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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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1,367575,607 (3.91)91
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 (52)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
The life stories of Terry Dean, his half-brother Martin Dean, and Martin’s son, Jasper, make up most of the fractions of this novel. Sometimes the first-person narrator is Martin, sometimes it is Jasper. But it really makes no difference since their voices sound exactly the same. Indeed everyone’s voice sounds the same in this lengthy but tiresome first novel. There are moments of wit and startling similes, which in isolation might suggest a novel of insight and humour. Unfortunately the whole ends up being much less than a fraction of its parts.

There is a kind of flatness in this writing, almost like a naïve painting with no perspective. Indeed the comparison might be taken further, given the distortion of the human form often found in naïve painting. Here the characters are thin and exaggerated and typically grotesque. The environment in which they live, which is ostensibly Australia (and latterly Thailand), is completely bereft of identifying marks. It might be anywhere at all. Or nowhere. As the story develops and the voice of the narrator is passed from Jasper to Martin and back to Jasper, you may get the impression that the author simply got tired of one voice at a certain point and switched to the other in order to sustain his interest, not unlike alternately standing on one leg and then the other. This might also explain the coarse peppering of the text with quotes from philosophers and writers from across the ages. Perhaps a bland stew needs such seasoning. But what it really needs is more careful cooking.

Not recommended. Not even a fraction of it. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | May 25, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (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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