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Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance
"With all its class anxiety, Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance feels very British (even poor Benny, the one American in the bunch, sounds like a Brit). But this is a global age, after all, and Kneale has that in mind. Not only does he set his stories in Italy, Africa and China, but he ventures into the points of view of non-Westerners, too....The moralizing is gentle, but it is there all the same, reminding us with humor which of our concerns are important, and which are absurd." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
The author of the award-winning novel English Passengers takes readers around the world in twelve deftly crafted stories that illuminate the uncertainties of life at home and abroad.
Matthew Kneale received high praise for the prize-winning English Passengers, an epic romp on the high seas and across nineteenth-century cultures, ingeniously woven together by a multitude of narrators. In Small Crimes In An Age of Abundance, Kneale brings his mastery of storytelling to our present morally ambiguous world. Set in lands ranging from England to China, South America, the Middle East, and Africa, these powerfully themed stories follow ordinary people as they try to survive and make sense of their worlds.
We follow a well-intentioned English family who leave their tour group in China to travel alone, and collide with the ruthless side of the country, slowly becoming complicit in its violence; a ploddingly respectable London lawyer who chances upon a stash of cocaine and realizes it offers the wealth and status he hungers for; a salesman in Africa who becomes caught up in a riot that turns his life upside down; a self-doubting suicide bomber.
Kneale transports readers across continents in a nanosecond, reaching to the heart of faraway societies with rare perceptiveness. As the stories gain momentum — tense, funny, and always compassionate — they make readers see the world in a new way. At times reminiscent of Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, at times Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, Small Crimes In An Age of Abundance is a groundbreaking book, by a master narrator of the uncertainties of our time.
"Kneale, author of the Whitbread-winning English Passengers, reaches all over the world for these 12 tales, with mixed results. The global economy's power imbalance is the general theme; Kneale shows how the peoples of the world, though inevitably interrelated, often remain sorely ignorant of (or indifferent to) each other. He drops his characters into faraway lands, exposing them to foreign cultures and thereby forcing them to examine their own ways of life. Sometimes the comparison brings horror, as in 'Stone,' in which a well-meaning English family traveling through China run smack into the harsh laws of a small town and become unintentionally complicit in the ruthless punishment of a man they think has robbed them. Other times the comparison brings shame, as in 'Metal,' in which a British arms salesman in an unnamed African country gets caught up in a riot that makes him vow to change his life. The shifts in setting give the book energy, but this is slightly undermined by the sameness of the prose and similarities among the characters. Kneale saves his best for last, though. 'White' follows a Palestinian suicide bomber as he makes his way toward Tel Aviv, an explosive device strapped to his chest, his mind racing with doubt. This final, highly charged story leaves a lasting impression." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Envy, snobbery and xenophobia coexist with such literal crimes as child abuse and drug-peddling....A most unusual...collection, and a very good one indeed." Kirkus Reviews
"The stories, which are set all over the world, are well wrought and intriguing, but there's a sameness to them." Library Journal
"This set of stories will please those who crave dark and ironic literature, but some readers may long for Kneale's return to the historical saga." Booklist
The author of the award-winning novel "English Passengers" takes readers around the world in 12 deftly crafted stories that illuminate the uncertainties of life at home and abroad.
About the Author
Matthew Kneale is the author of several novels, including, most recently, English Passengers, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year 2000 award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He lives in Rome, Italy.
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