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Category Archive for 'Literary'

For the first ten pages, Irish author Kevin Barry is clearly having great fun here, introducing two Irishmen, as they relate their life stories in a uniquely Irish sentence structure, accent, and vocabulary, and convincing the reader from the outset that this story is going to be absorbing and truly memorable for the dialogue, characters, and author Kevin Barry’s writing style. Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, waiting at the ferry terminal in Algeciras, quickly show that they are not the charming men that they may appear – they have been involved in the drug trade for half their lives and are now looking for Dilly, Maurice’s daughter, whom he has not seen for three years. Through flashbacks , dark humor, and their own vulgar language, their lives and relationships are revealed, along with any life lessons which they have acquired along the way. Kevin Barry does it again!

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In the most fervently psychological novel I have read in many years, Swedish author Linda Bostrom Knausgard tells the inner stories of an almost totally dysfunctional family in Stockholm. An eleven-year-old girl who has stopped talking “a long time ago,” reveals that her mother and brother are now “used to it,” and that her father is dead. School for this silent child is the equivalent of “walking into pitch darkness every day – [like] having to hold on to a handrail until it was time to go home.” Intense and revelatory of the many fears and nightmares which can hide behind the silence – real or symbolic – in the mind of a pre-teen, Knausgard reminds readers that silence does not mean acceptance or passivity, that real drama may be unfolding behind the mask that hides the pain. While outside specialists and teachers seem to have had little effect on the thinking and emotional needs of Ellen, the main character here, the author also seems to offer some encouragement that families who care about each other do have the ability to see beyond immediate issues and eventually to deal with their problems on the family level. Whether or not they can heal themselves, long-term, without help, is not answered here.

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Life for Sale opens with main character Hanio in the hospital recovering from an overdose of a sedative, assumed to be intentional, though “He was not suffering as the result of some romantic breakup…Nor did he have any serious financial problems.” He had been working as a copywriter for an advertising company and had no particular thoughts of suicide. He decides to resign from his job and use his substantial severance pay to do whatever he wants in the life he has left. Returning to his apartment, he places a note on his front door: “Hanio Yamada – Life for Sale.” What follows is a series of adventures, as five different characters come to his door to hire him to work for them on projects so dangerous that Hanio could die. Since there are five different “sales,” it is obvious that something unexpected happens each time Hanio is hired, and it is these bizarre twists which make the episodes fun to read. It is tempting to “see into” some of these episodes to imagine some of the issues which the author himself may have been facing in his own difficult life, but the overall feeling here is one of clever trickery, rather than horror, with Mishima’s literary skill surviving even the accusation that this is “pulp” fiction.

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Though all Martin Clark’s books have an analytical approach to right and wrong, The Substitution Order is, by far, the most “legalistic” of his novels so far, focusing on Kevin Moore, a brilliant lawyer who, for three months of his life, lost control, made some terrible choices, and now must pay the penalty. Almost no one believes in his innocence. Through flashbacks, the author brings disgraced lawyer Kevin Clark fully to life. Now living in a small, unincorporated community in rural Patrick County, near the North Carolina border, Kevin has fully recovered from a three-month addiction to cocaine and alcohol and has stayed clean, though he is disbarred, with another court appearance and jail sentence still pending. When a slick scammer approaches him to participate in a plan to bilk an insurance company, he refuses, then finds out the real meaning of someone “making an offer he cannot refuse.” Things go from worse to worst as Kevin takes things into his own hands.

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Originally published in November, 1996, when French author Patrick Modiano was fifty-one, Dora Bruder gives new insights into the complex life and career of this Nobel Prize winner from 2014. As the novel opens, Modiano is remembering back to 1988, when he discovered an ad in an old copy of Paris-Soir dated 31 December, 1941, announcing as MISSING young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, followed by her description. Since he knows the neighborhood in which the girl’s family lived, he decides to find out as much as he can about her life. Including his own memories, as he explores coincidences and events suggesting clairvoyance, Modiano spends eight years, during which he worked on other novels, searching for the missing Dora Bruder and her fate.

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