farce

Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Nicola Barker’s The Yips (Review #2)

The_YipsRating: 4
The Yips
A Novel by Nicola Barker
2012 / 550 Pages

This review was simultaneously published on 40GigsAndaMule on 9/9/2012

When we divided up the Booker long list, The Yips was the book I was most interested in reading. But it wasn’t the first I read. That honor went to Michael Frayn’s Skios, and perhaps The Yips suffered for it. Both books are broad farce – the Bookers seem to be sweet on farce this year – and it is only in comparison to the tautness of Frayn’s story that The Yips comes in a close number two. I’d like to rate it 4.25 stars, but I think our erstwhile editor would have my head.

Our main character Stuart Ransom is wonderfully awful. The large supporting cast is truly great. And the book’s take on the burqa as potentially an object of empowerment is thought-provoking.

With their similar style and pace, the Booker judges may be willing to push through only one of the aforementioned. If that’s the case, I’d push for Skios. But I’d love to see them both on the short list and considered head to head in the next stage.

Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Michael Frayn’s Skios (Review #3)

SkiosRating: 4
Skios
A Novel by Michael Frayn
2012 / 272 Pages

The Setup: The great master of farce turns to an exclusive island retreat for a comedy of mislaid identities, unruly passions, and demented, delicious disorder.

On the private Greek island of Skios, the high-paying guests of a world-renowned foundation prepare for the annual keynote address, to be given this year by Dr. Norman Wilfred, an eminent authority on the scientific organization of science. He turns out to be surprisingly youthful, handsome, and charming–quite unlike his reputation as dry and intimidating. Everyone is soon eating out of his hands. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the foundation’s attractive and efficient organizer.

Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki’s old friend Georgie has rashly agreed to spend a furtive horizontal weekend with a notorious schemer, who has characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped there with her instead is a pompous, balding individual called Dr. Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper, and increasingly all sense of reality–indeed, everything he possesses other than the text of a well-traveled lecture on the scientific organization of science.

In a spiraling farce about upright academics, gilded captains of industry, ambitious climbers, and dotty philanthropists, Michael Frayn, the farceur “by whom all others must be measured” (CurtainUp), tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, probing his eternal theme of how we know what we know even as he delivers us to the outer limits of hilarity. (From the hardcover edition)

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Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Michael Frayn’s Skios

Rating: 4
Skios
A Novel by Michael Frayn
2012 / 272 Pages

The setup: On the Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming and the Foundation’s guests are soon eating out of his hand. Meanwhile, in a remote village at the other end of the island, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality…

* * *

Skios took me by surprise. This is my first time reading Booker nominees, and I suppose I was expecting more highbrow fare. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative review!

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