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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spotlight on Two 2012 Books by Brendan Connell: "The Architect" and "Lives of Notorious Cooks" (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

"The mad and mystical Körn Society, based in Ticino, Switzerland, sets itself the task of building a grand, soul-uplifting Meeting Place for its members. An inspired architect, a visionary in stone, must be found, and one such is available: the mysterious and unpredictable Alexius Nachtman. But is he perhaps too visionary?

This is the effect of his book of sketches:

“Huge edifices, megastructures, poured from the leaves. Bridges which spanned oceans, towers which stretched into the clouds, huge fortresses which looked as if they could withstand the destructive force of an Armageddon. Vertical cities rose up from desert plains in startling anaxometrics, while spatial cities, cities built fifteen or twenty meters above their counterparts, stood forth as visions of utopian architecture, only to be outdone on subsequent pages by floating cities, vast nests of hexagonal pods resting atop lakes and oceans. Structures which straddled the earth and others which burrowed under it. Buildings which brought to mind lost civilizations or seemed to be the habitations of beings from another world . . . ”

Despite doubts, he is hired. And so, in this adventure of marble and mortar, of machines and workmen, of cult and manipulation, the most bizarre construction project since Babel commences its Cyclopean growth. Written by a contemporary master of the decadent and grotesque, The Architect is like Greek tragedy on hallucinogens—a brilliant, stylish short novel of eccentricity and decay"

Minireview (full read): The Architect is a short novel that is mesmerizing and makes you turn the pages once you open it.

While the story reveals itself soon as a pretty familiar one after a somewhat mysterious beginning where both the origins of the cult that is central to the novel and of the architect of the title are presented, the power of the book lies in the captivating style and the slowly turning up of the pressure and the stakes.

I would strongly recommend to at least check a sample of this short novel and see if the powerful imagery inside transfixes you too.


"When he reached the age of 767, Peng Zu was sought after by the benevolent Emperor Yao, who wished to receive advice on ruling the nation. Peng Zu made a thick soup for the emperor out of pheasant, Job’s tear seeds and plums, well salted. Eating the dish, the emperor felt as if he were sitting on air. He was filled with a deep cosmic joy in which he saw everything clearly.

“You see,” Peng Zu said, “the gravest problems of state can be resolved over a bowl of soup. The people, seeing you live frugally will not resent you. When the ruler is calm, the nation is calm.”

Learn of the outrageous and sometimes dubious lives of Peng Zu and fifty other notorious cooks from the pages of history and legend, in a picaresque dictionary of delicious and playful story-telling"

Impressions (read about 1/3 of the stories so far): I have read some 15 of the "biographies" so far and they are invariably entertaining and strange; cooking in all ages and countries, from classical Greece and Rome to China to the modern day, weirdness and misdeeds, murder and love. While the inevitable repetition and momentum breaking that a themed collection/anthology makes this a book to savor in small chunks, so to speak, it is very entertaining and a break from the usual sff fare (!).

Make sure you read this when not hungry though!


John said...

Just want to wish all u reviewers@FBC a Happy New Year!

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