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The Book of Getting Even: A Novel by…
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The Book of Getting Even: A Novel

by Benjamin Taylor

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The author's intent and purpose of the book is summarized at the end and this is the book's major flaw. The book might have been more successful had this intent been woven in through out the book instead of placed as an ending summary. Also, some expository writing on movies that is superflous. The voice changes from narrative to expository and weakens the book. ( )
  MarthaHerron | Sep 3, 2009 |
Benjamin Taylor is a writer in full control of the tools available to a practitioner of the language arts. His prose is elegant, his language intoxicating; the stories he tells are rich in detail, full of import, and of intricate disposition. His techniques have been assembled over a lifetime of reading: Nabokov, Bellow, Hemingway, Cather, Isherwood, Woolf. From these and others he has learned unconventional dialog, the trick of presenting action by catalog, the appropriation of history and science, psychology and religion, all of which he brings to bear in the creation of “fully fleshed and blooded” characters. It seems possible to descend from the “L” to a corner in Chicago and encounter Gabriel Geismar from Taylor’s latest novel, “The Book of Getting Even,” walking slowly past, musing over the material composition of the cosmos:



It was simultaneously dawning on the three or four best cosmological minds: the multiverse, universes budding from one another, a profusion of universes without beginning or end, our own the merest upstart in the myriad. Universes without beginning or end — this bright idea, with its reintroduction of eternity, infinite regress and infinite progress, universes forever abounding, whispered to Gabriel that perhaps he hadn’t come so far from Terpsichore Street after all since, soberly considered, he was only putting eternal Nature where the eternal God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob used to be.” (Pgs. 85-86)



One might even chance upon the magical puppeteer from “Tales Out of School” who, on one’s way home in the afternoon, might approach with his spelling board and introduce himself:



“Old? He was older than old. With a neck as skinny as a cart shaft; and bug-eyes, signifying pathos; and nowhere the trace of a smile.
“Who are you, mister?” Felix asked at the corner of Post Office and Twelfth. He in particular, and Galveston in general, were interested to know.
The ancient of days said nothing, unbuckling his grip instead and taking from it a little board furnished with the letters of the alphabet. S-c-h-m-u-l-o-w-i-c-z, he spelled, pointing to each letter in turn. I—a-m—S-c-h-m-u-l-o-w-i-c-z.” (Pgs. 121-122)



Taylor’s characters are made for a particular time and place, but they embody what persists in human experience, regardless of context: the pain of youth, the pleasure of tenderness, the bewitching impulse to create. In this last he is as much a student as he is a teacher. Every sentence is expertly wrought, designed to wake the brain, combining, as the best writing does, meaning with music and artifice with import. From such language he builds authentic albeit imagined worlds wherein satisfying, sometimes painful, dramas unfold, proving that in contemporary literature one finds, even on a single page, the artful, the imaginative, the credible and the fantastic.

— Carlin M. Wragg, Editor, Open Loop Press
  OpenLoopPress | Jan 8, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've tried to read this book three times, and both times I just can't get past the first chapter. The initial anecdote is so unappealing that I just don't care about any of the characters and I don't trust the author to take it somewhere better.

Maybe I'll pick it up again someday, because I have a hard time not finishing books, but barring the unexpected, I would definitely not recommend this book. ( )
  jes | Oct 26, 2008 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It may or may not be good. I can't say. But it wasn't captivating enough to divert me from the three or four other books I have going.
  napaxton | Sep 10, 2008 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read many different types of books and pride my self on finishing any book that I start, for the first time in 12 years, this was actually difficult. It was as though I was allowed to smell the cake, but never taste. The outline and premiss of the story seemed well thought out and would have led to an excellent book if 10 years of a mans life wasn't squeezed into 176 pages. ( )
  sandnwaves | Jul 31, 2008 |
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"Son of a rabbi, budding astronomer Gabriel Geismar is on his way from youth to manhood in the 1970s when he falls in love with the esteemed and beguiling Hundert family, different in every way from his own. Over the course of a decade-long drama unfolding in New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and the Wisconsin countryside, Gabriel enters more and more passionately and intimately into the world of his elective clan, discovering at the inmost center that he alone must bear the full weight of their tragedies, past and present."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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