MILLENNIUM PEOPLE by J. G. Ballard is an important existential novel, not as some suggest about the corrosive effects of technology, but rather about the vacuity of middle class life. As the middle class comes to realize that all the things for which they have yearned are meaningless traps, they become consumed by a fear of nothingness. In response they seek authenticity. They find authentic feelings from violence and protest, the more meaningless and random the better.
The premiseâ€”we are shaped by our interactions with othersâ€”sounds like something from a school summer writing assignment and is almost too bland to be worked with. But if truly great writing creates marvels from almost nothing, then Christie Hodgenâ€™s ELEGIES FOR THE BROKENHEARTED is one such wonder.
Odysseus was a legendary and cunning hero on a journey to find home, and lived by his guile. Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter with an epic aim, living by her wits. Siddhartha traveled on a spiritual quest to find himself, and defined the river by its timelessnessâ€”always changing, always the same. Now, in Bonnie Jo Campbellâ€™s adventure story, we are introduced to sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, gutsy, feisty survivor who manifests a flawed blend of all three heroes, who lives once and inexorably upon a river.
Rufus, a young journalist on his first major assignment, travels into the troubled oil-rich Nigerian Delta, hoping to land his breakthrough news story: interviewing the kidnappers of a British oil engineer’s wife and meeting the captive. The dangers lurking among the oilfields and the pipelines that meander snake-like across the Delta’s waters cannot deter him, especially as he is in the company of his much-admired former mentor, the erstwhile prominent reporter, Zaq. Helon Habila’s new novel, OIL ON WATER is a confidently crafted and absorbing, in parts totally gripping, chronicle of human ambitions, tragedies and failures, but also of love, friendship and perseverance of the human spirit. Evoking the rich and beautiful yet fragile environment of the Delta, that is slowly being devastated by the greed for oil and money, Habila gently guides his different narrative strands into a poignant story that is profoundly personal even where these raise broader political and societal concerns.
Husbands and wives who work together either end up with their marriage in trouble or being the best of friends. In German author, Thomas Pletzingerâ€™s novel, FUNERAL FOR A DOG, itâ€™s the first scenario for journalist Daniel Mandelkern. Mandelkern is an ethnologist who is supposed to be writing â€śabout anthropological concepts like matrilineality and male childbed,â€ť but instead heâ€™s been getting a series of shit assignments from his boss/wife Elisabeth. Mandelkern is beginning to wonder if thereâ€™s an underlying message to these assignments and then heâ€™s told to interview the reclusive Dirk Svensson, the author of a wildly successful illustrated childrenâ€™s book â€śThe story of Leo and the Notmuch.â€ť Mandelkern protests against the assignment, and with his marriage in crisis, he storms out of his apartment on the journey to interview Svensson.
In this discomforting debut book, every character â€“ and there are many â€“ is guilty of the crime of passivity. It starts with the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, Leonora â€“ a good girl, who does everything right, a cautious and obedient young lady who possesses â€ścalm confidence, concern for the lower classes, a dimple in her right cheek.â€ť