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The Powell's Playlist | June 18, 2014

Daniel H. Wilson: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Daniel H. Wilson



Like many writers, I'm constantly haunting coffee shops with a laptop out and my headphones on. I listen to a lot of music while I write, and songs... Continue »

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Customer Comments

Roger Sarao has commented on (29) products.

Roger Sarao, May 23, 2009

One of the finest books that employs the Kennedy mystique as focal point. Weaves fact and fiction, yet is not one of those "historical fiction" books that treat the same subject such as Ellroy's American Tabloid and DeLillo's Libra (both of which I prefer to Flying In To Love, but the comparison is really not fair). Thomas is a master at getting inside the heads of his characters and making the reader think and feel what they do -- perhaps a definition of a great novelist? Regardless of whether you know or care much about the myth of Camelot or one of the most recent and perplexing murders of a world leader, this book is flat-out well written and well crafted, and would appeal to anyone who loves literature. R.I.P. D.M.T.
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Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
Man in the Dark

Roger Sarao, August 24, 2008

Imagination Goes to War in Paul Auster’s New Novel

The year is 2007, April, to be more specific, and the President of the United States is George W. Bush. Beyond those basics, little else seems familiar in the world described in the pages of Man In the Dark, the 12th novel from New Jersey-born author Paul Benjamin Auster.

In this alternate world, the 9/11 attacks on American soil did not occur. Instead, the contested outcome of the 2000 Presidential election resulted in 16 states seceding and an all out civil war. With 13 million dead already, the Independent States of America continue their bloody battle with the Federals. Eggs cost five dollars each, as does a cup of tepid tea. The one-dollar bill and coins are no longer accepted.

Wait. Stop. The narrator of our story – for it is indeed just a story – needs to urinate, in a jar by the bed on which he lies. His name is August Brill, an elderly man, ex-literary critic, recovering from a recent car crash in the downstairs bedroom of the house of his only daughter. Sharing the house with them is his granddaughter, Katya, a young woman who recently lost her boyfriend to the real war of our time, the one in Iraq.

August is a certified insomniac, and a man with a lifetime of memories, both good and bad. Rather that dwell on those unpleasant memories, he begins telling tales to himself in the darkness of his room while the rest of the house sleeps. Thus, the U.S. civil war of the 21st century is merely a tale told to no one but August Brill himself.

But what a tale it is. In the hands of Paul Auster – the undisputed king of American meta-fiction – Brill’s story begins with Owen Brick, a simple magician who earns a meager living entertaining kids at birthday parties, waking up in the middle of the night not beside the love of his life, his wife Flora, but in a deep, 12-foot diameter hole whose clay sides are slick as glass. No way out. He is not dressed in his pajamas (or however he normally dresses for sleep), but in a ragged military uniform. Come morning, he is hoisted up to ground level, given a gun, money and a crucial assignment by his sergeant: He must assassinate the man who started the war, a man named August Brill.

Back in reality, Brill contemplates suicide, using his stories as elaborate strategies for completing this final act. Yet here in this house, with his daughter and granddaughter – the only family any of them have left – be searches for a purpose to his life and finds not one but two. Miriam, his daughter, is writing a book on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s youngest daughter, Rose.

Why does Auster choose to incorporate such an obscure, real life person into this fantastical tale? Rose Hawthorne was a failed poet, but late in life dedicated herself to the care of indigent patients diagnosed with incurable cancer, and later founded a religious order of Catholic nuns to further their mission in life. In other words, Rose Hawthorne had nothing until she found a cause. And this is important to our story.

The second purpose in Brill’s life is to help his granddaughter, Katya, overcome her grief at the loss of her boyfriend in Iraq. She blames herself for his death. Rather than resuming her life (she is still young, in her mid-20s), she spends the days watching old films with her grandpa, August Brill. Ozu’s masterpiece “Tokyo Story” gets special attention – a fact that other reviewers felt slowed down the plot, but one that this reviewer felt was an astute connection that demonstrated the universality of life in all its suffering and happiness.

This novella (at only 180 pages) is a constant surprise. As always, Auster’s prose is beautiful, and his literary tricks of the trade are still very much in play. In the final analysis, Man In the Dark is a very good Paul Auster novel, though falls just short of being a great one.
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(16 of 31 readers found this comment helpful)



Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger
Dermaphoria

Roger Sarao, August 18, 2008

One of the finest and edgiest authors writing today!

What an intense reading experience, one that will make you sweat. "Dermaphoria" has easily jumped into my list of top ten favorite novels. The writing is pure brilliance, precise yet chaotic like an undiscovered branch of mathematics. The words had an instantaneous impact on my mental and physical state of being. At times I experienced briefly-flashed hallucinations, and had to reread sections to convince myself that what I read was really on the page.

Simply astounding; I don't know how else to say it. I'm going to push this book hard on people -- it deserves to be read by everyone, if only to illustrate the power that words can have when used by a master of the craft. I enjoyed this even more than Mr. Clevenger's debut, "The Contortionist's Handbook," and that, my friends, is no small feat.

If you enjoyed "Dermaphoria" or "The Contortionist's Handbook," you may also like the works of friend and fellow author Will Christopher Baer.

Thank you Craig!
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(6 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)



Camp Concentration by Thomas M Disch
Camp Concentration

Roger Sarao, March 3, 2008

How does one categorize this book? It's not science fiction, though it does contain those elements. Cult fiction is too limiting a term. How about a great piece of literature? "Camp Concentration" is a most interesting story. It's hard to summarize without revealing the very surprising (and rewarding) ending, which I did not see coming. This was my first exposure to Disch, but certainly won't be my last.
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(5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)



Death of a Murderer by Rupert Thomson
Death of a Murderer

Roger Sarao, November 20, 2007

I have been a huge fan of Rupert Thomson ever since another great author, Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist's Handbook; Dermaphoria), turned me onto him.

Thomson's earlier novels, including The Insult and The Book of Revelation, are among my favorite novels of the past decade, so I went into "Death of a Murderer" with high hopes.

While I will still recommend this book, I found it to be less satisfying overall compared to the other Thomson novels that I've read so far. Fine writing, as usual, but the plot (inspired by real events) was intentionally simplistic to allow the main character to ruminate on his past, his marriage, his child, and above all, the nature of evil in general. Thomson's ruminating prose redeems this book in the end.
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(7 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)



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