Month: November 2014

What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging – Novermber 2014 Wrap-up

Posted November 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading, What I Think About When I'm Not Blogging / 8 Comments

Tales of Terror & MysteryIt is hard to believe that 2014 is almost over; I went into this year with a goal to read more non-fiction and now I think I am addicted. I joined Nonfiction November firstly because I wanted to keep my momentum and it looked like fun. However I didn’t really participate much in the memes; I did write a great (well I think it was) essay on my non-fiction reading history. I did however finish a few non-fiction books, four memoirs and two books around literary criticism. I am still scrabbling to catch up on book reviews and I have been posting every day to catch up, so most of these books are still waiting to be posted.

Sticking with the non-fiction theme, I started off the month reading Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz and I owe this book choice to my addiction to the Literary Disco podcast. It was a little out of my wheelhouse but I really enjoyed it and what better to succeed a book about sexual abuse than listening to Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. This was a funny, yet amazing book and the audiobook was just perfect. This also helped increase my collection of Parks and Rec memoirs. I happened to also read another humorous memoir when I learnt about how Tony Hawks went Around Ireland with a Fridge. The final memoir was Not Drowning, Reading by Andrew Relph which is heavy on the literary criticism and lead to me reading Why I Read by Wendy Lesser and What Is Literature? by Jean-Paul Sartre.

The reading of Sartre may seem pretentious enough to give me enough literary credibility to last the month; it also leads to the second theme in my reading for November. I wanted to participate in German Literature Month this month and I had every intention to read more German translations but the only one I managed to read was Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes. I did however read a great French novel (The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery) and the Russian science fiction classic Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky. I had aimed to re-reading Perfume by Patrick Süskind but the library’s copy was too damaged, also if I had time I planned on picking up some more Kafka.

The library has been a huge source of books lately and I am constantly having two or three books checked out at the one time. This might not be good for my TBR bookcase and all the books I still need to read around my house but it has been great for reading on a whim as well as saving me money. Out of the fifteen books I have read this month, five of them were from the library and mostly my non-fiction/translation picks. Last year I went on a book buying ban that didn’t work but it was the start of my obsession with the library and lets face it, it is always good to support them.

I did read some other books this month including Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas. However the real highlight of November was reading poetry to my wife, it was very romantic. I picked up Ariel by Sylvia Plath from the library after reading Belzhar and read a few poems to my wife every night before bed, it was such a great experience but Plath wasn’t the easiest to read aloud (more on this in my upcoming review).

I am really enjoying these essay style blogging but I have discovered I have so much to learn. While writing I have noticed I am very minimalist and I could almost turn each paragraph into a list of books that I have read. Practise does make perfect and I know what I need to focus on for upcoming essays but I have no idea how I am going to do that. These journal style personal essays are addictive and I plan on exploring them further; I think my next one will revolve around writing. One day when I am looking back on these essays, I am hoping to see how much I have improved and this writing will be laughable. Until then I am going to continue writing and writing, so look for more posts in the What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging series…if you are interested.

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Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted November 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Short Stories / 0 Comments

Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan DoyleTitle: Tales of Terror and Mystery (Goodreads)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 1913
Pages: 224
Genres: Crime, Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When we talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes always seems to be one of the first things that spring to mind. Sadly for this Scottish writer, this turned into both a blessing and a curse. Firstly, Sherlock Holmes remains a seminal part of crime writing and English literature, but limited the writer’s chances in exploring something different. In 1893 Doyle famously tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes in the story “The Final Problem” but due to public outcry and high demands the eccentric detective returned in the 1901 novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

While Arthur Conan Doyle is known for his prolific writing, he didn’t gain much recognition for his works outside of Sherlock Holmes. Even though some critics believe his historical novels are some of his best works and The Lost World being the inspiration behind Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I picked up Doyle’s 1923 short story collection Tales of Terror and Mystery as part of our book club, but this afforded me the opportunity to explore his writing outside of Sherlock.

