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A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
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A Fraction of the Whole (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Steve Toltz

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1,349565,678 (3.92)88
Member:hemlokgang
Title:A Fraction of the Whole
Authors:Steve Toltz
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2008), Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library, To read (inactive)
Rating:
Tags:TBR, 101010 Challenge, Debut

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A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (2008)

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English (51)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Not funny enough to make up for its drawbacks: too long, implausible plot, characters not believable. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
A real roller-coaster ride! There is some fantastic invention or the other that just leaps at you from almost every page, and you just want to go on turning the pages, marvelling at such creativity. Except for a brief section in the middle which sags (no one can keep up that kind of frenetic pace), this is one sizzler of a book! Looking forward to his next... ( )
  Lisianthus | Jan 29, 2014 |
This started brilliant and for five hundred pages it just got better. Packed with hilarious one-liners and quirky observations it’s an exhilarating and often farcical romp through the lives of the Dean family, a tale involving criminality, mental illness and skip-loads of philosophy. It visits some dark places and could have been bleak and depressing but for some superb writing. I spent the first two thirds thinking to myself how brilliant must the book have been that beat this one to the Booker Prize.

The trouble was, the last two hundred pages or so left me cold. Martin’s speech at the announcement of the millionaires was a great piece of writing, and yet from that point onwards there was a change in the novel’s tone. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps it was that everything seemed to have been taking place in a world very like our own but one where it’s accepted between author and reader that mad things happen more often than average. That’s fine. But then towards the end it seemed that the novel wanted to explain it all, move it lock stock and barrel into the “real” real world, and it didn’t seem to fit. The one-liners dried up and suddenly it wasn’t philosophy and humour it was just philosophy and reading it became a chore.

Despite the above, I would still recommend this to anyone, the sheer quality of the first two thirds is breathtaking and who knows, you might see something in the last bit that I couldn’t. ( )
  jayne_charles | Oct 20, 2013 |
Pretty much a tour-de-force of active, engaging writing for most of the way. Well-developed, interesting characters. Presents an interesting worldview. Engaging structure and point of view. A little rambling and a tad disappointing at the end, but that is definitely my subjective opinion only. ( )
  malrubius | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book is amazing and surprising..I really didn't expect to like it to be honest but Ed at Unabridged Books had his recommendation review on the book and I have alot of his same tastes so I figured it was worth risking. It's another Aussie novel set mainly in Australia with some traveling to France and Thailand for a bit. It's mainly a novel about epic life stories, mainly a father's and one really bizarre but interesting family. It's filled with insights about humanity and the writing style is one of my favorites. There are parts of this book that are hilarious and also profound. I never thought I would have loved a book that delved so heavily into crime and sports, either, but I dreaded the day I finished it..one to return to definitely. This is Steve Toltz's first novel and I seriously hope the man is working on a second.

Some quotes:

p. 4 "I hate how no one can tell the story of his life without making a star of his enemy, but that's just the way it is."

p. 7-8 "Actually, the truth is I don't look at these photos much, because all I see when I look at photographs of dead people is that they're dead," Dad said, "Doesn't matter if it's Napoleon or my mother, they are simply the Dead."

p.23-24 "I saw all the dawns come up too early and all the middays reminding you you'd better get a hurry on and all the dusks whisper 'I don't think you're going to make it' and all the shrugging midnights say 'Better luck tomorrow.' I saw all the hands that ever waved to a stranger thinking it was a friend. I saw all the eyes that ever winked to let someone know their insult was only a joke. I saw all the men wipe down toilet seats before urinating but never after. I saw all the lonely men stare at department store mannequins and think 'I'm attracted to a mannequin. This is getting sad.' saw all the love triangles and a few love rectangles and one crazy love hexagon in the back room of a sweaty Parisian café. I saw all the condoms put on the wrong way. I saw all the ambulance drivers on their off hours caught in traffic wishing there was a dying man in the backseat. I sa all the charity givers wink at heaven. I saw all the Buddhists bitten by spiders they wouldn't kill. I saw all the flies bang uselessly into the screen doors and all the fleas laughing as they rode in on pets. I saw all the broken dishes in all the Greek restaurants and all the Greeks thinking 'Culture is one thing but this is getting expensive.' I saw all the lonely people scared by their own cats. I saw all the prams, and anyone who says all babies are cute didn't see the babies I saw. I saw all the funerals and all the acquaintances of the dead enjoying their afternoon off work. I saw all the astrology columns predicting that one twelfth of the population of earth will be visited by a relative who wants to borrow money. I saw all the forgeries of great paintings but no forgeries of great books. I saw all the signes forbidding entrance and exit but none forbidding arson or murder. I saw all the carpets with cigarette burns and all the kneecaps with carpet burns. I saw all the worms dissected by curious children and eminent scientists..."

p. 57-58 Tears came to my eyes but I fought them. Then I started thinking about tears. What was evolution up to when it rendered the human bdy incapable of concealing sadness? Is it somehow crucial to the survival of the species that we can't hide our melancholy? Why? What's the evolutionary benefit of crying? To elicit sympathy? Does evolution have a Machiavellian streak?...Is it evolution's design to humble us? To humiliate us?"

