Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review - "A Fairy Tale of New York"

"A Fairy Tale of New York" by J. P. Donleavy
My grade: A-

In some sort of way, this book reminded me a lot of "The American Psycho", although I didn't like the latter at all. This novel, however, is quite amazing on several different levels. Firstly, I have to admit, its abstractedness left me quite lost at moments, and I think to fully understand it, one would have to read the novel a few times. Having said that, though, it at (many) times captured reality so poignantly that I found myself struck by its candidness and simplicity.

Hidden beneath layers of sarcasm and wit is both a story and commentary on New York in particular, and the U.S. and humankind more globally. It's fast-paced, unusually written (e.g., the author uses no question marks, although there certainly are questions asked), exceptional and smart. My one criticism of it is the unnecessary abundance of sex and sexual perversion, and the vulgarity that accompanies that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review - "Architecture of the Novel"

"Architecture of the Novel: A Writer's Handbook" by Jane Vandenburgh
My grade: B-

As the title cleverly suggests, this book is about the art of writing. As is likewise suggested, the focus of the book is almost exclusively on writing longer narratives, and I found a lot of the advice offered not at all pertinent to writing shorter pieces, such as short stories. Having said that, there was nonetheless useful information and tips on writing, in general.

I was a bit put off with Vandenburgh's style of writing. I'm not sure whether she teaches, but she definitely speaks to the reader as one, with a somewhat patronizing tone. She is also very closed-minded in her vision of what a novel is; for example, she constantly demands on pointing out that a novel must resemble real life because otherwise people wouldn't read books. I beg to differ! It's boring to read books that resemble life too closely, and one of the reasons I read books, personally, is to get a feel of surrealism. I am curious now to read what Vandenburgh has to offer in the form of fiction.