Usually, I skip debut novels because most of them are not as mature as the later works of the author. Even Turgenev’s On the Eve was not at par with Father and Sons or Virgin Soil. However, Frederick Pinto’s The Sabbatical seems a rare exception.
If you are just out of Jean Paul Satre’s Nausea and looking for a smart, entertaining read with a substantial story, pick up Frederick Pinto’s debut novel — The Sabbatical. It will cure you of any hangover from a sombre philosophy, yet won’t let you down as a light hearted effort that fails to leave an impression.
“Well, not fired, Charles,” Colin says. “Consider it more a forced buy-out.”
Charles Barca, the founder of an ambitious and visionary music startup— PlayLouder – finds himself in a tight spot after some conspiring people play smart to force him out of his own nest. Things become worse as he loses his girlfriend and rock star status. Even in the face of a crisis, Charles rejects opportunities to come back to the music business and tries to re-invent himself. Frederick Pinto’s The Sabbatical is an insightful story of “a bought-out, spit-over, disgraced and depressed” prince, seeking “a Copernican revolution of the self.”
Meet the Sharks
Pinto introduces you to real-life, morally ambiguous characters. You meet schemers, frauds and manipulative people. If you know the music industry, you easily identify them. If you don’t, you start feeling really close to it. Barca stands out as a confused, but honourable man among shady characters. He might not be a typical hero (for many readers), but he is certainly someone who makes you think. Barca is someone you can’t ignore.
If you are a sucker for snappy dialogue and descriptions, you can’t afford to miss The Sabbatical. Barca speaks and thinks in the equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s .44 Magnum:
“I know them by heart, those nightlife vamps, hunting for a pint of fame here, a pound of status there; those tweet chique groupie types whose gibberish runs in fast forward, junkies of tweener pop stars and the Disney channel by age seven, suburban beauty pageants between nine and twelve, then drugs and uniforms and public toilet blow jobs, then college and amateur porn cams, followed by entry level jobs and hard partying on the back of a vulgar hotness and loud makeup and sophomoric life theories, culminating into some version or other of the American way of life and a high earning beta male they can blood suck into a castrating relationship of mortified sex and consumerism and debt and death.”
Pinto can be deeply sarcastic and highly intense, but he always stays believable. Here’s a debut author who can write dialogues like a seasoned pro. Also, Pinto shows great narrative skills. Barca’s intercontinental journey is filled with amazing descriptions that give a tactile quality to the places Barca visits.
In the hands of a daring director, The Sabbatical could turn into a very thought-provoking and intelligent film. A noteworthy first literary effort!
Check out The Sabbatical at Amazon
Thanks to Frederick Forsyth, Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, the last 100 years had had its share of cold war espionage novels. While CIA, MI6, and KGB kept us highly entertained, maybe we need a break from the familiar landscapes of US, Britain and Russia. How about an intriguing plot involving Israel and Singapore with a touch of Cairo? Khaled Talib, in his debut novel, brings you a cold blooded and action packed world of espionage different from the conventional thrillers.
Jethro Westrope, a journalist, accidentally learns about an international conspiracy that involves the assassination of the Prime Minister of Israel. However, he is falsely accused of murder and someone tries to use him as a smokescreen to divert attention from the actual sinister plot. Jet struggles against mighty odds and finds in himself situations that are out of his control. But he has to stop the assassination or else lose his life to serve someone else’s purpose.
“You’re just the unlucky guy chosen to die” Jet is told. He is to be blamed for the assassination of the Prime Minister. Can Jet survive?
What’s so good
“Smoke clouded the man’s face like a Tuareg’s desert veil as he exhaled a long, apple-scented plume from the sheesha’s looping pipe. It bolstered the disguise he wore in the languid summer afternoon at El Fishawy Café in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili souk district: a fake moustache and a thick goatee that seemed to make his round chin smile more, a pair of dark metal-framed sunglasses, a long-flowing brown galabeya, and a white turban.”
