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I came across Helen Dewitt in a Vulture.com blog post that asked authors and critics to rate the BEST BOOKS OF THE CENTURY SO FAR. THIS BOOK WAS #1.
If you didn't understand the reviewer who said "Haven’t been this excited since discovering DFW" then this book is probably not for you. You'll only buy it and give it a poor review which, given the economics of Amazon and the book trade in general, will only damage the author - who is in my opinion a genius. David Foster Wallace was a different kind of writer, but had the same restless approach to his craft.
If the idea that the form of the novel can be disassembled and reconstructed in a way that challenges the intellect and basic aesthetic comprehension - a process that has been going on for well over a hundred years - then don't buy this book. You'll only mistake its formal playfulness and experimentation for typos (see other Amazon reviewers), and you'll give it a poor rating.
Please buy the book if you have an open mind, love literature and want to support it. We need people like DeWitt who think in new ways, even if it does outrage the 'general public'.
This book just isn't my cup of tea. Parts of it were great, other parts just felt pretentious to me. However, it did make me think that I could possibly get to grips with the Greek alphabet in a weekend if I put my mind to it. Have an open mind and try the book for yourself - if you don't like it, then at least you gave it a go :)
This book has probably my favourite prologue of any book I have read. I would probably buy the book again for the prologue alone. However the initial focus and tight writing style, which so captured me with its momentum, dissipates quickly. It is replaced by a sprawly narrative full of interesting insights, impressive knowledge and cute observations - but with no clear direction, and worse, possibly no clear purpose but to showcase the writer's range (this is her first book I believe). I had to pick up this book again a number of times before I could finish it but I would read more of her work based on that initial promise...
This book is a HUGE disappointment. I couldn't even get into it, it's really boring and the story doesn't really make sense at the start. I think this is the only book I've ever bought where I've genuinely just given up reading it. I wouldn't buy this book unless you really enjoy reading non-fiction.
Helen DeWitt as writer of The Last Samurai goes straight to the top to join Swift, Joyce & Beckett as my literary heroes. This work of black humour and dead-pan virtuosity brings the Enlightenment into the present day vernacular. The selection sequence from Kurasawa's movie the 7 Samurai provides the frame by which the boy Ludo explores the seven potential candidates for the role of father. Each man is tested by his ability to "parry the blow" of paternity, so prove himself a real samurai. Each of these encounters is a tragi-comic gem in its own right up to the final one, the Last Samurai, the one who has the answers. The elan with which DeWitt sustains the development of plot and character up to the triumphant last word is breathtaking. Yet there is more to it than the intricacies of the story. The understanding of language, art, music, games is underpinned with passages of astounding beauty. It is also profound. Whether in Tescos or the steppes of Asia, there is cruelty and heroism, suicidal despair and life-redeeming hope. Buy the hardback version. This is a book to cherish, buried treasures of wit and meaning emerging with each re-reading, and the decorative character of the typography, pages of Japanese characters and mathematical calculations inserted seamlessly as integral illustrations, as pictures of the mind at work, is enhanced by the quality of print and paper, worthy of a present-day Gutenberg.
An amazing read, one of the best books I've read, and definitely a new favourite. The way it handles it's subjects with such a nonchalant, young, rational, genius outlook drives the book along. Keeping you interested and making you feel smarter as you make your way through. You may see a little of yourself in the main character, and maybe even be inspired by something. Highly recommend.