THE ART OF SEDUCTION by Robert Greene (Profile Books, 2001)
This is not overtly presented as a self-help book but it will mostly be consulted as one.
Although it contains some bleak truths about the human condition, American author Robert Greene takes to the cultural high ground in an attempt to make the salacious details more palatable.
He draws examples from literature, notably Les Liasons Dangereuses by Laclos, and from the amorous exploits of historical figures like Casanova and Don Juan who have all been immortalised in novels, plays, operas or movies.
Psychological mind games are ruthlessly advocated on the dubious basis that the ends justify the means. The object of one’s lust or desire is frequently described either as a “target” or as a “victim” with the ultimate goal being to lure, ensnare and manipulate. Continue reading
HERE I AM by Jonathan Safran Foer (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)
Wilkie Collins once asserted that “the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story.”
Tell that to the post-modernists!
Jonathan Safran Foer says that “I have yet to write a novel from a plan” and says of his third major fictional work that “there wasn’t any one ‘idea’ but a number of disparate starting points”.
Unfortunately it shows! Continue reading
STRANGER BY THE LAKE directed by Alain Guiraudie (France, 2013)
This absorbing and uncompromising movie is the kind of a psychological thriller Alfred Hitchcock might have made if he’d been gay.
It draws you into a suspenseful world and leaves you guessing about the motivations of the characters and questioning the morality of their actions in the same way as we do with the James Stewart roles in Vertigo and Rear Window.
In saying that, there’s not much in the way of action beyond the carnal variety.
This is a no spoilers review so I will focus on some of the broad themes rather than the twists and turns of the plot. Continue reading
THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang (Hogarth Books, 2015)
By turns surreal and nightmarish, this is a short but complex novel which is full of secrets.
In very broad terms I would describe it as a book about descending into silence and , quite possibly , incurable madness.
The main character is Yeong-hye who is, by all accounts, an unremarkable woman. In the words of her brother-in-law: “The only thing that was especially unusual about her was that she didn’t eat meat”.
Her husband is beyond himself with a combination of rage and repulsion over his wife’s sudden change in eating habits. Her father turns to violence and attempts to force feed her meat. She tries to kill herself and is eventually institutionalized. She gives the impression that she would be happy to die and/or become a tree. Continue reading