Tales of Terror and Mystery is a collection of thirteen short stories broken up into two topics; six stories on terror and seven on mystery. The book kicked off on a positive gear, the tales of terror are almost like a homage to Edgar Allen Poe. Even the short story “The New Catacomb” has a remarkable similarity to Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”. What I enjoyed about these tales of terror was the way Doyle went a little darker and macabre to what I expected from this author.

Having such a great experience with the tales of terror it was a shame to move onto the tales of mystery. Here is a fun experiment; replace the protagonist name with Sherlock Holmes in these stories and see if they feel any different. It doesn’t work in all the stories; I wanted Conan Doyle to explore different styles of writing but I felt like the tales of mystery was almost like Holmes stories at times and the rest just didn’t work too well at all.

Some of the stories with Tales of Terror and Mystery worked really well but then the rest just feel short. I loved that Arthur Conan Doyle seemed to be influenced by great short story writers like Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft in some of the stories. However for the most part I was left wanting something a little more. Also, like what I have found with Doyle’s writing, there are some incredibly racist moments within this collection, with stories like “The Japanned Box” and “The Jews Breastplate”. After reading The Sign of Four earlier this year I have come to expect this colonialism nature from his writing. I like that some of these stories were macabre but overall I think this lacked the stylistic approach I am used to from this author.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Posted November 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerTitle: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Goodreads)
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Published: Serpent's Tail, 2013
Pages: 308
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

First and foremost, I must advise this review will contain a slight spoiler about Rosemary’s sister Fern. I did try to write this review spoiler free but it proved impossible to talk about what made this book interesting without mentioning Fern. I am not sure if this is a real spoiler, as some covers and synopsis I have read give away that Fern is in fact a chimpanzee.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves begins in the middle of the story; Rosemary is in college, her brother Lowell is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism and her sister Fern has disappeared. As the novel progresses in a non-linear format, the puzzle starts to make a lot more sense. Karen Joy Fowler’s novel takes the tragic story of a dysfunctional family and makes it a little more complicated.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Karen Joy Fowler, all I knew about this author was the fact she wrote The Jane Austen Book Club, which I got the impression was a chick-lit but it is a book about books so I plan to read it. After a little research I found that Fowler likes to blend genres; historical fiction with fantasy (Sarah Canary) and chick-lit with mystery (Wit’s End). Having now read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves I know I need to experience her writing again. She appears to be an author that is willing to try something different and give the reader a different experience every time.

While the novel doesn’t begin at the start, the story really begins in the 1970’s when an ordinary Midwestern family take on a baby chimpanzee and raise it as Rosemary’s sister. The two toddlers grow up together, but this makes life a little complicated for Rosemary. While Fern did develop some human social skills; there were some negative effects for Rosemary. No, Rosemary didn’t start flinging poop at people, but her social skills cause plenty of problems when she went to school. They were close sisters despite some problems, but then Fern was taken away; the term ‘went to the farm’ was mentioned which is messed up.

This novel takes on a very complex subject and the mental and psychological effects on a primate in a human behavioural study but also the family involved. The book moves erratically over forty years of Rosemary’s life and the reader is subjected to the scars and damage this whole situation had on her. We are confronted with the difficult subject of advancing science and where we should draw the ethical line in the sand. However, you have Rosemary’s father who has a doctorate in physiological behaviours on one end of the spectrum and then her brother who is part of the Animal Liberation Front on the other side.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves becomes a novel not only full of psychological drama but also about how we treat animals and the environment. There are plenty of complex issues that the reader has to work through but I found that Karen Joy Fowler presented her argument perfectly. Not just jamming her ideals down our throats, she told a story and let us she just how damaging the situation can be. Each part begins with a quote from Franz Kafka’s short story “A Report to an Academy” (“Ein Bericht für eine Akademie”) which is about an ape called Red Peter who learns how to behave as a human and presents his report to an academy of his transformation. This tiny little addition to the book really help seal the deal for me, as this is a satire on the Jews’ assimilation into Western culture as well as a look at evolutionary theory.

