer technician Ebling buys a cellphone, only to discover the number he is assigned belongs to movie star Ralf Tanner; at first resistant, Ebling is soon making decisions that alter Ralf's life. Later, after his phone has abruptly stopped ringing, Ralf finds his life taken over by an impersonator. Meanwhile, the telecommunications executive whose negligence led to the phone number switch cracks from the pressures of having an affair. In a parallel plot, Elisabeth, a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, keeps her work secret from her famous boyfriend, the writer Leo Richter, out of fear he will steal her experiences for future adventures of his most popular character. Layers of connection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work and announce Kehlman as a worthy heir to Bowles and Camus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A darkly comic masterpiece, a rare and thrilling example of a philosophical novel as pleasurable as it is thought-provoking.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
 
“Who would have thought contemporary Central European literature could be so fun and so funny?. . . A real beauty of a book, farcical, satiric, melancholic, and humane.” —Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom 
 
“Dazzling. . . . Has satirical bite and technical sparkle.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“Combines the geeky adventure of Stephenson with the icy wit that Paul Auster was once known for. . . . Engaging, provocative entertainment.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Kafka for the Facebook-famous generation.” —Time Out New York  

“This slim, funny, provocative book justifies its structure brilliantly. . . . The stories in Fame make a terrific case for the way fiction enables us to lead double lives—and then, at the stories’ end, to go home.” —The Boston Globe
 
“[A] brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life. . . . Layers of conection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“The real subject of Kehlmann’s book is language: its fiery possibilities of granting us a name, its humiliating shortcomings in telling who we are, its ignominious deceits and false promises, its ingenious devices to help us translate the experience of ourselves into the experience of another. . . . An extraordinary feat.” —The Guardian (London)
 
Fame is a Nabokovian puzzle, a game of hide-and-seek, and a playful reflection on cultural renown and the lack thereof. . . . Kehlmann has Nabokov’s and Barth’s love of false leads, false bottoms, and, perhaps, false dichotomies.” —Bookforum
 
“In Kehlmann’s wickedly clever novel, fame is something his cast of widely disparate characters seek, avoid, flirt with, and succumb to. . . . [They are] luminous creations, and the coincidental devices that link them are brilliant gambits. Kehlmann showcases a flair for devious satire.” —Booklist (starred review)
 
“We were so hooked by the intriguing, interwoven stories, we couldn’t put it down.” —Gawker
 
“[A] darkly comic tour de force. . . . A brazen take on the modern yearning for recognition. Kehlmann is a writer worth reading.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 


 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307474240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307474247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on September 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Daniel Kehlmann, who has published four novels and a short story collection by the age of thirty-five, has also won the 2005 Candide Award, the 2006 Kleist Award, and the 2008 Thomas Mann Award. This novel can only add to his luster. It is brilliant--clever, thoughtful, satirical, ironic, humorous, and beautifully structured within its experimental style. Non-stop fun at the same time that it deals with important existential issues, Kehlmann's collection of nine seemingly unrelated stories becomes a labyrinth of overlapping relationships, some of them within the plots of the stories, some in the surprising connections among characters, some through his imagery (and one repeating character/symbol), and some through his development of his themes.

Kehlmann is exploring the effects of technology on our perceptions of reality, and while this may sound esoteric and ponderous, it is done within a lively assortment of stories in which the characters and points of view are not only realistic and satiric, but usually wickedly funny. He raises questions about what happens to our definition of reality when we spend hours of our real lives "communicating" on the internet, often in chat rooms using monikers instead of real names, where we create whole new fictional lives for ourselves. We converse on cellphones, record cellphone videos, and sometimes post these on YouTube, allowing the world to share them. How "real" are all these versions of reality? And how "real" is the fame that often accompanies our recorded achievements in film, TV, and literature?

Kehlmann's nine stories all deal with the ironies of people caught between reality and fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
It's not easy to convey in a short review a sense of the experience of reading Daniel Kehlmann's "Fame." In part this is because the author has packed into its 173 pages an ambitious set of themes and variations. Reviews I found in magazines and newspapers made me wary of picking up a book described as "formally experimental" and "a post-modernist exercise." What were the chances, I wondered, that this would turn out to be a pleasure?

High, I discovered.

Kehlmann has talent to burn. Even more important, he has an unselfish desire to communicate clearly with readers. In this, his sixth book, he brings together nine "episodes" that capture the feel of life in contemporary society. At the same time, Kehlmann offers canny reflections on the increasingly blurry boundaries between reality and fiction, truth and falsehood, the real and the unreal. He handles these subjects deftly, self-mockingly, and, by book's end, poignantly.

In a nod to post-modernist "metafiction" fashion, a few of the book's tales place front and center the slippery relationship between the author and his characters. In one story, for example, a character begs the author not to plot her demise. In another episode a young woman (an assistant to a famous writer) fears ending up as a mere character in one of his stories. This interplay of real and unreal is not new territory: consider Pirandello's drama, "Six Characters in Search of an Author" and, in a different creative medium, the Hollywood movies "The Truman Show" (1998) and "Stranger Than Fiction" (2006). It's a captivating device that remains fresh in the hands of Kehlmann.

There is a debate buzzing around "Fame" about whether it is a true novel, or a set of short stories, or something in between.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a long time since I have read cutting-edge fiction, and this certainly fits the bill. In the form of inter-connected stories, this novel moves between fact, the creation of fictions (as art but also as artifice and subterfuge), and the muddled perceptions somewhere in between. Rather than a linear narrative, it is more like a network of incidents, causes and forces - to suggest a metaphor, it is like Kehlman is describing the particles in an electron cloud, interacting with each other while anchored to a nucleus that is unseen yet definitely there. These stories would not be possible if it weren't for new communications technology, of course, so it is truly modern in that respect and within the DNA of the plot.

There are several plot lines advancing simultaneously. One of them is a mobile-phone mistake, which enables a nobody to meddle in the life of someone famous though he doesn't even know who it is. This not only impacts the victim's life by fitting into his crumbling sense of identity - though he doesn't even understand what really happened - but also those within the company responsible for the mistake by their own inattention and the chaos in their own lives. Another is the relationship between a writer (a protean thinker and provocateur) and his new lover, a quintessential doer and fixer who works for Doctors Without Borders in war zones. In-between, there are misperceptions, switched identities, and bringing fictional characters to life, often in the form of stories, complete with the characters dialoguing with the writer about their fates or even intervening in real life to the surprise of the novel's "real" people.
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