Picture of author.

Allen Kurzweil

Author of The Grand Complication

7+ Works 2,410 Members 57 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Allen Kurzweil is the author of A Case of Curiosities and The Grand Complication. He lives with his wife and son in Providence, Rhode Island

Works by Allen Kurzweil

The Grand Complication (2001) 901 copies, 26 reviews
A Case of Curiosities (1992) 774 copies, 15 reviews
Leon and the Spitting Image (2003) 407 copies, 4 reviews
Leon and the Champion Chip (2005) 202 copies, 7 reviews

Associated Works

Granta 54: Best of Young American Novelists (1996) — Contributor — 238 copies, 3 reviews

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Members

Reviews

Another one bites the dust, I think this is 3 in a row now. At least I'm clearing off some of my bookshelves. I told my wife that I feel like we're watching/reading the Gong Show lately. After about 50 pages the cane starts to come out, the book desperately tries to get better, but ultimately fails. This one got to about 85 pages.

It was witty and I can see how library geeks could be more interested in this, but it didn't really seem to be going anywhere. Seeing as I read Kurzweil's other book (and loved it) a LONG time ago, I didn't even get any cool links between the two books (and it was starting to become obvious that there were some).… (more)
 
Flagged
ragwaine | 25 other reviews | May 16, 2020 |
My reaction to this book was rather mixed. Set in 18th-century France, it's the tale of Claude Page, son of an herbalist/healer, whose initial notoriety is that he bears a wart on his hand that resembles the king. A physician offers to remove it--but takes Claude's finger as well. Claude is sent to live with the Abbé, an atheistic dilettante, who recognizes the boy's talent for drawing and promises to educate him. However, Claude's main duties involve painting risqué scenes inside watch cases for the Abbé's clientele. When he discovers a talent for mechanical movement, he longs to be free to study the craft. Eventually, he ends up in Paris--but things do not work out quite as planned.

I found many of the characters to be both quirky and unique, but the overall pacing seems to be off. I was engaged in Claude's life in Tournay and his early employment with the Abbé, but there were times when the story dragged or felt repetitive. Things picked up when he got to Paris, but, again, I found myself getting bored, especially with all the descriptions of mechanical devices and equipment.
… (more)
½
 
Flagged
Cariola | 14 other reviews | May 26, 2018 |
"Whipping Boy" may not be a great book, but I'm glad that Allen Kurzweil wrote it. He seems pretty darn certain that he got something significant off his chest by doing so. As for the book itself, it's not the characters themselves but the surrounding weirdness that I found most interesting. The boarding school he and his bully attended seemed to mix a fetish for order and hierarchy with airy, specifically British ideas about the benefits of the great outdoors. "Whipping Boy" -- and the tireless research that went into it -- also gives you a chance to look at the business of fraud and fraud detection up close. Kurzweil's right when he claims that the scheme that his former bully got involved in was a really doozy: the principals dressed like the Sgt. Pepper's album cover and claimed dozens of titles and degrees. The most useful part of the book, and perhaps the creepiest, though, are the interviews that he conducts with his former bully near the end of the book. It's a portrait of a con man who trades on easy familiarity, bathes in self pity, petty resentment, and self-justification, and uses evasive language filled with new-economy and "spirituality" buzzwords. It's not revealing, but that's the point: his unremarkable blandness is what makes grown-up Cesar really unsettling. Whatever else he is, he's certainly a product of our modern environment. While Kurzweil writes well and the book does indeed go someplace, it rates as kind of light, in my opinion. I'm happy the author got what he wanted out of writing it, but otherwise can't really recommend as more than summer reading.… (more)
 
Flagged
TheAmpersand | 4 other reviews | Jul 15, 2017 |
The basic plot seems simple enough: a rich older gentleman hires a research librarian to help him track down an object that once resided in a compartmentalized case (in fact, the case is the eponymous Case of Curiosities from Kurzweil’s first novel). The search, its results, and its aftermath form the framework of the book. But hidden within this seemingly bland framework is a story as wonderfully complex as an Escher print: characters are not who they seem to be; motivations are called into question; and vital bits of information dance just out of our reach.

Kurzweil is a powerfully evocative writer. His scenes in the research library make you feel like you can reach out and touch the books (and oh! such books: Secret Compartments in Eighteenth-Century Furniture, The Universal Penman, Hints on Husband Catching, or A Manual for Marriageable Misses—and that’s just from the first 30 pages). Jesson’s home is described in all of its opulent splendor, with special attention given to yards of books and the shelving thereof (are you sensing a pattern?). Thankfully, even non-book-oriented places are described well.
When an author is this attentive to setting, character can sometimes be lost. But Kurzweil sidesteps this trap neatly, giving us a cast of exuberantly eccentric characters who nonetheless manage to ring true. Everyone from the petty research library bureaucrats to the narrator’s tempestuous girlfriend is limned with just enough detail to make their various eccentricities believable.

The Grand Complication is a Chinese treasure-box of a novel—just when you’re certain you know what’s going on, you find another hidden compartment with new information in it. The writing is beautiful, the plot is compelling, and the characters are a joy to spend time with. Stop listening to me natter on about it and pick it up for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy the read.
… (more)
1 vote
Flagged
Mrs_McGreevy | 25 other reviews | Nov 17, 2016 |

Lists

Awards

You May Also Like

Associated Authors

J.J. de Wit Translator
Joy de Wit Translator

Statistics

Works
7
Also by
1
Members
2,410
Popularity
#10,643
Rating
½ 3.6
Reviews
57
ISBNs
88
Languages
10
Favorited
2

Charts & Graphs