Acclaimed author Teju Cole’s writing has appeared in numerous journals in Nigeria and the United States. His second novel, Open City is the story of a Nigerian-German psychiatrist making a living in New York City five years after the Twin Towers were destroyed. The tale emerges as a rich and unforgettable meditation of life and culture.
©2011 Teju Cole (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
"Reminiscent of the works of W.G. Sebald, this dreamy, incantatory debut was the most beautiful novel I read this year—the kind of book that remains on your nightstand long after you finish so that you can continue dipping in occasionally as a nighttime consolation." (Ruth Franklin, The New Republic)
"A psychological hand grenade." (Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic, Best Books I Read This Year)
“A meditative and startlingly clear-eyed first novel.” (Newsweek/Daily Beast Writers’ Favorite Books 2011)
Under the guise of young professional's straying thoughts as he walks New York (and later, Amsterdam), Cole weaves a complex world, combining thoughts on the world (everything from bed bugs to economic collapse), personal memoir, happenstance conversations, history and the world around him. As in the movie "The Waking Life", long passages of the novel are incidental monologues that characters seem to recite to the narrator, almost unprompted.
Open City rewards patience. On a minute, paragraph by paragraph scale, Cole's laconic plotting might seem aimless, but rich themes bubble to the fore of each chapter, and larger themes invite probing and relistening as you dig into the book. Cole paints a complex but vivid character, a man who seems to accomplish much but dreams so much more. Yet, you'll see, he isn't quite an angel.
I enjoyed this book greatly. It has its conceits - why does everyone open themselves up so unreservedly to this mysterious narrator? - but the tapestry of thoughts, conversations and dreamlike action, all told with gorgeous prose, was intoxicating. I've actually found it's rich world worth exploring again with a relisten.
This looked very much like the kind of book I like, but I was not thrilled by it. I was first worried when I found the first section stiff and boring...but I don't love discussions of classical music, so I thought maybe that's why I was not listening intently. The middle part got more interesting, but any insights into the narrator and his dilemmas were either incomplete hints, or too subtle for me to follow. There is a lot of potentially interesting stuff to come from exploring the relationships between the Nigerian/German narrator and various other expatriates, and African Americans in NYC, but this stuff was more academic than integrated into a story. Overall this novel felt like a lot of connective tissue had been removed for the sake of a leaner book, and that it might have been better if it hadn't been so whittled down. I was also misled by the idea that NYC was a major part of the story, which it is not--at least not the way it is in Colum McCann's novel Let the Great World Spin. (It may be that reading the latter while listening to this really put Cole at a disadvantage.)
It was interesting, though unusual. Cole's descriptions of places and people made it easy to visualize them.
This is a great book. It is thoughtful and insightful. The writing is beautiful and the images of New York are great.
Read it instead.
A book that is very rich in character
I would take the author
I listened to this long enough one night that I knew it was a keeper and that I would want to savor all the words in print. Perhaps I will listen again after I read it. I was enjoying the performance.
Although the writing (reading in this case) was lyrical and well done, it just never grabbed my attention. I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. The ramblings were occasionally moderately interesting but not much else. If you like differently told stories and literary fiction then you will likely enjoy this as it seems to be much celebrated. Although the narration was great, the book just didn't do it for me.
Another reviewer referred to this novel as a 'stream of consciousness ' novel and that it may well be. I just couldn't get into it. I felt that there is probably a great deal of deep meaning within this novel, well I must be really shallow! As the story went on, I found that my mind was wandering and I really didn't care about the main character. To me the narrator sounded as though he was just recovering from a chest infection that had left his voice a little gravely. I have plenty of books in my library and I couldn't continue with what I felt was a waste of my time.
This book has no plot. There is no development of characters or story. It is basically a totally boring diary of an assimilant from Nigeria, turning into a medical doctor. I did not want to waste my time listening to it all the way through.
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