RARA-AVIS: OT: Insightful Criticism

From: Mark D. Nevins ( nevins_mark@yahoo.com)
Date: 10 Oct 2007

This thread will soon be veering off-topic, so I won't pursue it at length, but--

Miker to me:
> > I'd offer up Julian Barnes as one of the greatest
> > living prose stylists. I've not (yet) read his
> > '[Dan] Kavanaugh' crime books--any opinions
>I read Arthur and George and thought it was terrible.

Not much I can say in response to that. I think over-ripe bananas are terrible.

> I'll never read anything else by him.

Certainly your right; however, for the record and IMO, ARTHUR & GEORGE is neither his best book not a "typical" Barnes novel.

FLAUBERT'S PARROT is probably his best novel, but it's fairly highbrow.
 To my mind, his cycle of stories A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 10.5 CHAPTERS is probably his most brilliant and characteristic work. I am also partial to STARING AT THE SUN, and his collections of stories, especially CROSS CHANNEL. I don't much like his "political" stuff, and I find his "domestic" novels charming but light.

Straining to bring this note back on topic, I will note that the French, who have demonstrated a deep love for the kinds of books and films discussed here, have showered Barnes with Awards: he is the only writer to have won both the Prix M餩cis and the Prix F魩na, and in 2004 he became a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (I believe the first non-Frenchman to be admitted?)

Of course, "de gustibus non disputandum est."

Mark Nevins

P.S. Has anyone read Julian Barnes's pal Martin Amis's "hardboiled" novel NIGHT TRAIN? I tend to be mixed on Amis, but have not yet tried that one.

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