Glass Soup Hardcover – Sep 15 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
An ambitious retelling of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, with a little Judeo-Christian mythology and a smattering of popular culture mythos thrown in, make Carroll's latest a delicious dish—one that's lighter and better plotted than his White Apples (2002). A group of 30-something Americans living in Vienna (where Carroll himself resides), find themselves caught in the middle of a battle between God (a giant polar bear named Bob, or possibly a mosaic) and Chaos (most often John Flannery, a rapacious sex demon—when he's not just raw ectoplasm inhabiting a leather sofa). The McGuffin is Anjo, the unborn baby of Isabelle Neukor. In a reverse Orpheus, Isabelle has already crossed the border between life and death to retrieve the deceased Vincent Ettrich, Anjo's father. As the contest for Isabelle's child heats up, more and more characters—some good, some evil, but most indifferent—are drawn into the fray, while the world, both real and unreal, living and dead, constantly blends, shifts and changes dimension. In-jokes abound, as do barbs thrown at George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, rap music, Austrian traffic problems and even chocolate pudding. This is a marvelous comic feast, but logic, consistency and plausibility are not on the menu.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Prolific and imaginative, Carroll writes delectable novels that combine riddle-like metaphysics with Magritte-like surrealism and romantic fantasy. In his latest cosmic Vienna-based tale, he echoes Hermann Hesse and Steven Millhauser as he picks up the story of the passionate lovers Vincent and Isabelle, who starred in White Apples (2002). In spite of this connection, readers new to Carroll's magic need not hesitate. They won't be anywhere near as confused as Simon, a blatant womanizer who finds himself confronting an octopus driving a bus, a tiny yet dapper and bossy fellow named Broximon, and God in the form of a polar bear. Elsewhere, a shape-shifting villain has evil designs on Isabelle's two closest friends, and Chaos, a malevolent force, grows ever more destructive. Pregnant with a child crucial to the battle between order and chaos, Isabelle must stay safe, yet there seems to be little Vincent can do to protect her. Carroll's clever and spellbinding tale offers fans and newcomers alike startling perspectives on time and reality, an afterlife made of dreams, a glimmering vision of the divine, and a sweet tribute to love. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
That's the state I was anticipating being in when I began reading 'Glass Soup'. But over the course of its 300+ pages, this faded. As did my hope of a great experience.
There's a ton missing in this book.
And it seems to have been off-kilter by about seventeen and a half degrees.
And Mr. Carroll doesn't deliver what to these eyes, to this expectant reader, should have been delivered.
In many respects, 'Glass Soup' turns out to be a 'shaggy dog tale'. Which, considering its potential, and Mr. Carroll's abilities as a writer and a storyteller, is especially frustrating.
There is no 'payoff'. There is no great philosophical insight. And really, once you've gotten to the final page, there's not much of anything. Except disappointment.
And, as I don't feel the novel deserves any more energies lavished on it, lambasting or no, I'll say this: 'Glass Soup' reads like a bad translation. I'd be very curious to know if it turned out as he'd hoped...or was it as disappointing a result to write as it was to read.
(Personal rating: 6/10)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Building on characters and situations established in his previous novel, 2004's estimable White Apples, Glass Soup tells the continuing story of lovers Vincent Ettrich and Isabelle Nuekor, a couple whose relationship can only be described as extraordinary--their love is so strong that Isabelle actually succeeded in rescuing Vincent from death. Because all actions have consequences, and extraordinary actions have extraordinary consequences, Isabelle's rescue of Vincent causes Chaos to actually achieve consciousness, an awareness he/it will lose if things are allowed to progress the way they have since the beginning of time. Seeking to shift the cosmic balance in his favor, Chaos works through various emissaries to lure the now pregnant Isabelle back to the land of the dead; it seems that if her baby is born there, Chaos will remain sentient. Before the novel's touching conclusion, Isabelle's dilemma will touch the lives of all those around her in surprising and sometimes lethal ways.
Along the way, Carroll waxes poetic about the nature of love, friendship, responsibility and the very fabric of reality. Even the pettiest of his characters manage to evoke sympathy, primarily because the villains of the piece are manipulating them in heinous ways. And those villains--Carroll knows heroes need formidable foes, which he provides in the malicious John Flannery and the smooth as silk Putnam. These two positively ooze evil as they try to force Vincent and Isabelle into increasingly untenable positions.
Charming and absolutely enthralling, Glass Soup displays the creativity, intelligence and wit for which Carroll has become famous. As it says on the front flap of the book's dust jacket, "For connoisseurs of imaginative fiction, the novels of Jonathan Carroll are a special treat that occupy a space of their own." Glass Soup is perhaps the best example of that phenomenon to date.
