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Category Archive for 'Humor, Satire, Absurdity'

This unusual novel focusing on a talking frog and his help for a tormented man allows author Carolina De Robertis to explore philosophical ideas of governance and individual responsibility. Here author Carolina De Robertis describes the difficult inner world of a member of Uruguay’s Marxist Tupamaros during his fourteen year imprisonment in a hole deep underground during the 1970s and 1980s. This is a man who has been wounded six times during various escape attempts from confinement, who fears for his own mental health during his torture and imprisonment, but who is ultimately elected Uruguay’s President from 2010 – 2015. Author Carolina de Robertis’s intense and involving story, based loosely on the traumatic life and career of the real President, José Mujica, during that period, focuses on the man’s involvement in the political changes in the early twenty-first century. Though it is filled with the horrors of revolutionary warfare and its personal effects on the participants, the resulting fictionalized biography is often very funny, filled with ironies.

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Set in French Guinea this “tasty comedy of manners,” as Paris Match describes it, features Aurel Timescu as its strange antihero, a former Romanian now working for the consular service of the Embassy of France in French Guinea. When an emergency at the marina brings him, the local police, the yacht club employees, the African police, and hordes of spectators to the scene, Aurel learns that a man named Jacques Mayères, who had been staying at the marina for six months has been found hanging by one foot from the mainsail halyard, shot in the chest at point blank range. Aurel has always wanted to be involved in police work, and he quickly arranges to get a computer with internet connection, which he immediately puts to use to gain information about the victim and his family. Clues regarding the crime begin to emerge from all the many sources investigating the Mayères murder, and the cast of characters grows. Eventually, the elaborate conclusion resolves the open issues, solves the murder, and sets everything to rest. The novel has only a small amount of real action, however. The reader does not “live through” the events. Instead, s/he lives through Aurel’s narration – his wryly distorted version of the action, as told by one of the strangest “heroes” ever leading a murder investigation.

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The death of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till by lynching in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, serves as the starting point for a broad look at racial crime, the people who participate in it, their families, and the society in which they live and perpetuate their own version of “justice.” Author Percival Everett treats Till’s murder and those which follow with the seriousness they deserve, but he also keeps a light, often absurd touch, preventing the reader from becoming so overwhelmed by issues that s/he becomes inured to the individual horrors. Characters have unexpected names (Pinch Wheyface and Pick L. Dill, for example), and ignorance and profanity play a big role here as the murderers of Emmett, all from the same family, themselves become the victims of vengeance by unknown people. Roles get reversed, black investigators take precedence over local white police, and as lynchings spread throughout the country, they ultimately become an issue involving an unnamed former President. Unique and unforgettable in its presentation, format, and messaging.

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Young main character Willis Wu spends the most important parts of his life at the Golden Palace, a Chinese restaurant/film studio in an unnamed time period in an unnamed English-speaking city. As Willis, whose parents were immigrants, lives his life there and in the broader enclave of Chinatown, his creator, author Charles Yu, explores Willis’s reality, quickly constructing level upon level of different “realities” and creating an experimental novel, often satiric, which includes the reader from the opening pages. Willis, an actor in a film being made in off-hours at the Golden Palace, is realistic in evaluating his chances at improving his role from that of Background Oriental Male to his ideal role, that of Kung Fu Guy, the hero. As Willis plays his part, hoping to make “progress,” the role of US immigration policy on his life and the lives of his family and friends becomes clearer. A unique novel dealing with the subject of immigration with irony, humor, and a sense of understanding for the victims and the lives they sometimes choose to live.

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With two main characters who have little to suggest that their stories will become the charming, funny, insightful, and un-put-down-able chronicles that eventually evolve, Irish author Rónán Hession demonstrates his own creativity and his own ideas regarding communication and its importance or lack of it in our lives. He ignores the generations-old traditions of boisterous Irish writing and non-stop action in favor of a quiet, kindly, and highly original analysis of his characters and their unpretentious and self-contained lives. Leonard and Hungry Paul, both in their early thirties, are serious introverts with few friends, but events occur which inspire each of them to become just a bit more social. For Leonard, it is a young woman; for Hungry Paul, it is the realization that a new job comes with the possibility that he may have his own apartment, not live at home. I cannot remember when I have read a book which so thoroughly and honestly touched my heart. The writing is intelligent, memorable, real, and very funny, and I am already impatient for Rónán Hession’s next novel.

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