Sunday, 14 October 2012

Poised, Paged Pleasures

Allan Kurzweil’s debut novel A Case of Curiosities is an entertaining and surprisingly accessible story about a French peasant from the 18th Century who becomes an engineer of wondrous automata after receiving tutelage from a eccentric, defrocked priest. Despite the fizzing, Eco-ish, display of erudition Kurzweil keeps the prose light and fun, interspersing theories of sound and chromatics with pornographic enamels and nicely drawn odd bods and although the first third is a bit of a trudge once our protagonist arrives in Paris both the author and his characters get plenty of room to dance. A thoroughly entertaining slice of historical fiction that manages a fine balance between bawdy and brains.

Don DeLillo struts about the pages of The Body Artist exhibiting his ample talents with a deceptively slight novella about grief and our experience of embodiment. The quiet life of a couple of artists is shattered by suicide and the seclusion of the grieving widow provides DeLillo an opportunity to drive his solitary character through a hazy examination of loss, identity and what it means to be ‘present’. De Lillo’s simple, spartan prose lulls the reader into deep waters, churning up a slew of unsettling and uncomfortable ruminations with a panache that few authors can match.

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