You should be stimulated into talking about it....it should make you angry, sad , happy, annoyed....heartbroken...awe-struck....you should laugh, you should cry !
If you have read it and it has provoked a reaction, be that positive or negative, then the story has worked ! It has made you think !
I have been reading Jonathan Carrolls' work from the first book published and no I didn't like every book he wrote, I am not a Carroll groupie, but I have READ every book he has wrote and each one causes a huge reaction within me and have loved him for it.
If I have to pull a favourite from the past then Bones of the Moon it would be for its exploration of life within death which is certainly the topic of Glass Soup and its predecessor White Apples. I for one and am happy that the author has returned to his weird imagery of yore ' a la Bones of the Moon and Child Across the Sky ' but that is merely a personal whim as many readers were ehthralled by the very subtle weridness of the likes of The Wooden Sea and Kissing the Beehive. As with all of his books his characters are brilliantly alive and reactive to the scenes he sets, they are consumate in their life be they human, bear or otherwise ! ......and he is an absolute master in teasing the readers sensiblities and dangling carrots of wonder in front of your eyes causing you to read on and finish the book. I often wonder what it would be like to actually listen to Carroll read from his own words and would have no doubt that he would have made a fine travelling storyteller in medieval times.
Is it fantasy ?....all fiction is fantasy so that question is not really one you should be asking...
Is it frightening ?....Is it this ?..is it that ?...
Why are you reading this review when you should be reading the book and finding out for yourself and eating his carrots !
I was lucky enough to attend one of his readings of "White Apples" - and was sucked into his universe. Life, death, love, bull terriers, life sized bags of caramels...his "magical realism" (per his website) is a delight.
For instance, I can be reading along - interested enough in the first character in "Glass Soup", Simon Haden, when suddenly, the following paragraph yanks my eyebrows up into my hairline.
"If someone had told Simon Haden that he was a colossal prick and why, he would not have understood. He would not have denied it, he would not have understood. Because pretty people think the world should forgive whatever their sins are simply because they exist."
"He finished in the bathroom and went to the bedroom. The envelope containing the day's instructions lay on the dresser. In his underpants and sheer black socks, he picked it up and tore it open."
"A little man the size of a candy bar stepped out of the envelope and into his hand. `Haden, how you doin'?'"
HELLO! My attention has been kicked into overdrive and I remember why I like these books so much. I love being caught off guard.
The story progresses as Simon gets onto his tour bus, "There were a few people, a few animals, two cartoon characters, and an almost six foot tall bag of caramels."
I don't mean to suggest that Carroll's writing or characters or plot are goofy or silly...everything has its reason for existing in his world. Everything is a symbol, a link to another book or another character's life.
I am a lazy Carroll reader, I must admit. I KNOW there is so much more to be gleaned from his books, but I mostly just settle back and enjoy the ride.
"God's office was nothing special. By the way it was furnished it could just as easily have belonged to a North Dakota dentist or some comb-over in middle management. The secretary/receptionist was a forty-something nondescript who told Haden in a neutral voice to take a seat. "He'll be with you in a minute." Then she went back to typing - on a typewriter. God's secretary used a manual typewriter."
But still? Sometimes I put down this box of literary bon-bons and savor an idea like this one:
"Another time they might have had a rewarding relationship. But there are people we meet in life that miss being important to us by inches, days or heartbeats. Another place or time or emotional frame of mind and we would willingly fall into their arms; gladly take up their challenge or invitation. But as it is, we encounter them when we are discontent or content and they are not. Whatever serious chemistry might have possible if, isn't."
Hmmm. Maybe this review wasn't that short after all.
I didn't like this book as much as its predecessor, however. For one thing, it goes over some of the same explanatory ground. I suppose this is good if you've never read the first book or if you've forgotten it, but otherwise it's a bit tiresome. Second, the plot is just a bit too unpredictable. Not that I want to be able to predict everything, of course. But the danger of a plot involving God, chaos, and dream worlds is that you can make just about anything happen any time you want to, and the helpless reader can't really complain that it's unbelievable. I mean, if you're willing to swallow octopus bus drivers and people made of butter, anything goes, right? But this can make it just a bit too easy for the heroes to and villians to accomplish their goals. The entire plot is sort of one big deus ex machina. Finally, I found the ending a bit unsatisfying, not too mention that it leaves several loose ends.
All these criticisms aside, however, it really is an enjoyable book and I do recommend it. I just wish it was as good as some of the author's other works.