I have to admit from the beginning of this novel I wasn’t sure what to expect, beginning the book in the middle was interesting but I was sceptical on how it would work. Karen Joy Fowler handled every delicate issue with such confidence and ease; I was on board with what she was doing really quickly. Yet again I am left with the feeling that I need to learn the literary theories in the psychoanalytical field, I think there is so much worth exploring. Even if you are not interested into a deep dive into psychology, this contemporary novel is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in some good fiction.

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

Posted November 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick HornbyTitle: The Complete Polysyllabic Spree (Goodreads)
Author: Nick Hornby
Published: Viking, 2005
Pages: 278
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

While Nick Hornby is best known for his fiction that includes books like High Fidelity and About a Boy, some maybe familiar with his column in The Believer called Stuff I’ve Been Reading. The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is the combination of two U.S. titles from his column, The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt. The title is a reference to the Dallas choral rock band The Polyphonic Spree, a group with over twenty members in it. Hornby often describes the works of The Believer in this way; “all dressed in white robes and smiling maniacally, sort of like a literary equivalent of The Polyphonic Spree.”

In fact, The Believer is a literary magazine created by Dave Eggers and part of the McSweeney’s company; it also focuses on other forms of the arts and general culture. It started in 2003 and releases nine issues a year; this book takes Hornsby’s column from September 2003 to mid-2006. Each article follows the same basic format, first listing books he bought that month, and then the books he read. However due to The Believers guidelines all books he hated must be listed as untitled. This is followed by an essay talking about these books and future reading plans, often between 500 to 2000 words.

What I thought was interesting is the fact that Nick Hornby took a very simple formula and worked within the confines of it successfully. As stated in a previous What I Think about When I’m Not Blogging post, this has inspired me to write more personal essays. However I have to say, I was a little disappointed by this book, simply because he kept to the same formula and never grew or evolved as a reader or writer. I like the idea but I would have liked to see some growth or experimentation; I also think if you don’t mention the books you don’t like can’t really give a true representation of your reading life, but I do understand their policy.

I have to also mention that Nick Hornby has a strong aversion to literary fiction and will actively poke at it. The idea that people only read literary fiction to become literary snobs felt a little off colour; I embrace my pretentious nature but I read literary fiction because I love the proses. His reading tastes are very narrow and focus mainly on popular fiction; this type of article would be far more interesting if the writer was interested in exploring all types of literature. I am fascinated by books about books and learning about someone’s reading journey but this was like watching someone run in the same spot. There was no risk-taking and no changes from article to article; to make matters worse I did not add a single book to my TBR as a result of reading this.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Posted November 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

We Were Liars by E. LockhartTitle: We Were Liars (Goodreads)
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2014
Pages: 225
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Meet Cadence (Cady) Sinclair Eastman; she is seventeen years old from a family that is so wealthy they spend their summers on their own private island. The summers are spent with her cousins Mirren and Johnny, plus her crush Gat. The four of them are so close they are collectively known as the Liars. However, there is a big secret within the family, a secret that has been kept from Cady. An accident when she was fifteen left Cady damaged and with some memory loss. What are they hiding?

I picked up this book because of the marketing campaign; see good marketing does sell books. Basically the concept behind the campaign was to read the book then lie about it; a great way to stop anyone from spoiling the fact that Cady’s grandfather is really a Russian sleeper spy. We Were Liars is this wonderfully secretive novel with a psychological element that slowly gets revealed. The way I view this book is if Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) wrote a YA novel set in the world of the TV show Revenge.

There are a lot of people that loved this book and to be honest I wasn’t sure if I would be among them. I started off reading this book thinking there wasn’t anything special and it felt like privileged white kids with first world problems. However, like most people, I got to a point where everything clicked and I was floored. Everything started making so much more sense. As you can tell, this is a difficult novel to write about because I don’t want to give away the plot about the zombie apocalypse.

I am of two minds about the writing, on one hand it was pretty basic and I found it incredibly easy to rush through the novel and not miss anything important. However as things start to reveal themselves, you can think back to previous chapters and see all the subtle clues that were missed. In the end, I think E. Lockhart did a brilliant job of making the book so easy to read while packing in subtle evidence that The Sinclair family are just a big crime family. The subtlety worked really well throughout the novel and I feel like I was so blind, I would never have guessed that they were aliens, but the evidence was there.

I may joke about the ending and the fact that it was all a dream but I am just following their marketing campaign. I had a lot of fun reading this book; much like Gone Girl, the twist was done so well and We Were Liars kept me up at night as I desperately tried to finish the book. I am very surprised by this book and I wonder if re-reading this book would be any good. I can’t imagine going into the novel knowing what happens would be any fun, but I am not the kind of person that likes spoilers.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Posted November 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina SankovitchTitle: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (Goodreads)
Author: Nina Sankovitch
Published: Harper Collins, 2011
Pages: 241
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Nina Sankovitch lost her eldest sister to cancer, she grieved for a long time. However when she turned forty six, she decided to stop her grief by reading. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is the memoir of a year of reading, dealing with loss and loving books. Reading a book a day Nina learned about the magical healing powers of books.

I started reading this book as soon as a finished Ex Libris; I wanted to continue in the joys of personal essays about reading and thought this one would be a good choice. While there is a lot of beauty in the writing, especially in the tender moments about her sister and dealing with her death, something just was not quite right. I spent a lot of time thinking about why this book did not work for me; I just could not put my finger on what was causing the problem. Then I realised this book is just a repetitive conversion narrative.

What I mean by conversion narrative (there probably is a better name for this) is something like Confessions by St. Augustine; where the author writes about all their problems and how they miraculously were saved. This isn’t normally a religious journey like Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert but it is often a memoir of a struggling person that found a way to heal and have a better life. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair has that same formula over and over again; “I was grieving and then I found books”, “I had another problem so I picked up a book”.

Then there is the overly ambitious task of reading a book a day; from the start of the book I saw it to be problematic when she wanted to only read books about 200 pages. Then there was a moment where she didn’t want to read her son’s favourite book Watership Down by Richard Adams because it was almost 500 pages. The whole idea of ‘quality over quantity’ came to mind; what happens when you want to take your time with a book?

In theory the idea of reading so much might sound good but there is so much practicality that gets in the way. Nina Sankovitch does explore these day to day problems but more so in a way where cooking dinner or having a sick kid is getting in the way of her reading project. I like reading about someone taking up a reading project and documenting the results but I think this didn’t work. If you want something similar try The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller.

Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith

Posted November 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

Batman: Cacophony by Kevin SmithTitle: Batman: Cacophony (Goodreads)
Author: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walter Flanagan
Published: DC Comics, 2009
Pages: 144
Genres: Graphic Novel
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Batman finds himself trying to understand a strange relationship between The Joker and Onomatopoeia. The Cape Crusader soon has to choose between chasing down The Joker and this puzzling villain Onomatopoeia. Writer/Director Kevin Smith puts his love of comic books and Batman to a practical use and wrote the series Batman: Cacophony.

I picked this graphic novel on my honeymoon because I was curious to see what Kevin Smith would do with Batman. I wanted to see what Smith would do with this superhero and I was a little curious about the super villain he created. Onomatopoeia is an enigma and I wasn’t sure how to take him; he works well as a super villain but for the most part I am still not sure what to make of him.

I am a fan of Batman and have often enjoyed Kevin Smith’s movies (except Jersey Girl) but I found this collection to be a little juvenile. Smith’s humour is often childish but that is never a defining factor in his movies with the exception of Clerks 2, so I was expecting so much more. There wasn’t much in the way of a storyline in Batman: Cacophony and I ended with so many unanswered questions. This is only a three issue series and I have to wonder if there were plans for more.

Walt Flanagan’s illustrations were a lot better than the writing; while not great it was far more entertaining. Flanagan uses a lot of vibrant colours that help distract the reader from the rest of the series. I had to enjoy the small homages Walt Flanagan made to other artists; one that particularly stood out to me was The Joker dress from The Killing Zone. Flanagan adopts a very busy style and while I wanted to rush through the story, it was hard to do this with the art.

There are a lot of great Batman series out there and I am struggling to work out which ones to try and which ones to look over. I am sad to say that Batman: Cacophony is one that should have been overlooked but that won’t stop me from trying to explore the rest. I hope people will help me with recommending me some good Batman series to read.

The Unloved by Deborah Levy

Posted November 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Unloved by Deborah LevyTitle: The Unloved (Goodreads)
Author: Deborah Levy
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 1995
Pages: 208
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Due to the success of Swimming Home getting a Man Booker shortlisting in 2012, Deborah Levy’s 1995 novel The Unloved was edited and republished earlier this year. I have been a fan of Levy since discovering Swimming Home thanks to the Man Booker and I admit I was a little slack getting to her backlist. I read her collection of short stories last year and finally returned to another novel with The Unloved.

The Unloved tells the story of a group of self-indulgent European tourists who decide to celebrate Christmas in a remote French château. However during their stay one of them is brutally murdered and the unloved child Tatiana knows who did it. The subsequent investigation into this death turns more into an examination of love, desire and rage. This is a shocking and exciting novel, full of characters you can’t help but suspect of murder.

There is something strangely familiar with this novel; while it had a different plot to Swimming Home, the themes felt very much alike. Both tell a psychological story of love and desire that is full of Freudian ideas. There is a philosophical feel about these novels as Levy forces the reader to think about life and death in an interesting way. In The Unloved it becomes less about the murder, and focuses more about a psychoanalytical look at the rest of the people in the French château.

The writing within The Unloved may not be as beautiful as Swimming Home but it was still wonderful. There is a strong sense of symbolism flowing through out the narrative and from time to time wonderfully elegant writing. I am not trying to dismiss this novel at all; it has its moments and I admire Levy’s wry style.

I feel the book explored the same themes as Swimming Home, just not as refined. It is weird to judge a book by its themes, Deborah Levy has a keen interest on the topic and passionate about exploring it. The Unloved is worth checking out; the plot and characters are all magnificent. I just would have preferred if the book explored these themes from a different perspective.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Posted November 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

Belzhar by Meg WolitzerTitle: Belzhar (Goodreads)
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2014
Pages: 266
Genres: Magical Realism, Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Life isn’t fair; if it was, Jam Gallahue wouldn’t be shipped off to boarding school and her British boyfriend would still be alive. Belzhar tells the story of Jam, a damaged girl who was sent off to a therapeutic boarding school in Velmont called The Wooden Barn. There she was enrolled into a mysterious class called Special Topics in English where she was assigned books by Sylvia Path. Part of her homework included writing in a journal which magical sends her back into her memories to help her reclaim her past.

Jam whose real name is Jamaica is a damaged teenager; no one seems to understand how she feels and what she is going through. The same way Esther Greenwood felt within The Bell Jar. Belzhar is a psychological novel that explores the themes from Sylvia Plath’s writing in a modern day YA novel. While this book focuses on the damage that losing a boyfriend can have (especially if he dies) there was something far more scarring that just wasn’t dealt with. The protagonist got her name, Jamaica from the place her parents conceived her; I don’t know about you but I find that is far more disturbing than losing a loved one (not really).

The book takes this idea found in The Bell Jar that Jam and the other people in this class are vacuum sealed in a world no one else understands. The ideas from The Bell Jar such as depression, loneliness and suffering all play out within Meg Wolitzer’s novel in a really interesting way. This is a unique form of literary criticism; it allows the reader to get a fundamental understanding into The Bell Jar on a very basic level.

I have read a few YA novels recently and they all had a psychological element in it that I want to talk about but I do not want to spoil the plot (See review for We Are Liars soon). This makes it really difficult, because there is so much to talk about but I am very conscious about spoilers. One thing I will talk about is the magical realism thread within the book; Belzhar is the magical place they go to in their memories and relive life before things got messed up. It is an interesting way to dive into the past and deal with issues. I found it a unique way to explore the complexities of the mind via this very simple plot device.

