More human than human?

Book Review: Winkie by Clifford Chase (Grove Press).

I have about as much patience for silliness as I do for writing commentary. That is to say, I rarely indulge, and if I do, it had better be good.

So when my mum told me I needed to read a book about a teddy bear who wills himself to life then is put on trial for terrorism, I duly rolled my eyes and said, “No thanks.” To make my opinion worse, the teddy bear and title of the book share my childhood nickname, a nickname that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Well, until now. Because now the name “Winkie” conjures thoughts of this charming masterpiece written by Clifford Chase, and I kick into high gear bookseller mode, ranting, “You’ve got to read this book!”

Continue reading “More human than human?”

Flowing through art and death

Book Review: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon).

Traveling to Venice for the Biennale, journalist Jeff Atman feels as bound to write a story about contemporary art as the author is determined to tell us a story about Jeff Atman.

Art expositions, acute observations, bellini-swigging festivities, and the fineries of drunken and high-on-cocaine hobnobbing set the reader firmly in an art-laden Venice. But as the novel follows what becomes for Jeff, the journalist, an intense but perhaps short-lived romance with an American woman; Geoff, the author, establishes a love for life-in-the-moment, propelling the reader from a third-person venture in Venice to a first-person immersion in Varanasi, ancient holy city of India.

Lost in an entirely different journey of quiet isolation and cultural immersion, we wade into the River Ganges.  It seeps into our blood like the canals of Venice, thick with human mire and beauty. The narrative flows long and slow from middle to end, washing away expectations of plot, to carry us through a sacred human experience.