Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sons and Lovers
by D.H. Lawrence (Woodsworth Editions, 369 pages)

D.H. Lawrence's third novel clearly sets the page for the themes he would explore in later work, most obviously the controversial Lady Chatterley's Lover. A novel that resounds with melancholy, Sons and Lovers is written in the epic mode and largely concerns the struggles of the Morel family in early 20th century England. The central figure is Paul, a stand-in for Lawrence himself, and the novel's focus on Paul's early love affairs apparently also have echos of the author's own early adventures.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Next by Michael Crichton
Harper Collins, 431 pages

It would be a monumental task to give an adequate synopsis of Next, the last of Mr. Crichton's works published within his lifetime. Like the human genome, the subject of the book, this book is a labyrinth, with an elaborate list of character and plot threads. It exists in a world where various individuals and corporations fight to interpret, patent and exploit our genes. Their attempts lead to both comic and frightening results, from creating parrots who can hold down conversations to pursuing patients whose cells have been legally declared someone else's property.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Brief History of the Dead
by Kevin Brockmeier, Pantheon Books, 252 pages

I first encountered "Brief History" as an O. Henry Prize winning short story (in 2005). It was a mesmerizing piece, elegent and eerie and easily the best in the collection. Both the short story and the novel use the same premise as a starting point, namely the belief of several African societies concerning the dead. Simply put, this belief states that the dead exist in a ghostly state of limbo only so long as there are people who remember them. Only when they are forgotten do they pass into the great beyond.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Coke Machine by Michael Blanding
Penguin, 375 pages

Early on in The Coke Machine, Michael Blanding's scathing expose about the ubiquitous soft drink, we learn that the book was written without the Coca-Cola Corporation's co-operation. In an email to the author, Coke spokeswoman Kerry Kerr wrote that the company had decided Blanding's questions for the corporation had a "decidedly subjective slant". It's impressive that Mr. Blanding chose to include this remark on Page 21, as it immediately sets off an alarm in the reader's head: is the book subjective? Will the other 354 pages of this book be the result of some personal vendetta against an innocent soft drink that only wanted to teach the world to sing?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Let's Applaud New South Books for their Honesty!

With the media whirlwind surrounding New South Books and their bowdlerized edition of Huckleberry Finn, censorship has been a hot topic for bloggers and tweeters. It’s an important debate, of course, but in this case, the debaters have entirely missed the point. The true surprise about the controversy is not that the publishers altered Mark Twain’s work  - it’s that they told us they had done it.

Read the full article at