May 11, 2012

Your micro-review roundup: 11 May 2012

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Keyi its ?? ?? 4 Sucsexy

Keyi its ?? 4 Sucsexy
By Charles Jeffrey Danoff
Self-published

This small self-published volume by Charles Jeffrey Danoff is fascinating just in the details behind its publication; a fictional novella by a veteran of wiki textbook compilation that is clearly aiming for David Mitchell cross-genre WTF territory, it was purposely designed with the same Linotype fonts and spiral binding of an '80s computer manual, and was released not under a Creative Commons license but with no license at all, the author essentially renouncing his legal rights to the manuscript much like the author of a piece of freeware would. Unfortunately, though, like a lot of projects of this kind, Danoff seems to have come up with a great idea without actually putting together something compelling to do with that idea -- featuring interlocking story threads regarding a blow-by-blow recap of a random hockey game and a newbie software developer blowing off his first class, Danoff makes the common error among young writers of mistaking the navel-gazing meanderings of his personal journal for writing worthy of a finished manuscript for public consumption, making this a hard-to-finish mishmash of traditional sports story and metafictional masturbation. (Plus, it doesn't help that this is merely one part of a sprawling larger project known as "Annabell's Universe (TM)," and that it often feels like Danoff is simply setting things up for later payoffs in separate volumes; and while I'm as much a fan of this in theory as any other sci-fi fanboy, it's crucial in such cases that each volume be able to stand on its own as well, which is unfortunately not the case here.) A noble but ultimately failed experiment, Danoff is to be admired for all the chances he takes with this cutting-edge book; but like a lot of authors in his position, he would be wise in the future to marry this experimentation with a much better handle over the fundamentals of literature, to give his audience something not only interesting to look at but that they'll legitimately want to sit down and read as well.

Out of 10: 6.9

The Prague Orgy, by Philip Roth

The Prague Orgy
By Philip Roth

Regular readers know that I'm in the process of getting through Philip Roth's remarkable nine-book autobiographical "Nathan Zuckerman" series, a slew of novels written from the 1970s through early 2000s that essentially record the entire history of the Postmodernist Era, by looking very pointedly at Roth's own life as a major tastemaker of these Postmodernist decades. And in fact for a long time, the short 1985 novella The Prague Orgy was the official endcap of what was known then as the "Zuckerman Trilogy" (consisting of The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound and The Anatomy Lesson), although the reason it's getting such a short write-up today is because there's simply not much to it; more a glorified short story than a standalone book, it tells the tale of Zuckerman traveling to an academic conference in '70s Communist Czechoslovakia, where in usual style he falls in with an absolutely insane femme fatale, gets dragged to a group-sex party held by one of the bright lights of the Czech intelligentsia, and eventually runs afoul of the local secret police, getting whisked away in the middle of the night and unceremoniously dumped on the first plane back to America. An interesting little ditty for what it is, it can nonetheless be charitably called the least essential Zuckerman book of the entire series, and can be pretty easily skipped unless coming across it in the famed '80s four-book compilation known as Zuckerman Bound; and this finally leads us to what's the most exciting part of the entire Zuckerman series, when in the '90s Roth started using this character merely as an everyman narrator for what is widely considered the best books of his career -- 1997's American Pastoral, 1998's I Married a Communist and 2000's The Human Stain. Expect write-ups of those to slowly start appearing here over the next year.

A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords
By George R.R. Martin
Bantam Dell / Random House

So yes, it's true, I'm as much of a drooling fanboy as anyone else for George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" novels, also known as the "Westeros" novels; I've been lucky enough to have my original long write-up of the first volume, A Game of Thrones, eventually become one of the most popular reviews ever published here, and I promised then to get at least short recaps up of the rest of the novels as I slowly finish them all. And indeed, much like my review of the second book in this series, A Clash of Kings, I don't have much to say about this third volume besides, "Yep, business as usual!," with it recommended that you simply check out my first write-up for more on why I find this series in general so remarkable; although in this case I at least have to say, that after getting used to Martin bumping off a major character in the middle of his first two Westeros novels, it was a legitimate shock to see him do so here again and then promptly kill off a whole series of other major characters (and I mean major characters), blam blam blam in the last 500 pages like some kind of mafia bloodbath. It just reiterates what Martin has said over and over was the main point of even writing these novels, that the actual Middle Ages was a much more disgusting, violent and unfair time than the shiny clean "age of heroes" that most other fantasy novelists like to present it as; and the simple fact is that whenever a whole series of different clans and tribes would all go to war back then over a disputed title of authority, the only way to resolve this dispute was to literally kill off all the rivals until only one was still standing, a lesson that Martin has taken to heart here with his own "War of the Five Kings," to what will undoubtedly be the dismay of many of his readers. Still just as great as when I started, I'm looking forward to diving into volume four starting next week, and my thanks as always to author Mark R. Brand for letting me borrow his copies for what has now been over a year and still counting. WINTERFELL!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:49 PM, May 11, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |