Book choice for September 2010

My Name Is Red [suggested by Pauline Turnbull]

front cover

Orhan Pamuk is one of Turkey's premier novelists and My Name Is Red, when published in the original Turkish in 1998, became the fastest-selling book in Turkish history. It is high time then that a translation to English was made, and this publication will be widely welcomed by Pamuk's growing legion of English-speaking admirers.

In the late 16th century, during the final years of the reign of Ottoman Sultan Murat III, a great work is commissioned, a book celebrating the Sultan's life. The work is conducted in secret, to the ignorance of the artists involved, for fear of a violent religious reaction to the European style of the illuminations in the book. An artist goes, missing, feared dead, and Black, a painter who has been in a self-enforced exile because of spurned love, returns to help his former Master investigate the disappearance.

Pamuk's prose is as exquisite and rich as the elucidations it describes. This is a dense, atmospherically fevered book, which demands a high level of patience and attention from the reader, perhaps mirroring the patience of the miniaturists. Written in the first person, with multiple narratives, this is a book full of unreliable witnesses, and as the various stories of the narrators unfold, the truth of the disappearance slowly emerges. The sense of place and time are carefully constructed and diligently maintained throughout the novel, which, like Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose, far exceeds the genre of literary historical crime to become a hypnotic meditation on religion, love, time, patience and artistic devotion. [Iain Robinson, writing on Amazon]

The book has a Wikipedia page.

About the Author

I couldn't get Pamuk's website to load, so the following is extracted from Google's cached copy:

Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a large family similar to those which he describes in his novels Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book, in the wealthy westernised district of Nisantasi. As he writes in his autobiographical book Istanbul, from his childhood until the age of 22 he devoted himself largely to painting and dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from the secular American Robert College in Istanbul, he studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University for three years, but abandoned the course when he gave up his ambition to become an architect and artist. He went on to graduate in journalism from Istanbul University, but never worked as a journalist. At the age of 23 Pamuk decided to become a novelist, and giving up everything else retreated into his flat and began to write.

His first novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons was published seven years later in 1982. The novel is the story of three generations of a wealthy Istanbul family living in Nisantasi, Pamuk's own home district. The novel was awarded both the Orhan Kemal and Milliyet literary prizes. The following year Pamuk published his novel The Silent House, which in French translation won the 1991 Prix de la d�couverte europ�ene. The White Castle (1985) about the frictions and friendship between a Venetian slave and an Ottoman scholar was published in English and many other languages from 1990 onwards, bringing Pamuk his first international fame. The same year Pamuk went to America, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York from 1985 to 1988. It was there that he wrote most of his novel The Black Book, in which the streets, past, chemistry and texture of Istanbul are described through the story of a lawyer seeking his missing wife. This novel was published in Turkey in 1990, and the French translation won the Prix France Culture. The Black Book enlarged Pamuk's fame both in Turkey and internationally as an author at once popular and experimental, and able to write about past and present with the same intensity. In 1991 Pamuk's daughter R�ya was born. That year saw the production of a film Hidden Face, whose script by Pamuk was based on a one-page story in The Black Book.

He also has a Wikipedia page.

 

Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month, Pauline's other suggestions were:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The title The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (or the curious incident of the dog in the night-time as it appears within the book) is an appropriate one for Mark Haddon's ingenious novel both because of its reference to that most obsessive and fact-obsessed of detectives, Sherlock Holmes, and because its lower-case letters indicate something important about its narrator.

Christopher is an intelligent youth who lives in the functional hinterland of autism--every day is an investigation for him because of all the aspects of human life that he does not quite get. When the dog next door is killed with a garden fork, Christopher becomes quietly persistent in his desire to find out what has happened and tugs away at the world around him until a lot of secrets unravel messily.

Haddon makes an intelligent stab at how it feels to, for example, not know how to read the faces of the people around you, to be perpetually spooked by certain colours and certain levels of noise, to hate being touched to the point of violent reaction. Life is difficult for the difficult and prickly Christopher in ways that he only partly understands; this avoids most of the obvious pitfalls of novels about disability because it demands that we respect--perhaps admire--him rather than pity him. --Roz Kaveney [Amazon]

Naturally this novel also has its own Wikipedia page.

About the Author

The author has a website - markhaddon.com - where you won't find anything useful at all and may get utterly lost in the weird universe of something called "old website", so the following is taken from from contemporarywriters.com:

Mark Haddon was born in Northampton in 1962. He graduated from Oxford University in 1981, returning later to study for an M.Sc. in English Literature at Edinburgh University. He then undertook a variety of jobs, including work with children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. He also worked as an illustrator for magazines and a cartoonist for New Statesman, The Spectator, Private Eye, the Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian (for which he co-wrote a cartoon strip).

His first book for children, Gilbert's Gobstopper, appeared in 1987 and was followed by many other books and picture books for children, many of which he also illustrated. These include the 'Agent Z' series and the 'Baby Dinosaurs' series. From 1996 he also worked on television projects, and created and wrote several episodes for Microsoap, winning two BAFTAs and a Royal Television Society Award for this work.

In 2003 his novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was published and has been hugely successful. It is the first book to have been published simultaneously in two imprints - one for children and one for adults. It has won a string of prestigious awards, including the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year. His second novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in 2006 and shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Novel Award.

His first book of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, was published in 2005.

His latest books are a new novel, Boom! (2009) and a picture book, Walking on The Moon (2009).

Mark Haddon teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and Oxford University.

You won't believe this, but he also has a Wikipedia page.

And The Ass Saw The Angel

And The Ass Saw The Angel

Knowing Cave's music well, it is perhaps not suprising that he would write a novel about imbreeds, murder, filth, religion, not to mention some of the most unusual narrative language one can find. I love this book, partly, I suppose, because it appeals to that undesirable aspect of everyone's nature that hungers for the grotesque and bestial. However, if this was all it satisfied, I would soon disregard it as gutter literature, there is a subtle and beautiful voice screaming through the vulgar exterior of the words. On the surface, it would appear that Cave is illustrating a damning perspective of Christianity - false profits, brutal extremism and insane fanatasism - but the occassional change in narration allow the reader to glimpse a faint enlightenment, made clearer through its juxtaposition with the external world of our narrator. I see it as an allegory for much of the human situation, exaggerating the dangers of blind faith but also warning against irrational rebellion. Even if you get nothing from analysis of this book (as you may see, I have great trouble articulating my thoughts), then read purely for the poetical descriptions and powerful characterisation. I assure you, you will go through at least eight contrasting emotions as you journey through it.

[review by "A Customer" on Amazon - all spelling and grammar errors retained for added realism]

(or if you wanted a review that really belongs in Pseuds Corner, you could try here)

Blah blah Wikipedia blah.

About the Author

I'm not even going to try to condense Nick Cave's extensive biography into a couple of paragraphs. Everything you could ever want to know, and more, is available on his website. If you've read all that and you STILL want more, you could try Wikipedia.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

August 2010
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