Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson

quicksilver2Quicksilver is a book that defies with ease any attempts at writing a pithy and flashy review. Swatting-a-lame-old-fly is the kind of ease I’m going for here. Read the blurbs if you are looking for that, a review of this type just wouldn’t really be a review, but rather an extended blurb.

Quicksilver, the first part of the Baroque Cycle trilogy, is vast and winding. It spans decades and continents, its subject matter is difficult to pin down, its method is an even more elusive beast. Perhaps the most apt definition I have arrived at comes from the novel itself:

“It seemed that Jack, here, had blundered into the fourth or fifth act of a drama – neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but a history.”

And although the sentence refers to somebody else’s historical drama, it self-consciously echoes the structure of the novel. Which, like history, maintains only the illusion of such a structure. As some proponents of New Historicism would have it, historians and document-makers are part of the historical process they are untangling and seeking to document and explain. They are just as much embroiled in the material practices and texts of their time, as are the agents of their narratives. Continue reading

The Long Ships – Frans G. Bengtsson

thelongships1It is time to engage in a little bit of blog resurrection. My reading has been somewhat haphazard in the last few months, so choosing a book to review is not an easy task. The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson is a novel I finished more than half a year ago; maybe I could have written a proper, detailed review in the beginning of 2013, but that’s not the case now. I feel, though, that I must write something about it. For this is the sort of novel you discover unexpectedly, like a hidden treasure buried in the piles of rubble you were distractedly raking through. Such gems must not remained unmentioned. The distance of time may not permit me analytical sharpness, but effusive enthusiasm I still have aplenty, so I will focus on that and try to tone down the effusive bit as much as possible.

In the introduction to the book Michael Chabon calls it a work of fiction that “stands ready, given the chance, to bring lasting pleasure to every single human being on the face of the earth.” What a way to negatively bias the readers. And yet, if Chabon’s impossible breed of a book ever existed, The Long Ships has its genes. Continue reading