I am not too often on-board with a magical realism thread but as I have found with Haruki Murakami it becomes a useful tool in exploring the mind. When we think about our brain, it does not conform to the laws that govern reality and the magical realism allows the author to work with that. The travels into Belzhar were just a different way to experience a flashback and I quickly accepted with the way Meg Wolitzer did that. I was a little worried when I started but I am glad I persisted.

Belzhar makes me want to revisit The Bell Jar which is a fantastic book if you have never read it. I think the biggest praise I can give Meg Wolitzer is for the loving tenderness she had towards Sylvia Plath and her writing. I have borrowed Ariel from the library to experience some of Plath’s poetry and Belzhar has left me with a renewed appreciation for this author.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

Posted November 20, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Humour / 4 Comments

Look Who’s Back by Timur VermesTitle: Look Who’s Back (Goodreads)
Author: Timur Vermes
Translator: Jamie Bulloch
Published: MacLehose Press, 2012
Pages: 375
Genres: Humour
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Adolf Hitler wakes up in the summer of 2011, lying on a patch of open ground in Berlin. However this isn’t the Germany he remembers; he calls over a nearby group of Hitler Youth but they appear to be unhelpful. He quickly discovers he is no longer the chancellor of the German Reich, in fact Angela Merkel held that role. The Kanzlei des Führers was no more and his home, The Reich Chancellery was no longer liveable. For the rest of Germany, Hitler was just a method actor who refused to break character.

Er ist wieder da (English title Look Who’s Back) is Timur Vermes first novel after working as a ghostwriter. The book is a biting satire of what might happen if Adolf Hitler was alive in the 21st Century. Of course, if he we was alive today he would be on television, spitting his ideology to the influential masses. While many thought of him as a method actor and a comedian, the novel centres on a return to power and politics with his lack of political correctness.

Interestingly enough Look Who’s Back plays on the ideas around satire; while most people within the novel believe Adolf Hitler is just a satirist, the whole notion is that there is a fine line between satire and venomous ideology. One thing I found particularly interesting within the novel is the way Timur Vermes plays with the idea that satire is meant to be funny and I want to stop and give these people a lesson on the differences between Horatian and Juvenalian satire. There are a lot of comedic values within Look Who’s Back (Horatian satire) however the satire within the novel was Juvenalian.

The way Hitler was portrayed within the book, kept reminding me of Bruno Ganz’s performance in Downfall for some weird reason.  While Vermes put a lot of effort and thought into how Hitler would react to a modern Germany, this book soon became a one trick pony. The different scenarios Hitler found himself in started off as humorous but soon the jokes got a little old. Despite this fact, I have to be impressed with the amount of thought that went into the ideas Hitler would have towards Germany today.

I do however suspect there is something lost on a reader who doesn’t live within Germany. While there is a lot of entertainment to be had with the novel the subject matter wouldn’t have the same effect. The fact remains that Adolf Hitler was very damaging to Germany and the subject matter would remain a controversial topic. While Timur Vermes depicted Hitler as a man (rather than a monster) in an effort to examine how National Socialism rose to power, Germany remains wary of the effects of this ideology. Hitler’s ideas towards Judaism and immigration have left a bad taste in the mouth of every German person and the results have led to an overly politically correct society. The damage is still visible, but despite the controversial nature of Look Who’s Back, the book sold over 1.4 million copies within Germany and has been translated into twenty eight languages (Jamie Bulloch being the English translator).

I found myself getting a little bored by the jokes within this novel and the moral message was easily recognisable half way through. While there is plenty of interesting ideas within Look Who’s Back, I believe this book might have been more enjoyable if it was cut down about half its size. Hitler comes across as an uncompromising, charismatic but deeply flawed human and while this is needed for this story, it is hard not to see him as anything but a monster.


I read this book for German Literature Month