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The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium [Paperback]

Harry Mathews
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 1 1999 American Literature Series

Composed of a series of letters between a husband and wife,  The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium is a brilliant comedy about love and longing, dashed hopes and frustrations, and trying to make connections. Newly wedded Zachary McCaltex (a librarian in Miami) and Twang Panattapam (originally from the Southeast-Asian country of Pan-Nam, but residing in Italy) try to trace the whereabouts of a treasure supposedly lost off the coast of Florida in the sixteenth century, while navigating a relationship separated by an ocean as well as their different cultures. In the end, the postal service may be responsible for what gets lost (including Zachary's sanity) along the way.


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Product Description

From Library Journal

This comic novel unfolds through correspondence between Zachary McCaltex, a librarian, and his wife, Twang, who is living apart from him in Italy. The two are trying to unearth the exact location of a 16th-century treasure somewhere off the Florida coast. As the story develops, it is evident that more than water separates these two.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"An imagination and an ingenuity that are often just astonishing.... This is a journey worth taking." --  Harper's



"A comic masterpiece, as funny as Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, as intricate as Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire.... In The Sinking of Odradek Stadium, he has created a seamless fabric, as tense, light, and strong as stretched silk." -- Edmund White,  New York Times Book Review



"Harry Mathews has few, if any, equals in modern fiction." --  San Diego Tribune


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars fun, intelligent... and a great read June 9 2004
Format:Paperback
Probably the only work ever to use the title as a major plot point/punchline (and a damned effective one, at that), Mathews' novel turns the epistolary genre on its head, with a bizarre love story cum treasure hunt, all wrapped into a tight package of slapstick comedy, mystery, history, culture, and linguistic peculiarities.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mathews' work, he's a member of the Oulipo, a group (or groups) of writers, mathematicians, poets, painters, etc., etc. - who both rescue stylistic constraints from the past and create new ones of their own. So you can always expect that their works will be impeccable structured, rich in detail, language play, and erudition. On top of that, at least one of the characters (Twang) is beautifully written, with a wealth of puns and a generous heap of charm.
There are two minor concerns with the novel that forced me to downgrade it to 4 stars, instead of a perfect five. The first is that the big plot twist, while necessary to set up the game of gross misjudgments in the second half of the novel, comes across as a bit contrived. The second is that the style, while often flexible, fascinating, and outright hilarious, is sometimes uneven - there's none of the assuredness in his writing that you'd find in Cigarettes, for example.
Still, a great read, and highly highly recommended. I wish Mathews and the Oulipo gang were more widely read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Erudite and unusual Sept. 14 2002
Format:Paperback
This novel is about a man and woman hunting for sunken treasure of gold. The style is a bit abstruse and intellectual, and is not intented for mass audiences. Yet if you pay attention and are persistent, you will find lots of witty lines and some rather poetic phrasings. It is a very unusual book ... the best comparisons I can think of are Fowles' "The Magus" or Umberto Eco's stuff. And maybe John Barth. Stick with it, the ending will surprise you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive Fiction at its Best March 31 2009
By Sturmey Archer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In a sense, society can be considered the connections between individuals, instead of the individuals themselves. This book explores one such connection, in the form of a series of letters between a married couple. Their connection is exposed as a frail and tenuous thing, buffeted by confusion, frustration, and yearning. Make no mistake though, this is not simply a novel about a relationship. This is avant garde literature of the highest rank. Mathews' wordplay is exceptional and he spins tales, in turn tragic and comic, in and out of the main narrative. The plot is less an arc than a contrail, tightly focused at one end and disturbingly hazy at the other. This is an exceptional novel for lovers of language who like their fiction unconventional. Also, I give Mathews high marks for one of the most imaginative uses of a title for a novel I've ever encountered.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fun, intelligent... and a great read June 9 2004
By picotheman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Probably the only work ever to use the title as a major plot point/punchline (and a damned effective one, at that), Mathews' novel turns the epistolary genre on its head, with a bizarre love story cum treasure hunt, all wrapped into a tight package of slapstick comedy, mystery, history, culture, and linguistic peculiarities.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mathews' work, he's a member of the Oulipo, a group (or groups) of writers, mathematicians, poets, painters, etc., etc. - who both rescue stylistic constraints from the past and create new ones of their own. So you can always expect that their works will be impeccable structured, rich in detail, language play, and erudition. On top of that, at least one of the characters (Twang) is beautifully written, with a wealth of puns and a generous heap of charm.
There are two minor concerns with the novel that forced me to downgrade it to 4 stars, instead of a perfect five. The first is that the big plot twist, while necessary to set up the game of gross misjudgments in the second half of the novel, comes across as a bit contrived. The second is that the style, while often flexible, fascinating, and outright hilarious, is sometimes uneven - there's none of the assuredness in his writing that you'd find in Cigarettes, for example.
Still, a great read, and highly highly recommended. I wish Mathews and the Oulipo gang were more widely read.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Erudite and unusual Sept. 14 2002
By noleander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This novel is about a man and woman hunting for sunken treasure of gold. The style is a bit abstruse and intellectual, and is not intented for mass audiences. Yet if you pay attention and are persistent, you will find lots of witty lines and some rather poetic phrasings. It is a very unusual book ... the best comparisons I can think of are Fowles' "The Magus" or Umberto Eco's stuff. And maybe John Barth. Stick with it, the ending will surprise you.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "...on a bed of black swan feathers Mallarme's left ulna reposed....." Jan. 7 2010
By adorian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this novel to be unreadable. We alternate between letters written by a man in Miami mixed up in treasure-hunting schemes and his "wife," whose early missives are written in some kind of pidgin English that is too difficult to interpret. As we move along, her writing eventually loses its primitive qualities, but it's not worth the struggle to get through the first two-thirds of the book.

Yes, as long as Zachary is doing the narrating, it's interesting. Yes, there is bizarre poetic writing. Yes, there are arcane vocabulary words that will send you to the dictionary. Yes, there is splashy local color about the Carnival celebrations in Miami. Yes, there are amusing details about some secret cult and its rites and initiations. And lots of intrigue about old maps and missing Medici gold. But it's just not worth it. You have to force your way through Twang's subliterate phrasings, and I found it so easy to just skip her letters entirely. And, yes, there is some kind of triple or quadruple twist in the final pages, but I just didn't get a sense that the payoff was worth it.
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