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Jeffrey Round (Canada)
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The Beast Without
The Beast Without
by Christian Baines
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 26.34
12 used & new from CDN$ 22.26

4.0 étoiles sur 5 SEXY, SASSY, FUN, July 15 2013
This review is from: The Beast Without (Paperback)
I'd never seen True Blood or read a vampire novel. Never wanted to. Not out of snobbishness, but simply lack of desire. The only vampire film I ever enjoyed was Andy Warhol's Dracula (which is actually Paul Morrissey's Andy Warhol's Dracula, but I won't belabour that.)

After a recent Pride reading, however, I was approached by an attractive young man. He complimented me (I like being complimented by attractive young men) and said he'd just published his first novel, a supernatural fiction story. I said I would read it. (Yup, that's all it takes. Sorry.) Happily, surprisingly, I enjoyed it. In the hands of a born storyteller like Christian Baines—especially one with such a wickedly subversive wit—I suspect any story would come alive.

Baines' book gives credence to my theory that genre is the new playground of the literary imagination. (Nothing truly new of course: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a great novel and was so long before we knew there were genres.) Likewise, The Beast Without is sexy, sassy and fun. The story never flags as we follow Reylan, an "out" Blood Shade, as he roams Sydney's gay community.

Ironically, Reylan unintentionally finds himself attracted to a closeted, homophobic werewolf named Jurgas whom he has vowed to kill. What's a boy to do, even if he's 153 years old? The tension and intrigue just keep ratcheting up. Kudos to a new writer who will leave his marks on the publishing world, if not your neck. If genre fiction is in the hands of writers like this then long live the new genre. No stake through the heart can put an end to it.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.27
61 used & new from CDN$ 2.60

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Well Deserved Pulitzer Winner, Oct. 16 2008
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books 2007)

Brilliant, acerbic and filled with the love of revenge that writers are famous for: revenge for being black, being poor, being Dominican, and revenge for being smarter than the monsters who pervert the course of the world, both politically and personally. (Would that every dictator great and small could achieve such an excoriating epitaph as the DR's Trujillo does in this book.) It's also filled with love--just plain love. A wondrous book, not brief, with an irreverence you can't buy these days. It's the real thing, the genuine article: inspired, comic, brilliant and moving. It's also grateful. It pisses in the face of the world and then says `Thank you.' Oscar Wao is a fatboy nerd who wants to be JRR Tolkien and marry J-Lo (or the next nearest best thing.) His tale is probably far more common than we imagine, because he's exactly the kind of person who gets noticed last, and always too late. Not this time, however, for this book plants him dead centre in the spotlight, where he belongs. Think Zadie Smith before she got all awards-conscious, Gabriel García-Marquez in his finest moments, Richard Pryor in some of his zaniest, and you have Oscar Wao's life as told by Dominican immigrant Díaz. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

The Exp Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Exp Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Da-Az
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
12 used & new from CDN$ 1.95

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Well Deserved Pulitzer Winner, Oct. 16 2008
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books 2007)

Brilliant, acerbic and filled with the love of revenge that writers are famous for: revenge for being black, being poor, being Dominican, and revenge for being smarter than the monsters who pervert the course of the world, both politically and personally. (Would that every dictator great and small could achieve such an excoriating epitaph as the DR's Trujillo does in this book.) It's also filled with love--just plain love. A wondrous book, not brief, with an irreverence you can't buy these days. It's the real thing, the genuine article: inspired, comic, brilliant and moving. It's also grateful. It pisses in the face of the world and then says `Thank you.' Oscar Wao is a fatboy nerd who wants to be JRR Tolkien and marry J-Lo (or the next nearest best thing.) His tale is probably far more common than we imagine, because he's exactly the kind of person who gets noticed last, and always too late. Not this time, however, for this book plants him dead centre in the spotlight, where he belongs. Think Zadie Smith before she got all awards-conscious, Gabriel García-Marquez in his finest moments, Richard Pryor in some of his zaniest, and you have Oscar Wao's life as told by Dominican immigrant Díaz. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Day of the Locust and The Dream Life of Balso
Day of the Locust and The Dream Life of Balso
by Nathanael West
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 15.19
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Hollywood's Plague, Sept. 9 2008
Virtually ignored during his lifetime, West became a cult figure after his early death in 1940. It's hard to say where his reputation lies now, though he still shows up on Best 100 Novels lists. F. Scott Fitzgerald considered himself a fan. Locust, the last of four short novels, is considered West's most mature work. Think Fitzgerald writing Barton Fink or the Cohen Brothers directing The Last Tycoon and you'll come close to understanding West's vision. It has a surprisingly contemporary feel, with a truly cynical wink at life in Hollywood that didn't come into vogue for decades (back then it was all about covering up scandals, not using them for literary fodder.) There's no moral core to West's world, hardly even a center at all, populated as it is by hucksters and star-struck dreamers who amount to little more than a plague of locusts. At first glance it seems a far cry from Fitzgerald's moral and romantic, if ultimately tragic, universe, but it's actually its inverse. If you took the characters from the party scenes in The Great Gatsby and made the doomed, trashy Myrtle Wilson a romantic focus (with Nick Carraway and George Wilson as rival protagonists), you'd have something like this bleakly comic novel by Nathanael West.

Jeffrey Round

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