The Reading Experience on Bret Easton Ellis and Phillip Roth:
Although I would otherwise never think to compare Bret Easton Ellis with Philip Roth (Roth is a real novelist, Ellis seems one manufactured by the “book business”), Lunar Park nevertheless resembles The Plot Against America in at least one way: Both books are essentially memoirs about their authors’ fathers, attempts to capture some fundamental and enduring fact of parental influence through the more imaginative possibilities of fiction.
Roth wants to portray his father as heroic; Ellis depicts his as malign. But each winds up writing novels that are needlessly overworked and inflated. Roth, at least, brings his usual intelligence and vigorous prose style to The Plot Against America.
There are no such compensations in Lunar Park. Ellis would have been better advised, if he were determined to write about his father (about his own life more generally), to produce a straighforward memoir or autobiography. It might not have sold as many copies as Lunar Park, but it surely would have been better able to justify its existence.
Indecision satisfies as a kind of beachy bildungsroman of quarter-century angst, but Dwight’s hapless, happy self-discoveries and syllogisms sometimes feel cliched and unimportant, just the way it feels to re-read The Catcher in the Rye after a long absence.
– Will Duquette on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell:
Suppose England had had a glorious history of magic and magicians; suppose indeed that the North of England was ruled for 300 years by the mysterious Raven King, the first and greatest magician of England’s golden age of magic. Suppose that paths to the land of Faerie had once been commonplace throughout the English countryside.
Suppose that magic is now sadly faded, and though studied by a few, is in actuality practiced by no one; that Napoleon is ravaging the Continent and that only England stands against him; that the glories of English Magic are suddenly, miraculously, about to be reborn…
…and that Jane Austen wrote a book about it all.
That, in a nutshell, is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.