It is that point of time of the year where people have made plans some with friends, some with family, some with strangers. This New Years, I would like to hire a high class hooker and do kinky shit on a bed of newly acquired Science Fiction and Fantasy books.
From a nation with many fine writers, Oz as it is apparently called affectionately has an unusual number of “fakes” of one kind or another. Some time back a young British immigrant woman almost passed herself off as a Ukrainian refugee – Why? I donot know, a white male writer masqueraded as an Aborigine woman – How? I donot want to know. Literary posturing is not new neither is it unique to Australia, but recently there seems to be a plethora of FakeLit coming from down under. Peter Carey’s narrative is quite binding by re-creating a fictional account of one of Australia’s better known early attempts at literary subterfuge.
In Australia, the “Ern Malley” affair remains notorious – poems apparently penned by an unknown genius of the 1940s. Carey spins his tale based on this scandal, bringing a fresh sense of life and place to his characters. He introduces Sarah Wode-Douglass, London literary magazine editor, and the man she’s long considered her family’s nemesis, John Slater. Sarah is lured to Kuala Lumpur, leading her to a disheveled old Australian, Christopher Chubb. Chubb has a secret, which he dangles enticingly before the editor. It’s a collection of poetry by a Bob McCorkle, who Chubb invented. The invention was to have highlighted the failure of the Australian literary elite to understand real poetry. In doing so, it would provide a comeuppance to Chubb’s former classmate and editor of “Personae”, David Weiss.
The situation gets freaky when Weiss issues the work and is charged with “publishing obscenity” by an holier than thou Melbourne policeman. Worse for Chubb, Bob McCorkle emerges as a “real” figure pursuing Chubb and demanding recognition as the “poetic genius” he’s been depicted. Chubb both chases and flees McCorkle, ending up in Malaysia on a bizarre quest. Chubb/Carey creates a monster in McCorkle – a massive man with violent tendencies, bent on retrieving a reputation he’s never earned. Lacking the violence, Chubb seeks his own recognition through Micks, and this story is dictated to her during her time in “KL”. She must endure a world entirely alien to her while negotiating for the manuscript with a man who is forthcoming in one way, but highly elusive in others.
Carey’s handling of this tale is masterful and flawless. The characters may seem outlandish, but the author conveys them with precision and finesse. Sarah is obsessed with her lust for the collection – one is almost reminded of the editors of the post-modernist journal “Social Text” blindly gobbling Alan Sokal’s wonderful hoax. Post-modernism has launched many bizarre tales. Carey’s knowledge of place is equally compelling as he takes us from KL, through Melbourne, Sydney and back to the Malay jungles. There are warlords, asides in time and place – none of which interrupt the narrative, since each provides enhancement – and a bruising finale.
The story opens by exploring the life of a Oscar, a promising young Dominican child growing up in Jersey who morphs into an overweight, unpopular nerd who is desperate to lose his virginity.
The story then proceeds to explore the lives of Oscar, Oscar’s mother, sister and Mother’s family (persecuted by Dictator). The first half of the book is a little bit irritating as the author uses footnotes and many Spanish language phrases that are not translated. Besides these language issues and the jumping back and fourth in time and among characters the book beyond where the main characters develop very nicely. Awesome integration of the political, social and economic history of the Dominican Republic and how the environment shaped many of the lives of the generations who migrated to the U.S.
This great sweep of Durrell’s quartet is almost impossible to describe, but being Goobes, we are going to give it a shot!
Tis characters and the feeling of bing at wartime Alexandria are so perfect that you can almost smell and taste the perfume on Justine’s neck, hear the prayers from the mosques and smell the sand stained blood of camels butchered in the streets.
Here lie the poets and prostitutes, diplomats and gun runners. There is a plethora of scenes of lust and love and violence angst and despair.
The characters change as the story unfolds and then recoils upon itself again. We are as confused as the characters themselves and never find ourselves in a position where we understand events before they do. Myriad scenes tumble upon each other; a bird shoot on Lake Mareotis, the masquede ball, the strange death of Pursewarden, the dreadful death of Narouz. Across four volumes Durrell seldom puts a foot wrong and while his sonorous prose is not to everyone’s taste, nobody can deny that this is certainly an under rated classic of the twentieth century.
After the grim years of the Second World War and the grey, slow grind of the 1950s, the novel must have burst upon literary Europe like a banshee streaking across the sky giving enlightenment at a time of darkness.
Essential book for anyone who considers themselves well-read.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Greg Heffley is a 6th-grade weakling trying to make his mark in the middle school world. His family includes a mom, a dad, a heavy metal big brother, and a whiny, tattling little brother. His best friend is Rowley, another odd 6th-grader with overprotective parents and the world-class ability to annoy. Trudge alsong with Gregs’ adventures in trying to be cool and dealing with bullies… A good read for anyone teaching or studying in middle school.