Check out the Pride Celebration Treasure Hunt!
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Water Music by T. C. Boyle

Water Music (1981)

by T. C. Boyle

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9981912,973 (4.22)33
  1. 00
    Mason & Dixon: A Novel by Thomas Pynchon (Widsith)
    Widsith: Two postmodern adventure novels about eighteenth-century British explorers.
  2. 00
    Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar buffoonish, humorous treatment of English historical figures.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 33 mentions

English (15)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Got about a quarter of the way through and it was just not grabbing me ( )
  Abbey_Harlow | Oct 5, 2017 |
Got about a quarter of the way through and it was just not grabbing me ( )
  abbeyhar | Nov 8, 2016 |
Water Music reminds me of a lot of my past reading. The Threepenny Opera, with a Hint of The Story of O. But more than anything it reminds me of Candide. Or rather Candide if it were written by Hunter S. Thompson, or, as luck would have it T. Coraghessen Boyle.

Water Music follows two men. Mungo Park is the first. He is a perfect imbecile with a seemingly endless supply of fool's luck and guiltless oblivion to the tragedy that inevitably befalls those with the poor judgement to allow their fates to become enterwined with his. Unfortunately for eneryone Mungo has his heart set on exploration and glory and 'discovering' the Niger River in Africa.

Ned Rise is the cosmic opposite of Mungo. From the day he was born nothing good comes to Ned without with him clawing, scraping and hustling for it. Any good that does come his way is invariably just some cruel joke setting him up for greater loss. And so Ned is a criminal and a con man, not out of any degeneracy, but because his wits and footwork are the only thing keeping him ahead of a universe that seems bent on purging itself of him.

The book takes a circuitous route through the two men's lives with interludes about a few key people in their lives. The literary Mandingo guide tasked with babysitting the idiot explorer. The fiance that spurns the advance of one idiot in favor of the bigger absent idiot. Ned's beautiful doomed love. A homicidal Moor. A sadistic poet. The course is unpredictable except for the inevitability of calamity for Ned and impossibly lucky breaks for Mungo.

And so I am reminded of The Threepenny Opera, The Story of O and most of all Candide. In Water Music life is not fair. Undeserving people get all the breaks and lack the self-awareness to know their privilege or what it costs others. Others seem cosmically ordained to suffer no matter what they do. It's best not to hope for a happy ending, but it is ok to enjoy the ride. Because while Water Music reminds me of many other books, it is better than any of them. It's a bitter pill, but you take it with a spoonful of sugar. ( )
  fundevogel | Oct 17, 2016 |
Mungo Park, der große Afrikareisende, der unbedingt den Verlauf des Nigers erkunden wollte, ist die Hauptperson in diesem historischen Abenteuerroman. Daneben sind Ned Rise, ein schlitzohriger Überlebenskünstler aus London, der immer wieder aufs Neue um seine Existenz kämpft und Ailie, die künftige Frau Mungo Parks, die beiden anderen Protagonisten in diesem Buch. Erzählt werden immer wieder abwechselnd aller drei Leben, beginnend zum Zeitpunkt der ersten Afrikareise Parks.
Boyle hält sich an das Grundgerüst der Informationen, die hauptsächlich durch Mungo Parks eigenes Buch 'Travels in the Interior of Africa' bekannt wurden. Darüber hinaus aber lässt er seiner Phantasie freien Lauf, was diesen Reisebericht zu einer opulenten und außergewöhnlich fesselnden Leküre macht. Boyles schreibt unglaublich bildhaft, sodass man nicht nur Afrikas Gerüche, Städte und Wildnis vor Augen hat, sondern ebenso das dreckige, verwahrloste London der damaligen Zeit. Ein kleines Beispiel: "...Da kommen abrupte Abhänge, Hügel und Täler, Grate und Rinnen, Ciboa-Haine sind dunkle Flecken in den Tälern, und mächtige Tabbas, mit Stämmen so dick wie Big Ben, wachen still auf den Gipfeln. Unter ihren Füßen welkes Guineagras und Ginstergestrüpp voller Kletten und Dornen. Überall lauern Schlangen, Skorpione, Spinnen so groß wie Omelettes...". Boyle übertreibt und dramatisiert, aber es passt zu dieser Zeit und diesen Geschehnissen, wo wohl vieles ins Extreme abglitt.
Wer phantasievolle, ausufernde Literatur liebt, wird mit diesem Buch sicherlich viel Freude haben. AbenteuerliebhaberInnen, die lieber realitätsgetreue Lektüren mögen, sind vermutlich nicht so begeistert. ( )
1 vote Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
An ambitious but messy novel, which for me was more of a heroic failure than a triumphant success. I like the idea a lot: a fictionalised account of Mungo Park's travels to find the source of the Niger River, interspersed with the story of an invented London rogue called Ned Rise. The general approach is a sort of knockabout picaresque style, a comic novel of adventures, but unfortunately this does leave the whole thing feeling rather caricaturish. The London scenes in particular are like a cartoon version of a Hogarth painting, though with a modern willingness to dwell on the cheap sex and inhuman squalor of eighteenth-century city life.

