Book choice for August 2011

The Man in the High Castle [suggested by Rob Friedlander]

front cover

Imagine the world if the Allies had lost the Second World War... Philip K Dick trips the switches of our minds with his vision of the world as it might have been: the African continent virtually wiped out, the Mediterranean drained to make farmland, the United States divided between the Japanese and the Nazis...In the neutral zone that divides the rival superpowers in America lives the author of an underground best-seller. His book - a rallying cry for all those who dream of overthrowing the occupiers - offers an alternative theory of world history. Does 'reality' lie with him, or is his world just one among many others? [Amazon]

Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Since his untimely death at age 53, there has been an extraordinary growth of interest in his writings, which during his lifetime were largely ignored by serious mainstream critics and readers. Such is no longer the case, and the novels of Philip K. Dick frequently appear on university curricula devoted to modern American literature. But that is only the beginning of the transformation. Since 1982, when Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (based on Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) made its debut, eight feature films based on Dick's fiction have appeared, the other seven being Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers, Impostor, the French film Confessions d'un Barjo (based on Dick's mainstream novel, Confessions of a Crap Artist), Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly and Next. That's an average of roughly one movie every three years since Dick's passing - a rate of cinematic adaptation exceeded only by Stephen King. And there are other big-money film options currently held by Hollywood studios.

Philip K. Dick has done more than arrive. He has become a looming and illuminating presence not merely in American but in world culture, with his works translated into major European and Asian languages. There is even a bastard adjective - "phildickian "- that makes its way into print now and then to describe the baffling twists and turns of our times. An understanding of the basic facts of Dick's life not only casts light on the themes that predominate in his writings, but also brings to view a fascinating story in its own right. [this biography continues at great length on the official site, linked below, from which this extract is taken]

Author's website.
Wikipedia page.

 

Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. More than three stay in the selector's bag :o) This month Rob's other selections were:

Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle

Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle

In order to render the strange logic of dreams, Freud quoted the old joke about the borrowed kettle: (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you, (2) I returned it to you unbroken, (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you. Such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments, of course, confirms exactly what it attempts to deny-that I returned a broken kettle to you ... That same inconsistency, Zizek argues, characterized the justification of the attack on Iraq: A link between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda was transformed into the threat posed by the regime to the region, which was then further transformed into the threat posed to everyone (but the US and Britain especially) by weapons of mass destruction. When no significant weapons were found, we were treated to the same bizarre logic: OK, the two labs we found don't really prove anything, but even if there are no WMD in Iraq, there are other good reasons to topple a tyrant like Saddam . . . Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle analyzes the background that such inconsistent argumentation conceals and, simultaneously, cannot help but highlight: what were the actual ideological and political stakes of the attack on Iraq? In classic Zizekian style, it spares nothing and nobody, neither pathetically impotent pacifism nor hypocritical sympathy with the suffering of the Iraqi people. Praise for Welcome to the Desert of the Real: 'Zizek is a stimulating writer; with a knack for turning scenes from movies into little parables, and he is adept at spotting other people's nonsense.' New Yorker 'Zizek's book is perhaps particularly helpful in understanding the 'we wished for it,' from his reading of the terrifying predictability of the American response.' parallax [Google Books]

About the Author

Author's faculty page at the European Grad School.
Wikipedia page.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson is the best Swedish crime writer of the decade - Kristianstadbladet a violently entertaining trilogy...may it never end - Arbetarbladet A huge, 500-plus-page opus, a multilayered, multi-character tale by a writer of some considerable power. Full of social conscience and compassion, with great insight into the nature of moral corruption, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo just knocked me out. During the time I had my nose stuck in its pages, I was thoroughly consumed by the work, and in those periods when I had to put the book down, I found myself grumpy and anxious to return to Larsson's narrative when I finally put the book down, I was still unable to sleep, my head filled with the high-definition world that this author has crafted already I'm thinking this could be remembered as the best crime novel of 2008 This book shows how exhilarating crime fiction can be. Ali Karim, The Rap Sheet website. http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2007/12/case-of-grand-larsson.html a publishing sensation, an accomplished crime writer who seemingly came from nowhere a memorable debut and deserves most of the hype with which it is being published in this country Crime fiction has seldom needed to salute and mourn such a stellar talent as Larsson's in the same breath - Sunday Times The ballyhoo is fully justified...At over 500 pages this hardly sagged...The novel scores on every front - character, story, atmosphere - The Times What a cracking novel! I haven't read such a stunning thriller debut for years. The way Larsson interweaves his two stories had me in thrall from beginning to end. Brilliantly written and totally gripping - Minette Walters[Amazon review notes]

Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Author's website.
Wikipedia page.
Original Swedish movie - 2009
2011 remake - opens in December

 

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