Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad Sex Between the Sheets

From today's Guardian:

David Mitchell was no doubt celebrating last night, when it was announced that he was in the running for the £25,000 Costa (formerly Whitbread) novel award with Black Swan Green. He may be less pleased this morning to find out that the same book has won him a place on the shortlist for the Literary Review Bad Sex award.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book Review: War

Title: War
Author: Gwynne Dyer
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2004
*From Uncorrected Proof

Dr. Gwynne Dyer knows his stuff. The Canadian has served in the Canadian, British and American navies. He earned his Ph.D. in military history from the University of London and taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He is no slouch.

He also possesses the envious ability to fly among the hawks and doves. War is evidence of this. While he is not neutral, his dovish tendencies are grounded in reality. Dyer demonstrates that war has always been with us; indeed, it may be part of us. The difference is war has evolved in a dangerous key way: now it has the potential to kill us all—not just the warriors, not the just the village, not just the tribe, but the whole damn species.

With open eyes and mind, Dyer takes us from “The Nature of the Beast” right through its theorists down the “The Road of to Mass Warfare” to “A Short History of Nuclear War” to “Guerrillas and Terrorists” to finally “The End of War.” It’s dense like a jungle, full of facts and figures, blood and guts, sweat and tears. Make no mistake. War is hell. And Dyer makes sure we are aware of it.

Gwynne Dyer stands apart, as objectively as he can, to deliver a solid and balanced look at war. Be aware: this is something to sit with and absorb, not dip into on the way to work.

This edition of War is updated and revised from his award-winning original published in 1986. That book accompanied a seven-part documentary, one episode of which was nominated for an Oscar.

Book Review: The Fortress of Solitude

Title: The Fortress of Solitude
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Publisher: Doubleday (US)
Year: 2003

In The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem tells the tale of two boys, Dylan Edbus and Mingus Rude, who grow up in Brooklyn. Opening in the 1970s we navigate with them through racial minefields that extend into the 1980s and on to the 90s. And the soundtrack changes with the times. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the issue of superpowers…

This, his sixth novel, is dense and feels very autobiographical. He knows the setting so intimately that you bear the weight Dylan does; you anticipate a yoking when he does; you smell his fear and intimidation. It’s exhausting but you go on; you are simply compelled.

As you and he and Mingus grow up, you feel a certain separation. Indeed, the section set in San Francisco feels disconnected. Perhaps that’s the intent. Maybe Dylan feels disconnected, or wants to feel disconnected, from whence he came. The girlfriend character, Amy, worked in the same manner. She was exceedingly annoying and her dialogue recalled the aimless politically correct circular rhetoric I endured during the same era. Is this good storytelling (meaning the emotional involvement of the reader) or simply cliché? Nevertheless, well evoked, Mr. Letham,

Originally, the Fortress of Solitude was where Superman could hang out and be himself. No pressure. No crime fighting. No girls. Just a room of one’s own, if you will. As one draws to the end, one seeks the fortress, the “middle space,” as Letham calls it, only to find it necessarily fleeting. Finding it in life and in his often poetic novel is decidedly worth the effort

Jonathan Letham’s new novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, is due out March 2007.
Edward Norton is directing the film version of Motherless Brooklyn, due out next year. Sadly, I only have my hands on the advanced reading copy of the book, not the director of the film.