Tag: Literary

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Posted November 9, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Horror / 0 Comments

Zone One by Colson WhiteheadTitle: Zone One (Goodreads)
Author: Colson Whitehead
Published: Harvill Secker, 2010
Pages: 259
Genres: Horror
My Copy: Library Book

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

Colson Whitehead was known as a novelist of literary fiction with books like The Intuitionist and John Henry Days. However in 2010 all that faded into the background with his new novel Zone One. Whitehead attempts to join the list of literary novelists who take on genre fiction; what Glen Duncan did for werewolves and Justin Cronin did for vampire, when he tries to write a literary zombie novel.

Pandemic has devastated the planet and most of the population is infected by a plague that has turned them into zombies. The uninfected Americans are trying to rebuild civilisation, create order and establish a provisional government. In a settlement of Manhattan, armed forces have successfully regained most of the island. There is a small section known as Zone One that still needs to be reclaimed, and they are working hard to clear it from the dangerous infected.

I picked up this book thinking a literary genre novel would be nice. Zone One is supposed to be about zombies but what I got was a long drawn out stream of conscious about the life of a man named Mark Spitz. This would have been alright if it was executed a little better; tacking the word ‘literary’ on to this novel isn’t an excuse to forgo a plot.

By all accounts this novel could have worked really well, even without a plot. Whitehead had created a decent world with its own idiom and logic; there are even moments of mayhem. The problem was it started as a slow burn and failed to pick up the pace. When it comes to the zombie genre it should be about survival, horror and suspense but all this felt absent from the novel. It tried to go for the slow pace that is found in The Walking Dead, which can allow for self-reflection and character development but forgot to build tension.

The narrator spends so much time on the chronology of Mark Spitz, I often felt like it forgot about the present day situations he was facing. The novel was too heavy on the memories and trying to develop this character, when it should have been adding in a plot. I think the biggest downfall for this novel is the fact it was marketed as a literary zombie novel. If I picked this book up as a retrospective of Mark Spitz’s life; a man who happens to be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, I might have been more forgiving.

I am reluctant to just point out all the flaws in this novel because in all honesty, the last 50 pages were pretty decent. I went in expecting a zombie novel and that isn’t what I was given. I think in the hands of someone else, a literary zombie novel can be pulled off but this is not a good example. I found myself wanting to skim through the pages just so I could get to the end and move onto something better.

My Vacation: Literary Highlights

Posted September 5, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 13 Comments

I’m not sure if I need to write about my experiences overseas because there wasn’t much literary happening. There was a lot of nerdy fun and sightseeing but that really isn’t that interesting to share, especially on a book blog but I will give you my literary highlights. As most people know I went to the United States of America for about six weeks, while there, I visited Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Yellowstone, New York, Boston, Toronto and Las Vegas. This was a pretty busy vacation and I didn’t get to go to every bookshop I hope to; in fact I only managed to complete three books in those six weeks. Here are some bookish highlights;

Coronado, California

While this little island off the coast of San Diego is best known for the Hotel del Coronado which appeared in the classic film Some Like It Hot, it has one other attraction. Coronado was a vacation spot for L. Frank Baum; in fact the Hotel del Coronado was the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. In Coronado I visited the holiday house of L. Frank Baum as well as bought a Wizard of Oz anthology from a nice little indie bookshop called Bay Books.

City Lights Books

If you ever find yourself in San Francisco don’t forget to visit City Lights, it is an amazing store. Not only is it an amazing independent bookstore, it is also a literary landmark. You won’t find the beat generation hanging out there anymore but you will find plenty of books. The store specialises in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics; it even has its own publishing company.

Library Hotel

One of the highlights of the trip was this amazing hotel; I don’t think I could bring myself to stay anywhere else when in New York. Each room is numbered by the dewy decimal system and have a different subject; we stayed in the Health and Beauty room. They also have a reading room where you can spend time reading, drinking or snacking. I think it is awesome that they allow their guest read their books and if you don’t finish it before check out you can mail it back.

Strand Books

Another amazing bookshop was Strand books, yet another indie bookstore but this one offers 18 miles of used and rare books to browse through. It is a real treat to visit a bookstore that is so packed with books and bookshelves; it is the type of bookstore that I love visiting.

Trident and Brattle Books

While in Boston there were two great stores, Trident Books and Brattle Book Shop. Trident books were located around the corner from where we stayed and offered a wonderful place to browse through their books and enjoy breakfast. Seriously, a good indie bookstore with a café that does a great meal and tea is my idea of perfection. Then Brattle Books was the type of used bookstore you can get lost in. But the real novelty was the alley full of books.

Like I said before, I didn’t visit all the stores I wanted to get to. A combination of too many sights to see and weird locations did make it difficult. It was a great holiday and I returned with a large pile of books. Highlights from my bookish mail include Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and You by Caroline Kepnes. I just have to find the time to read everything.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Posted September 13, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Dinner by Herman KochTitle: The Dinner (Goodreads)
Author: Herman Koch
Translator: Sam Garrett
Published: Text, 2012
Pages: 309
Genres: Crime, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

Paul and Claire are going out to dinner with Paul’s brother and his wife. The reason for this isn’t the usual family get together, this time they have something important to discuss; their children. The characters, the overpriced restaurant and the secret is what makes The Dinner by Herman Koch this novel live up to the hype. This satirical book was already a best seller but until only recently this book was never available in English. 

I have to admit I was really looking forward to reading this book for my local book club; but what I was getting into, I really didn’t know. The Dinner is dark elegant book that takes you on a journey with some very unexpected twists. At first glance this book felt like a very light and easy read and you will plow through this book so quickly that when something unexpected happens you won’t see it coming. The characters in the book seem very real and Paul’s brother and his wife remind me a lot of characters from a Bret Easton Ellis book; they are charismatic and ambitious but feel very shallow nihilists. 

The restaurant was a brilliant backdrop for this book; it was one of those places you need to book months in advance and Paul’s brother Serge thought it sport to try and book a table for the same day. Fine dining at a pretentious restaurant really felt like the perfect location for the explosive events in this book, you get the sense that everyone should act calm and composed in a place like this but what’s happened doesn’t really go hand in hand with calm or composed. 

I was really pleased with this book, I love the dark and satirical nature of the plot mixed with the fine dining experience, they come together to make a thrilling read. The Dinner is full of mayhem and you will be shocked with every course been served but there is so much more in this book, the characters are real and it will question your thoughts of the best way to raise your children. The thought provoking elements remind me of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap and this book finds the balance between mystery and family drama. A well developed novel that I highly recommend people read