Microviews Vol. 28: The Pharoah's Elk

on Friday, April 5, 2013
Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
For the first two parts of this memoir, Barnes had me scratching my head. I knew Levels Of Life was supposed to be about the death of his wife, so the whole time I was trying to work out why I needed an entire history of ballooning and photography before she gets so much as a mention. I'm still not sold on the metaphor (though it is beautiful and poetic in its execution), but I'm glad to say that Barnes won me over in the third part, a brilliant piece of reflective anger and bitterness by a man still deeply in love. This will not make you feel warm and fuzzy or otherwise cause you to think more comfortably about death. Quite the opposite. It is, however, a must read for anyone who has wanted to punch the well-meaning sympathy brigade in the nose.
4 Out Of 5 Fading Daguerreotypes

Doppler by Erlend Loe
This darkly humorous novel posits Norway's answer to the Unabomber rejecting society and shacking up in the mountains with a baby elk. Solitude, however, ain't what it's cracked up to be, especially when others want in on his personal rebellion. Doppler is a misanthrope's delight spoiled only by its heavy-handedness on the anti-consumerism diatribes.
3.5 Out Of 5 Venison Steaks

That Smell by Sonallah Ibrahim
This slim Egyptian classic, long-banned under Nasser's rule, is remarkable if only for its description of a society that has had its cajones unceremoniously lopped off. Much like Ibrahim himself, the narrator is released from prison and attempts to adjust to life outside. Far from the rough and tumble hotbed of dissent, Cairo seems to have lost its will to fight. A fascinating study in post-traumatic ennui.
3.5 Out Of 5 Terse Sphinxes, Aye (sorry, couldn't resist)

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell
Kentucky-fried brutality, incest and murder reign supreme in this disturbing tale of some very backward hickfolk. It never quite reaches the depravity of Cormac McCarthy at his best, but it's still engaging enough when you're not swallowing back the vomit.
3.5 Out Of 5 Teeth


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