Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nights at the Alexandra - William Trevor
This is a long short story. It’s nicely done, but unconvincing in one vital respect. A fifty-eight-year-old man is looking back at an incident that happened when he was fifteen. This incident is given much weight – supposedly affecting him for the rest of his life. But although I believed in his boyhood state of mind, and that he was silently dealing with disturbing feelings, too much remained hidden for the long- range effects to stand up.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)
Garcia Marquez circles around a murder obsessively, around and around, from different angles and perspectives, and at the end we’re there for the knife thrusts. It’s as if a vast cosmic command – unavoidable and terrible – is being obeyed by us poor mortals. The author includes discrepancies in the various accounts of the killing. Most significantly, he leaves a key question unanswered: Did Angela accuse Santiago falsely? Garcia Marquez presents us with an unsolvable mystery, one that takes on dimensions larger than a single murder in an isolated town. *

Ceremony at Lone Tree - Wright Morris
I stopped reading this book with regret but with the conviction that I wasn’t missing anything. For a good span I thought the writing – the unique and quirky Wright Morris style – was wonderful. He’s terrific at character portraits and histories. Then he moved into present action and his style became confusing. Maybe he’s accurately presenting life as it is when he throws things at the reader in a disjointed way. Granted, life is not neat and orderly, but, still, we shouldn’t have to figure out who’s talking and about what. When Morris enters into the thoughts of the characters the confusion increases to the point of frustration. Not only that, he imparts a significance to things that don’t deserve it. What’s the big deal? This thought of mine, on top of all the other difficulties, became fatal.

Laugh Til You Cry - Wolf Mankowitz
An odd little book. In the beginning I was put off by the lack of the amenities of good fiction – such as setting and character. But that’s not what the author is concerned with; this is a philosophical novel, and it’s interesting on that level. Mankowitz found a fresh way to expose human shortcomings. I admired what he was doing until the end, when he softens toward his characters and lets them off the hook.

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