A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
100 pages in and it is hard to miss that this isn't just a nominal sequel to Wolf Hall, but rather the first book's logical annex. There is no drop-off in complexity. No laxity of language. Still Mantel manages to shift form, change structure and reinvent her style. She even manages to give the character of Thomas Cromwell more depth and complexity, a feat which seemed near impossible after finishing Wolf Hall.
Anyway, Mantel is one of the finest writers of English prose living. Each sentence is crafted like a unique piece in an Italian inlaid music box. She has a purpose for each comma and can make words seem to dance, fall and recover right off the page. She pulls the history out of the history and has written Tower interrogations so deft and chilling, one is left afraid of both language and the law. As readers, we watch Cromwell destroy men, overthrow queens, and change history with words, paper and a sharp understanding of men's motives. We aren't afraid because Cromwell is a monster, but because he is so heroically human.
Let's just get this out in the open -- Michael Chabon is an amazing prose stylist. Occassionally, I imagine I can grow up one day and become a writer, then I read Chabon and I recognize just how HIGH that hill can be. His dexterity with the English language borders on magical. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is at once playful and soulful.
Listening to AAoK&C, I was reminded of Saul Bellow's ability to dance with language while also keeping the novel briskly centered on its well-paced story. Chabon's characters are boyantly alive, cinemagraphiclly painted, and infused a with dialogue that seems to require a high level of stereophonics (all enhanced by Colacci's amazing reading).
Even in comic books, good doesn't always win over evil, but it seems like with Chabon love still conquers all. A fantastic novel to view the 20th century through. Chabon expertly captured the colors, smells, and magic of New York. Anyway, Kavalier & Clay is a world I don't ever want to escape from.
I keep reading Cormac McCarthy to find a single crack of light in his dark, grotesque lyricism. 'Outer Dark' as a novel is unconventional and amazing. The story was allegorical without being stiff, it was regional without being provincial. Like most all of McCarthy's work, it is Biblical in its power and intensity.
In 'Outer Dark', McCarthy is throwing chert boulders at the dark center of the Universe. He isn't interested in little themes. Even in his small books he is taking on ideas as large and slippery as fate, guilt, agency, and God. Structurally, Outer Dark was drum-tight. The prose and the vernacular/archaic dialogue were both crisp and amazing. 'Outer Dark' is prose art at a high-level and it scared the literary Hell out of me.
trying to see the world with my ears
...you might like this bizarre tale of family, community, hierarchy, missionaries, twins separated at birth, and transexual serial murder in India. Unlike Q+A's Vikras Swarup, Irving isn't Indian, but he avoids cultural appropriation (I think--I'm not Indian) by stating upfront in the intro that he doesn't know India well, thanking a host of South East Asian artists for their help, and creating an ex-pat main character who is alientated from his birth country but not assimilated into the West.
I found the novel humourous and tremendously entertaining, but it's not for everyone: Know that there are multiple quirkly characters weaving through several intersecting storylines highly dependent upon coincidence, like a modern day tale from Trollope or Dickens with a twist of PG Wodehouse's mania, all held together by excellent narration.
Irving asks, in a postcolonial global village, "where are you from?" rather than the usual, "who are you?", and the only viable attitude he offers to complexities of human nature is that of a child's wonderment at a circus, despite the probability that the acts are based on cruelty to participants. The opposite of such wonder is fundamentalism. Many characters are shackled by fate, but a few escape predictable ends through human imagination or altruism.
Irving presents an unflattering but loving portrait of Bombay/Mumbai in the late 80s, before the terrorist bombings of 1993 and economic boom of 2000s. I'm not sure how an inhabitant would respond to the outsider's view. Also I'm not sure how a transexual might react to some of the characters. Some also might be put off by the novel's use of "cripple"/"crippled" to describe what we refer to now as disability, but all the charaters are "crippled," if not physically than emotionally or socially.