Fear and Trembling [1999/2001] – ★★
Belgian author Amélie Nothomb (Sulphuric Acid) is known for her short, thought-provoking books that often shock, but Fear and Trembling misses the mark. In this story, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, a young Belgian woman starts working for a prestigious Japanese company Yumimoto and soon finds herself overwhelmed: she is delegated meaningless, absurd and increasingly demeaning tasks, while her relationship with her immediate supervisor Fubuki Mori undergoes drastic changes – from deep admiration to extreme hate. While Nothomb’s deadpan satire on corporate culture works at the start of the book, her attempt to shockingly satirise the Japanese culture and the difficulty of the westerner to integrate into it is completely misguided. Thus, with Fear and Trembling, what starts as an intriguing and delicate satire soon turns into something bewildering, unfocused and ignorant, a strange, barely-hidden polemic on traditional female roles and Japan with some very needless and overly-shocking episodes. Continue reading “Review: Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb”
The New Yorker is an American magazine that features reporting, essays, criticism, cartoons and poetry. It was launched in 1925 and is also known for its satire and humorous commentary on popular culture and social issues. Its striking magazine covers (often satirical in nature and depicting funny versions of one’s everyday life in the city) have been in the spotlight for many a time, for example, due to controversy. Below are some of my favourite covers from the past years, which I have allocated into three categories depending on what they present: (i) The “Reach” of New York City; (ii) Technology; and (iii) Everyday Life.
I. The “Reach” of New York City
New York’s subway has often been the topic of covers, and the artworks above by Eric Drooker satirise the reach of New York City’s underground system. It seems that the city has grown so big and become so expansive (modern developments, further urbanisation) that one can now reach far-off corners of the world, with the left picture depicting one man who finds himself in the middle of a jungle after his subway ride, while the picture on the right shows men who reached 125, 000th St. Continue reading “Favourite The New Yorker Magazine Covers”
French Exit  – ★★★
This tragicomedy of manners comes from the author of a Man Booker Prize nominee The Sisters Brothers . In French Exit, Patrick DeWitt centres on a mother, Frances, a fussy and bossy woman of sixty-five, and her good-for-nothing thirty-two year-old son, Malcolm, who see their fortune fade away after an ill-publicised death of the family provider Franklin Price, once an eminent lawyer in New York City. Once rich and admired, the family of two now face financial ruin and decide to go to Paris, perhaps, for a change of scenery. Frances’s only friend Joan provides an apartment to rent in Paris for them, and the duo of unlikely central characters embark on their French exploit enthusiastically, meeting eccentric characters along the way. This slightly surreal tragicomedy is an amusing enough read, but it is also often somewhat dull, with emotional punch coming too late in this curious book. Continue reading “Review: French Exit by Patrick DeWitt”