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Mystery and Imagination

Stephen Bann, 17 November 1983

The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... Dickens and Huysmans to Lampedusa have given us set-piece descriptions of elaborate meals, and Kurt Vonnegut has recently (in Deadeye Dick) done us the courtesy of providing a few exotic recipes. But not till The Antarctica Cookbook, as far as I know, has there been a novel whose fictional resources were exclusively directed to the introduction of a ...

Manly Scowls

Patrick Parrinder, 6 February 1986

An Artist of the Floating World 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 206 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13608 7
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Revolutionary Road 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 337 pp., £4.50, January 1986, 0 413 59720 2
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Young Hearts Crying 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 347 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 9780413597304
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by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £8.95, January 1986, 0 224 02833 2
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... reminds us of nothing so much as a Japanese Vicar of Bray. Richard Yates has been hailed, by Kurt Vonnegut and others, as the chronicler of the generation of middle-class Americans who came of age on the battlefields of Europe in the closing stages of World War Two. In Revolutionary Road (first published in 1961) and his new novel Young Hearts ...


Julian Loose, 30 January 1992

The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... but Wonderland’s brand of Science Fiction owes more to the winning cartoonism of Kurt Vonnegut (touched perhaps by Raymond Roussel’s delight in deliriously over-elaborate explanations) than to the dirty cyberpunk realism of Sterling and William Gibson. Similarly, Murakami’s fantasy narrative is more reminiscent of the elegant ...


Ian Sansom: Jim Crace, 15 November 2001

The Devil's Larder 
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 194 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 0 670 88145 7
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... graduation robes?’ The narrator sounds like a college student giving a commencement address, or Kurt Vonnegut without the jokes: a voice assuming a certain wisdom. Later in Continent, Crace tells the story of an elderly calligrapher and explains the old man’s careful procedures: ‘He is seeking beauty of the highest intellectual order, the most ...

Bang, Crash, Crack

Elizabeth Lowry: Primo Levi, 7 June 2007

A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories 
by Primo Levi, translated by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli.
Penguin, 164 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 7139 9955 6
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... and sententious slogans in the latrines – are as bleakly funny as anything in Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut. The book is driven by the attempt to understand something beyond ordinary comprehension, by Levi’s constant sense, as he later explained to his German translator, of ‘a painful void, a puncture, a permanent stimulus that insists on being ...
A Word from the Loki 
by Maurice Riordan.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, January 1995, 0 571 17364 0
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After the Deafening 
by Gerard Woodward.
Chatto, 64 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 0 7011 6271 6
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The Ice-Pilot Speaks 
by Pauline Stainer.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1994, 1 85224 298 1
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The Angel of History 
by Carolyn Forché.
Bloodaxe, 96 pp., £7.95, November 1994, 1 85224 307 4
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The Neighbour 
by Michael Collier.
Chicago, 74 pp., £15.95, January 1995, 0 226 11358 2
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £6.99, March 1995, 0 19 282451 1
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... Gerard Woodward’s second collection, After the Deafening, suggests that we see him as a poetic Kurt Vonnegut who is writing ‘the science fiction of everyday life’. This analogy is not too far-fetched. The poem ‘Your Shell-Likes’ actually mirrors the repeated single command ‘Listen’ used throughout Slaughterhouse-Five and these poems, like ...

Reality B

Christopher Tayler: Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’, 15 December 2011

1Q84: Book 1 and Book 2 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill Secker, 623 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 1 84655 407 0
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1Q84: Book 3 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill Secker, 364 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 1 84655 405 6
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... isn’t proud of them.) It uses the voice of a disgruntled, detached Tokyo hipster, self-raised on Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler and Dostoevsky, to tell an unlikely noir story: a nameless Boku goes in search of an old friend and a mysterious sheep on the orders of a shadowy tycoon. It’s a consciously Chandleresque set-up, which, in Murakami’s ...


Aaron Matz: Céline, 25 March 2010

by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, translated by Marlon Jones.
Dalkey Archive, 371 pp., £9.99, June 2009, 978 1 56478 525 1
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... novelists from Henry Miller (‘I don’t care whether he’s a Fascist … he can write’) to Kurt Vonnegut (‘every writer is in his debt’) to Philip Roth (‘Céline is my Proust!’) have declared their loyalty to his radical voice. Normance was probably unknown to these writers, but its style and ambitions would be largely familiar. We need ...


Craig Raine: In Moscow, 22 March 1990

... of guests. Jeremy Treglown is there, but where are Richard Gere and Bernardo Bertolucci? Where is Kurt Vonnegut? The bus sizzles along wet roads flanked by blackened chunks of Kendal Mint Cake and we debuss at the tiny Peredelkino church, where a service for Pasternak is to be held. The choir has not yet arrived and the church is packed and ...

Just like Mother

Theo Tait: Richard Yates, 6 February 2003

Collected Stories 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 474 pp., £17.99, January 2002, 0 413 77125 3
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Revolutionary Road 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 346 pp., £6.99, February 2001, 0 413 75710 2
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The Easter Parade 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 226 pp., £10, January 2003, 0 413 77202 0
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... an anti-semitic tirade. With Revolutionary Road, many of his contemporaries – including Kurt Vonnegut and William Styron – felt that he did something comparable for an entire generation; that he saw the cracks in the 1950s. In 1956, William H. Whyte Jr, a Fortune magazine journalist and Max Weber fan, published The Organisation Man, his ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller, 8 March 2012

Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... Van’s. The core included Vogel, Puzo, Friedman, Brooks and the screenwriter David Zelag Goodman. Kurt Vonnegut began to show up. Peter Matthiessen was considered but rejected for mentioning too often his membership in the Institute of Arts and Letters. ‘It’s an organisation,’ Puzo said, ‘for guys who can’t get screen deals.’ Barring ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... Bonnie and Clyde, the Chicago Black Sox, Gregorio Cortez. Such writers as Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Turkel and Russell Banks were his partisans (the last three introducing posthumous reissues of the fiction). But Nelson Algren speaks for the Forties: he did not write a major work after the Cold War defeat of the American Left and the ...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

One Train 
by Kenneth Koch.
Carcanet, 74 pp., £7.95, March 1997, 9781857542691
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A World where News Travelled slowly 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 53 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 571 19160 6
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A Painted Field 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 98 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 330 35059 5
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... this, I think, says something about the aesthetics of the sequence itself. It put me in mind of Kurt Vonnegut’s description of his sister, who was a painter: Alice, who was six feet tall and platinum blonde, asserted one time that she could roller-skate through a great museum like the Louvre, which she had never seen and which she wasn’t all that ...


Rebecca Solnit: In the Day of the Postman, 29 August 2013

... since folded rather than be corrupted). A short story that comes back to me over and over again is Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Harrison Bergeron’, or one small bit of it. Since all men and women aren’t exactly created equal, in this dystopian bit of science fiction a future America makes them equal by force: ballerinas wear weights so they won’t be more ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... in battle and transformed the experience in his writing. But did he? Among Shippey’s examples is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 (1969). Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the bombardment of 1945. In Slaughterhouse 5, Billy Pilgrim is a POW at Dresden, and goes on to live an externally uneventful life ...

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