Sunday, March 1, 2009

BOOK REVIEWS

'Fool' by Christopher Moore
BY STEVEN WINN, SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Give San Francisco comic novelist Christopher Moore full marks for plunging into deep waters. In "Lamb" (2003), he set out to narrate Jesus' coming-of-age story in a "Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal." In his rambunctious new book, "Fool," Moore undertakes nothing less than a prose retelling of "King Lear."

Not content to restrict himself to that capacious and penetrating tragedy itself, Moore rummages around in a dozen or so of Shakespeare's other plays for characters, plot points, imagery and dialogue. Lifts from "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Julius Caesar," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Love's Labour's Lost" are overt. Some of the other appropriations are slyer. The result is a Bardic stew liberally seasoned with slapstick, sex, groaner puns, anachronisms and plenty of cheerfully curdled Elizabethan wordplay. >>MORE



Grisham returns to 'Firm' ground
BY BETH E. WILLIAMS, BOOKPAGE

Making a move that's sure to delight connoisseurs of the legal thriller, John Grisham takes something of a sentimental journey in his latest novel, The Associate, on sale January 27. The book's plot might sound strangely familiar to fans of his 1991 blockbuster, The Firm: newly minted Ivy League law school grad takes job with powerhouse firm and soon finds himself in deep trouble. That book catapulted Grisham to perennial bestsellerdom and established him as the superstar of the legal thriller genre.

The character at the heart of The Firm was Mitch McDeere, a cocky kid just out of Harvard Law who discovers that the Memphis firm that hired him is controlled by the Mob. In the successful 1993 film adaptation, McDeere was portrayed by Tom Cruise, an inspired piece of casting that gave a strong boost to Cruise's career and Grisham's film franchise.

Grisham sets his new novel, The Associate, in New York City, the first time that one of his books has taken place entirely in the city that never sleeps. Where better to follow the dilemma facing young lawyer Kyle McAvoy, described by Grisham's publisher as "one of the outstanding legal students of his generation: he's good looking, has a brilliant mind and a glittering future ahead of him. But he has a secret from his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his fledgling career and, possibly, his entire life." >>MORE



The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
A chatty murderer exposes the underbelly of India's
tiger economy in this thrilling debut novel

BY DAVID MARTIN, THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY BOOKS

Towards the end of this debut novel, its voluble, digressive, murderous protagonist makes a prediction: "White men will be finished in my lifetime," he tells us. "In 20 years time it will just be us brown and yellow men at the top of the pyramid, and we'll rule the world." He's talking about the phenomenon at the heart of this dazzling narrative: the emergence of that much-heralded economic powerhouse, the "new India".

You have, no doubt, read about it. In fact, you may have done so courtesy of Aravind Adiga, who is Time magazine's Asia correspondent. But with The White Tiger, Adiga sets out to show us a part of this emerging country that we hear about infrequently: its underbelly. We see through the eyes of Balram, who was born into the "darkness" of rural India, but entered the light that is Delhi via a job as driver to Mr Ashok, the son of a rich landlord. Now, though, Balram has escaped servitude and is himself a rich businessman. What's more, his unlikely journey involved a murder.

The result is an Indian novel that explodes the clich├ęs – ornamental prose, the scent of saffron – associated with that phrase. Welcome, instead, to an India where Microsoft call-centre workers tread the same pavement as beggars who burn street rubbish for warmth.>>MORE

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