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Headlong: A Novel (Bestselling Backlist) Paperback – September 1, 2000
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“Rueful and amusing . . . Frayn is that rare writer who succeeds as both a novelist and a dramatist.” ―Randy Cohen, The New York Times Book Review
“Finely wrought and highly comical . . . a perfect introduction to a writer who likes to pull the rug out from under your feet while offering you the most seductive of smiles.” ―Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times
“Exceedingly funny, both in event and in intellectual high jinx.” ―Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Sunday Globe
“Part detective story, part art history lesson, part cautionary tale, and entirely funny.” ―The New Yorker
“Frayn isn't stingy, even here, with the laughs, gleefully pricking holes in the overconfidence of academic art criticism. But just below the sugar powder you bite into his tough-minded essay on how history and individual human folly combine and conspire to manufacture art's 'message.'” ―Judith Dunford, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Delightful...this novel, deadpan hilarious and wonderfully written, is as effective a work of historical reconstruction as it is a comedy.” ―David Walton, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Headlong offers an enthralling and refreshingly grown-up take on the alarming speed with which our morals shift to accommodate our desires, and on the lofty and low ways in which the great art of the past continues to affect us.” ―Elle
About the Author
Michael Frayn is a celebrated British playwright and is also the author of eight novels (including Headlong and Spies) and three screenplays. He lives in London.
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If you love the paintings of Pieter Brueg(h)el the Elder - one of the things you'll learn is that he altered the orthography of his surname twice, removing and then reinstating the "h" - though nobody quite knows why, then you will love the in depth iconological as well as iconographical (q.v. the book) descriptions of the import of his paintings. I know I did.
If you're interested in the history of the Netherlands - There were 17 of them, by the way, nether or low lands, that is, or so you shall learn - then the book will also fascinate you. This part was engrossing to me as well.
It's the modern setting and characters where everything falls short. Only one of the characters is even two dimensional, Martin Clay; the rest, such as his wife Kate, are such one-dimensional stick figures that the reader is hard-pressed to bother or care about them at all.
At one point in the narrative, Martin is comparing himself to Icarus, who, flying too close to the sun, falls headlong into the sea. By the end, he's describing himself as being thrown headlong into a millpond, by a rout of yobbish Lowlanders.
This is certainly how this particular reader felt at the end.
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