p.89: "Betrayal wears alot of different hats. You don't have to make a show of it like Brutus di, you don't have to leave anything visible jutting from the base of your best friend's spine, and afterward you can stand there straining your ears for hours, but you won't hear a cock crow either. No, the most insidious betrayals are done merely by leaving the life jacket hanging in your closet while you lie to yourself that it's probably not the drowning man's size. That's how we slide, and while we slide we blame the world's problems on colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, corporatism, stupid white men, and America,but there's no need to make a brand name of blame. Individual self-interest: that's the source of our descent, and it doesn't start in the boardrooms or the war rooms either. It stars in the home."

p.102: "Well, maybe Bob Dylan was wrong. Maybe you do have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

p. 148: "I'm no expert on linguistics or the etymology of words, so I have no idea if the word 'banana' really was the best-sounding collection of syllables around to describe a long yellow arc-shaped fruit, but I can say whoever coined the phrase 'media circus' really knew what he was talking about"

p.155 "It was while lying in bed that I realized that illness is our natural state of being. We're always sick and we just don't know it. What we mean by health is only when our constant physical deterioration is undetectable."

p.274-275 "Why is free will wasted on a creature who has infinite choices by pretends there are only one or two? Listen. People are like knees that are hit with tiny rubber hammers. Nietzsche was a hammer. Schopernhauer was a hammer. Darwin was a hammer. I don't want to be a hammer because I know how the knees will react."

p.292 "OK Brett took his lie, but he also answered Hamlet's question without tearing him all up inside, and even if suicide is a sin, surely decisiveness is rewarded. I mean, let's give credit where credit is due. Brett answered Hamlet's dilemma as straightforwardly as ticking a box (NOT TO BE X )

p.308 "The Internet! Ever since the Internet, complete idiots have been building huts and bombs and car engines and performing complicated surgical procedures in their bathtubs."

p.407 "The Buddhists are right. Guilty men are not sentenced to death, they are sentenced to life."

p.476 "As I ran, I thought how I hate any kind of mob-I hate mobs of sports fans, mobs of environmental demonstrators, I even hate mobs of supermodels, that's how much I hate mobs. I tell you, mankind is bearable only when you get him on his own."

p.507 "Movies have made real life corny."

p.523 "He never achieved unlonely aloneness. His aloneness was terrible for him."
( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
I'm sorry if I'm beginning to make it sound a bit rollicking. The stories, in fact, follow a pattern: they are almost all tales of good intentions with catastrophic results, such as the suggestion box which Martin installs on the town-hall steps and which at first instils a new sense of purpose and confidence in the community, but quickly brings out the worst in everyone and leads to his brother being sectioned. Taken individually, they're funny; taken together, the unbreakability of the pattern and the inevitability of disaster is heartbreaking.
added by Milesc | editThe Guardian (Jun 21, 2008)
 
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You never hear about a sportsman losing his sense of smell in a tragic accident, and for good reason; in order for the universe to teach excruciating lessons that we are unable to apply in later life, the sportsman must lose his legs, the philosopher his mind, the painter his eyes, the musician his ears, the chef his tongue
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385521731, Paperback)

Meet the Deans

“The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more than any other man, just as they adore my uncle more than any other man. I might as well set the story straight about both of them . . .”

Heroes or Criminals?
Crackpots or Visionaries?
Families or Enemies?

“. . . Anyway, you know how it is. Every family has a story like this one.”



Most of his life, Jasper Dean couldn’t decide whether to pity, hate, love, or murder his certifiably paranoid father, Martin, a man who overanalyzed anything and everything and imparted his self-garnered wisdom to his only son. But now that Martin is dead, Jasper can fully reflect on the crackpot who raised him in intellectual captivity, and what he realizes is that, for all its lunacy, theirs was a grand adventure.
As he recollects the events that led to his father’s demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries—about his infamous outlaw uncle Terry, his mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin’s constant losing battle to make a lasting mark on the world he so disdains. It’s a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafes of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to strip clubs, asylums, labyrinths, and criminal lairs, and from the highs of first love to the lows of failed ambition. The result is a rollicking rollercoaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.
A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores and the epic debut of the blisteringly funny and talented Steve Toltz.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"For most of his life, Jasper Dean couldn't decide whether to pity, hate, love, or murder his certifiably paranoid father, Martin, a man who overanalyzed anything and everything and imparted his self-garnered wisdom to his only son. But now that Martin is dead, Jasper can fully reflect on the crackpot who raised him in intellectual captivity, and what he realizes is that, for all its lunacy, theirs was a grand adventure." "As he recollects the events that led to his father's demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries - about his infamous outlaw uncle, Terry, his mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin's constant losing battle to make a lasting mark on the world he so disdains. It's a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafes of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to strip clubs, asylums, labyrinths, and criminal lairs, and from the highs of first love to the lows of failed ambition. The result is a wild roller-coaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings." "A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores, and the epic debut of the blisteringly funny and talented Steve Toltz."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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