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Life A User's Manual Paperback – Sep 15 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine; 2nd edition (Sept. 15 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567923739
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567923735
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #19,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shami Ghosh on Sept. 7 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this book when I was 17, and have reread it more than once; I loved it the first time, and it gets better each time. Perec can be a bit frustrating, and the book is not necessarily the easiest to get into, but if you give it time, by the end you'll be absolutely hypnotised. What I love especially is his attention to small things, everyday things, insignificant things: these are, after all, what make up life, and by portraying them with such loving care, Perec creates something very beautiful indeed, something like a love-song for ordinary life (though this is not to say there is no drama in the book - there is).

If you read Bellos's wonderful biography, a lot of things in the book become clearer, but you don't actually need to follow the various tricks and games (I hadn't a clue when I first read it, but that didn't interfere with my enjoyment). Another reviewer compared Perec to Glenn Gould; it would be equally apt to compare this work, I think, to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (so wonderfully performed by Gould): both take the basic elements and carefully show how they are things of profound beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin Dawson on June 29 2003
Format: Paperback
Perec would properly be regarded as an experimentalist and this novel, like his others, was written under self-imposed constraints.
The novel takes as its plan a block of flats in a Parisian suburb, a 10 x 10 grid, over which the narrator must proceed by way of the moves of the Knight in chess, never landing on the same flat twice(this, like other formalities, were allowed to be bent but let's not get too complicated...) with a whole system for information, knowledge and learning to be allocated to each chapter.
'So far, so what' might be the natural response to this were it not for the majesty of the finished novel.
Read in translation the writing is formal yet intimate and seems to proceed at its own leisurely pace as it moves through the block of flats, through life. Numerous 'Tales' are recounted as the novel progresses, each rich in feeling and poignancy though sometimes disturbing, the key of which, indeed the key to the novel, is 'The Tale of the Man who painted watercolours and had puzzles made out of them'. To go into detail would spoil the effect for other readers but this is about life, about a plan for life and ultimately a metaphor for life. And the making of this book.
I have to confess to a love for French literature generally. It seems possible to trace an organic progression and tradition (the blanket phrase that readily comes to mind is 'intellectual pessimism'...)through its history which is then disrupted every once in a while by an individual who rebels against that tradition (Rimbaud) or subverts it (Mallarme or Aragon). Perec, arguably, both is and is not of this tradition.
He is however, in the wider tradition of great literature. And seems to recognise this. 'Life...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Georges Perec is a genius. This novel ranks among my top ten.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22 1999
Format: Paperback
Manual, yes certainly manual labour is involved. I can acknowledge the intentions of Perecs structuring intellectually but was unable to translate this into an emotive or pleasurable response. The tone is distant and although the detail would suggest realism it is all just a pretext for a two dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps this is what you are seeking but such antiseptic games are not for me. It lacks both the humanity of Ulysees or the pure romance of The Flanders road to seek two books of comparable difficulty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By picotheman on June 9 2004
Format: Paperback
So much has been written about the intricate mathematical structures of Perec's masterpiece that I have no reason to repeat them.
Perec's genius - and, contrary to what one reviewer has written, it's precisely his very human, and very warm and tender understanding of humanity that generates this - is his keen insight that everything contains a story, be it the postcard on the desk, or a particular painting on a wall, or a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit. Perec takes an apartment building and jumps from room to room, grabbing at these bits of minutae, following their backstories, and creating one of the most complex and beautiful mosaics of life that's ever been put into words. As each room yields its secrets, we see that a tiny apartment building in Paris really does contain the whole world - a huge swath of history, languages, peoples, and cultures; comedy, tragedy, mystery, and drama; personal and public; fiction and nonfiction; poetry, prose, lists, games, recipes, articles, signs, crossword puzzles...
Flip to the back and check out the index - it's intimidating, and yet - it's all there, in one building, waiting to be discovered and explored.
I can't comment on the translation, unfortunately - I've only read it in the original. But Perec's language is always tight, witty, and deeply insightful. This is certainly one of the great works of world fiction, and absolutely not to be missed.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book when it was first translated in the USA - I saw the title on a shelf in our library and couldn't resist it. A decade later, images from this unique novel still haunt me, and when asked that infamous desert island question - this is the one novel I would take with me. Read it. Savor it. And don't miss the linguistic jokes he has woven so brilliantly into his tapestry.
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