This two-dimensionality does cause problems with tone. There are some appalling stories in here, especially when it comes to the female characters. Poor Fanny Brunch goes from servitude to extended sadomasochistic rape and torture to drug addiction to losing a baby to…well, to a nasty end. If this is supposed to be social commentary then a roustabout comic style is the wrong way to do it: it just feels trivial and cruel. Similarly, the final third of the book builds to an unhappy climax for pretty much everyone. But because the characters have so little depth, it doesn't seem particularly moving or tragic. It just seems relentless, and actually kind of depressing.

There are various other problems with the execution, some subjective, others more serious. I didn't like the way Boyle explained so much of his historical context. There are long paragraphs bringing readers up to speed on things like what the Sahel is, or where the Niger River is located. If you already know this, such passages feel patronising, and if you don't then it deprives you of the pleasure of investigating the novel's sidelines, chasing down references. The structure of the book is also a bit awkward, describing as it does both of Park's two African expeditions, with a detailed interlude in Scotland in between. The problem is that by the time we go back to West Africa for the final section of the novel, it feels like going backwards: we've seen it all before.

Most crucially, though, I have no idea what this book is actually about. What's it all for? I mean some of the set-pieces are a lot of fun, and there are some enjoyable bits of dialogue, but – there's just nothing behind it. There are no unifying themes at all, just incidents.

Boyle is clearly a huge Thomas Pynchon fan, and the book I couldn't help comparing this to was Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, another postmodern adventure novel about an eighteenth-century British explorer. Water Music does not emerge well from the comparison. Pynchon picked out little-known sidelines from the period – Vaucanson's mechanical duck, the transit of Venus – and he let the reader do at least half the work. For all Boyle's energetic prose style, his targets are too obvious or too cliché. Ultimately, Pynchon writes novels-of-ideas; Boyle doesn't seem to have any ideas. Without them, his rich vocabulary is left rudderless, and he throws words like hyetologist and remugient around a bit clumsily.

OK I've probably gone too far now. This is by no means a bad novel, and I enjoyed reading it – it's just a bit frustrating because there is a much better book in there somewhere. This was TC Boyle's first, and I would definitely like to read some of his others and see how his style has matured. In this case I unfortunately felt a bit too much like Mungo Park myself – on an eventful journey, but without any clear idea of where I was going or why. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Listen natives of a dry place / from the harpist's fingers / rain - W.S. Merwin, The Old Boast
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right / Till ye've got on it - / The vera tapmost, tow'ring height / O' Miss's bonnet. - Robert Burns, To a Louse
This book is affectionately dedicated to the members of the Raconteurs' Club: Alan Arkawy, Gordon Baptiste, Neal Friedman, Scott Friedman, Rob Jordan, Russell Timothy Miller and David Needelman. It is also for you, K.K.
First words
At an age when most young Scotsman were lifting skirts, plowing furrows and spreading seed, Mungo Park was displaying his bare buttocks to al-haj' Ali Ibn Fatoudi, Emir of Ludamar.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140065504, Paperback)

Twenty five years ago, T.C. Boyle published his first novel, Water Music—a funny, bawdy, extremely entertaining novel of imaginative and stylistic fancy that announced to the world Boyle's tremendous gifts as a storyteller. Set in the late eighteenth century, Water Music follows the wild adventures of Ned Rise, thief and whoremaster, and Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer, through London's seamy gutters and Scotland's scenic highlands—to their grand meeting in the heart of darkest Africa. There they join forces and wend their hilarious way to the source of the Niger.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Mungo Park, based on a real-life African explorer, and Ned Rise, a scoundrel, pimp, thief, and cheat, travel about Africa and meet up with a varied assortment of characters--native and colonial, antic and dangerous.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (4.22)
1 3
2 5
2.5 3
3 33
3.5 14
4 71
4.5 32
5 105

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 135,484,799 books! | Top bar: Always visible