I. The Last Leaf  by O. Henry – ★★★★★
“The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey“. Two female artists Sue and Johnsy rent a studio in Greenwich, New York when Johnsy gets pneumonia and becomes bed-ridden. As she stays in her bed, she starts obsessing over an ivy growing outside their house and says to Sue that she would be counting its fallen leaves and when the last leaf falls, so would she “fall”, i.e. die. Incidentally, the ivy has always been associated with fidelity, devotion, friendship, affection and everlasting life, and Johnsy’s strange prophecy is somehow becoming convincing as any seriously ill person is always listened to carefully, as though they already possess otherworldly knowledge, being so close to the “other side”. O. Henry uses a number of literary devices to bring this story to a satisfactory climax, and the ending is powerful and tear-jerking.
II. The Tunnel  by Friedrich Dürrenmatt – ★★★★★
“Each of his activities seemed a pretext designed to achieve order behind the façade of routine pursuits”. A twenty-four year old student makes his usual morning commute on a busy train when he decides to pay attention to “a little tunnel” that the train passes through. It is the first time he does so, but, to his surprise (given the speed of the train he took), the tunnel does not end, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, either. As the student sits and wonders, his thoughts start to linger on his own mental well-being, as well as on the “pointless” preoccupations of the passengers around him.
Continue reading “Recent Reading: Short Stories from O. Henry, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, & Tobias Wolff” →
Death Comes for the Archbishop  – ★★★★
This novel, which spans from 1848 to 1888, focuses on Jean Marie Latour, a young Frenchman recently appointed as a Vicar Apostolic in the state of New Mexico, a part of land which has only recently been annexed to the US. The Father becomes a new Bishop in the region and he came there with his loyal friend and compatriot Father Joseph Vaillant. The two priests face a whole array of problems in establishing a religious jurisdiction in the new area, from the region’s isolation and merciless climate to authority challenges on the part of Mexican priests. This historical novel can be called a “descriptive tour de force”, rather than a straightforward narrative story. It is more of an anthropological/historical travelogue, focusing on the nature of land and on the people living on it, rather than a linear story. However, this does not make this book a “lesser” novel. On the contrary, Cather leaves plenty of space in the book for colourful descriptions of exotic environs, paying attention to the particular themes, including the ardour of religious duty and the dilemmas of missionary work.
Continue reading “Review: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather” →
The Power of the Dog  – ★★★★
“…there was no doubt in Phil’s mind of the end of [the] pursuit. The dog would have its prey. Phil had only to raise his eyes to the hill to smell the dog’s breath [Thomas Savage, 1967: 76].
This book is by an underappreciated American author Thomas Savage, and Jane Campion (The Piano (1993)), one of my favourite film directors, is currently shooting an adaptation of it. The story takes place in a small town in Montana in the 1920s where two brothers’ interests clash when one of them unexpectedly decides to marry a widow with a son. Raw, uncanny and psychological, The Power of the Dog is probably known for its intense character study of Phil Burbank, whose brooding and quietly menacing presence haunts the pages of this book, making it virtually unforgettable. Thomas Savage undoubtedly drew from his own previous experience of working as a ranch hand to produce a different kind of a western, whose deep sensitivity to the characters and their dynamics is nicely offset by the “harsh” authenticity of the language. Continue reading “Review: The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage” →
“A. J. Finn’s voice and story were like nothing I’d ever heard before,” Editor, William Morrow Publishing; “Even in fiction, there are precedents in copyright law where the borrowing of plot elements is so extensive and blatant that plagiarism crosses into copyright infringement”, Rebecca Tushnet, Intellectual Property Expert, Harvard Law School
The Woman in the Window is a 2018 debut thriller and international bestseller by A. J. Finn (Dan Mallory), which sold millions of copies, with the film based on the book to be released in 2020 starring Julianne Moore. Daily Express called the book “masterpiece of storytelling” and Stephen King said that it was “unputdownable”. Saving April is a 2016 lesser-known book by Sarah A. Denzil, released two years before The Woman in the Window and first being available in an e-book format. As I will show below, the similarities between the two books are overwhelming, both in their scope and in their nature, and, clearly, Finn took everything that he possibly could from Denzil’s thriller to write his bestseller. Jane Harper noted that Finn is “a tremendous new talent”. By the end of my comparison, it may become clear that the only talent Finn possibly has (apart from insolence) is taking nearly all of other writers’ ideas, elaborating on them slightly and then passing others’ stories as his own.
Both books undoubtedly drew inspiration from classic film noir, especially from Hitchcock’s Rear Window  and Amiel’s Copycat  as well as from such books as Gone Girl  and The Girl on the Train . However, even though The Woman in the Window feels like a more accomplished and elaborate book that Saving April, it is still the same exact story as Saving April and the similarities between the two are too numerous in their number and too close in their nature for there to be any talk of “inspiration” or “simple source”. In fact, the two stories are so similar that Saving April can be the first/second/third draft of The Woman in the Window. Reading the two thrillers side-by-side, one may become immediately confused which part they read in which book – so similar they are in virtually every way.
The similarities between the two books are as follows (this is far from being an exhaustive list): Continue reading “Did A. J. Finn (“The Woman in the Window” (2018)) plagiarise Sarah A. Denzil’s thriller “Saving April” (2016)?” →
“The vistas he saw were vistas of green foliage and forest glades, all softly luminous or shot through with flashing lights. In the distance, detail was veiled and blurred by a purple haze, but behind this purple haze, he knew, was the glamour of the unknown, the lure of romance. It was like wine to him. Here was adventure, something to do with head and hand, a world to conquer-and straightaway from the back of consciousness rushed the thought: conquering, to win to her, that lily-pale spirit sitting beside him”
Jack London, Martin Eden [1909: 52].