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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity



Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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Ben from Texas has commented on (2) products.

Liquidation (Vintage International) by Imre Kertesz
Liquidation (Vintage International)

Ben from Texas, January 21, 2014

Liquidation, despite winning a Nobel for Kertesz, has seemingly become one of those overlooked masterpieces. It is, to its core, a modernist novel that employs all of the self-awareness and self-subversion a North American reader may expect from a European novel, but there is more. Liquidation may be the most original take on the literary detective novel in years, to the extent that it's difficult to discuss the book's central qualities without also revealing its reversals. Just know this: Readers who love post-war/Cold War Central and Eastern European settings will be satisfied, as will fans of Kundera, who enjoy their philosophy played out in sexual and romantic entanglements. (There is also a more than passing conceptual similarity to Edouard Levé's Suicide.) Most of of all, what we have in Liquidation is a moral (but not moralistic) story that unites the specter of the Holocaust with the present day, in a plot that seems to promise a very Waiting for Godot ending, but ultimately reaffirms life, not by denying the subject's depression and nihilism, but by loving it, and thereby subverting it, describing its moral and intellectual texture and richness.
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Lying Awake (Vintage Contemporaries) by Mark Salzman
Lying Awake (Vintage Contemporaries)

Ben from Texas, June 8, 2013

I found this book to be every bit as gorgeous and controlled as people say it is. The writing is nearly flawless, and the story requires little effort to finish in a single sitting. I did however find the premise somewhat more compelling than the execution. While Salzman does complexify what we understand about Sister John of the Cross as she experiences a truly compelling conflict, the conflict itself remains static and unchanged until its resolution. Essentially, the sister's choice remains straightforward, and the novel itself becomes a brief study on the nature of this binary. I found myself wondering, if from among the hundreds of books written about Joan of Arc, whether Salzman was perhaps too aware of other writers who had explored a similar question as what is addressed in Lying Awake, and in trying to avoid replication, erred, if only slightly, toward something less generic, but also less complex.

This book has me interested in Salzman, and I'm curious to read his other titles.
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