Life: A Users Manual by Georges PerecLife: A Users Manual is an unclassified masterpiece, a sprawling compendium as encyclopedic as Dantes Commedia and Chaucers Canterbury Tales and, in its break with tradition, as inspiring as Joyces Ulysses. Perecs spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary. From the confessions of a racing cyclist to the plans of an avenging murderer, from a young ethnographer obsessed with a Sumatran tribe to the death of a trapeze artist, from the fears of an ex-croupier to the dreams of a sex-change pop star to an eccentric English millionaire who has devised the ultimate pastime, Life is a manual of human irony, portraying the mixed marriages of fortunes, passions and despairs, betrayals and bereavements, of hundreds of lives in Paris and around the world.
But the novel in more than an extraordinary range of fictions; it is a closely observed account of life and experience. The apartment blocks one hundred rooms are arranged in a magic square, and the book as a whole is peppered with a staggering range of literary puzzles and allusions, acrostics, problems of chess and logic, crosswords, and mathematical formulae. All are there for the reader to solve in the best tradition of the detective novel.
Under the Volcano (1984) - Albert Finney - Jacqueline Bisset
0509-19 NY Times Crossword 9 May 19, Thursday
Strictly speaking, we should be at the end of our Lowry coverage this month, but this book is so good, and there's so much to say about it, I thought it worth posting another quick article. First, as with Proust a few months ago , it seemed to me a good idea to leave a post open for a few weeks in which we can put more ideas and questions about the novel. If you're like me you'll have bounced straight into a second reading of the book and more and more things will be emerging …. The first stop is, of course, the Malcolm Lowry project , that wonderful resource of explanations, images and references relating to Under the Volcano. If you haven't already seen it, I also highly recommend the documentary Volcano, An Enquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry , a wonderful mix of documentary and arthouse, and a great insight into Lowry's life and work from people who knew him well. Elsewhere, the owner of the Twitter account malcolmlowry who can also be found as nicklabbe , sent me a list of recommendations that I'll list below, just as soon as I've expressed my gratitude. Thanks malcolmlowry!
Syndicated NY Times Puzzles
Under the Volcano by the British novelist and poet Malcolm Lowry is considered one of the most influential novels of the 20th century. The book took Lowry years and many rewrites to complete, and even then faced many rejections. In a famous letter to Jonathan Cape, who eventually published the book in , Lowry remains defiant. He was an expert letter writer and often spent more time on these than on his novels. When the novel finally came out, it unhappily clashed with the publication of The Lost Weekend by Charles R Jackson, another tale of a hopeless alcoholic adapted into a successful film by Billy Wilder. Nevertheless, critics hailed the novel as a masterpiece and Lowry was contracted for his next book.