rodneywelch

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Burr: A Novel

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Vidal at his absolute best. A page-turning historical novel that is both well-researched and brilliantly re-imagined; rich in character and lacerating in point of view.
Bend Sinister

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Many people consider it among his weakest books -- "Lolita" and "Pale Fire" set the bar pretty high -- and while it lacks the richness of the others, it's an immensely readable story, as I recall. Also, with "Invitation to a Beheading," it ranks among Nabokov's most political books, although he always denied he was in any way a political novelist. Still, it's impossible to read this story of a barbaric police state and not think of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.
An Artist of the Floating World

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Like "Remains of the Day," this earlier Ishiguro novel is about a man who arrives rather late to the realization that his life has been wasted. The artist is a skillful painter whose art has been in service to Imperialist Japan, which makes him anathama to his family and society after the war.
James Dickey: The World as a Lie

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So far, the definitive portrait of the great poet -- and a mean, somewhat pedantic one. Hart is more interested in Dickey as a heavy-drinking, big-talking, womanizing lout than as an artist; when he does get around to the poetry, he tends to scrutinize it for how "true" it is. There may never be a more complete book about Dickey, but one can't help but yearn for a more intelligent, less trashy one.
The Adventures of Augie March

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A wandering picaresque novel that does little more than chase its own tail. The classic status of this thing continually confounds me.
All Yesterdays' Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print, 1966-1971

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Reasonably good survey of the press reception to the band through its history, ranging from the hostile to the hyper to the overly-enthusiastic to the sane. Not all the clips and interviews hold up; a good many seem to have been written in an acid-baked haze. The best pieces are the ones by the great Lester Bangs, who understood the band perfectly and liked what he saw.
Ulysses

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Easily one of the greatest of all novels, Joyce's masterpiece is illuminating, tender, hilarious, frustrating, exhausting, and humbling. It's like reading Shakespeare or Proust or seeing a great painting; you know you've experienced something glorious, singular, and beyond unique -- especially once you've completed it, no matter whether it's a first time or a third or, I suppose, a tenth or twentieth. Like most great novels, it isn't perfect; cumulatively it's pure genius, although certain individual chapters are a real drag to plod through. For me, that would be "Aeolus" and "Oxen of the Sun," although I'm sure some readers find them spellbinding. For Joyce at his best, I always turn to "Nausicaa" and "Ithaca," especially the latter, that plot-oriented catechism that comprises the penultimate chapter. It's amazing, it's heartbreaking.
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