The setting and storyline is fresh, and this comes as a welcome change in a genre quite saturated with clichés. The exotic feel of the thriller gets you excited from the very beginning. A combination of Israel, Singapore and Egypt can hardly go wrong, eh?
Khaled’s attention to details, comprehensive knowledge of local culture and political machinery makes the plot completely believable. The characters look real and the dialogues are carefully crafted. Cunning spies, merciless assassins, shady politicians — Smokescreen is nothing less than a Hollywood blockbuster. Khaled’s sharp sense of humor adds to the fun.
Smokescreen, with its fast pace and Jason Bourne like situations, will remind you of Ludlum’s novel. Khaled said in an interview that he was fascinated with The Bourne Identity. Smokescreen could have easily been a rip-off of the classic thriller but to his credit, Khaled succeeds in making his novel something different. Jet is not a trained killer like Bourne. He is a common journalist forced into the world of Bourne. And that makes his adventure so sublime.
Khaled Talib, a former journalist and a full time writer, has made an impressive debut. We will be waiting for more from him.
Smokescreen at Amazon.
They had fame and glory. But they were cursed with a tortured mind. And creativity claimed the life of the creator. Here are five incredible writers who succumbed to an agonized life:
Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)
She was one of the foremost modernist writers of the twentieth century. Her novels — Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse — are widely regarded as masterpieces. But there was another side to Woolf’s life. She was sexually abused by her cousins, traumatized by World War II, which destroyed her London home and was a victim of depression all her life. On 28 March 1941, she wrote a note to her husband and drowned herself in the river Ouse. Her overcoat was filled with stones.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)
The master of descriptive writing, an idealist in love with the color and sensuality of Spain, a volatile drinker — that’s being Ernest. A mighty Nobel Prize and worldwide fame couldn’t stop Hemingway from committing suicide. One fine morning, he woke up and wore a gown he called “the Emperor’s robe” and shot himself with his favorite shotgun. Hemingway’s father, brother, and sister committed suicide too. It is believed that his family had a history of mental illness.
Robert E. Howard (1906 – 1936)
‘I don’t want to live to be old. I want to die when my time comes, quickly and suddenly, in the full tide of my strength and health.’ And young he died for Howard was just 30 years old when he shot himself in the head. It might have been due to his failed relationship with Novalyne Price, or his financial troubles as the struggling Weird Tales couldn’t pay him, or his feelings for his mother who was about to die. Though Howard was quite successful and his stories were in demand, he suffered from inferiority complex and thought his peers downgraded him. Like Conan, he wasn’t afraid of death and he died, as he had lived, by the sword.
Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983)
The famous author/journalist who wrote the anti-Soviet classic — Darkness at Noon. Koestler was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and terminal leukaemia. This made writing difficult for him — a fact that depressed him beyond measure. In 1983, Koestler and his wife killed themselves with an overdose of barbiturates (Tuinal), taken with alcohol. Cynthia, his wife, wrote that she “cannot live without Arthur, despite certain inner resources”.
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893 – 1930)
“I’m through with life… and [we] should absolve from mutual hurts, afflictions and spleen.” Mayakovsky was one of the most well known figures of early 20th century Russian Futurism. He was a national hero who sung for the communist regime. Some suggest that a failed affair with actress Veronika Polonskaya left the poet devastated. Others believe that it might be disillusionment with the Soviet regime of the time. Mayakovsky shot himself when he was only 37. The cause of his suicide still remains mysterious.
A funny reviewer at Goodreads sums up Pride and Prejudice in a few darn good lines:
“Girls need to marry. Girls can’t get married. Girls are sad. Girls get married. Girls are happy.”
That’s an honest-to-god review of Jane Auten’s classic. The reviewer’s words are proven and undisputed as Kevin Bacon would put it (as he did in A Few Good Men). Yet there is something more to the story. Ah, actually there is a lot more.
The Usual Lovers
Pride and Prejudice is an unforgettable love story with some typical tensions and stumbling blocks found in most romantic novels. However, Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story has some deeper elements as well. Their journey is filled with irony.
Elizabeth says she is not someone who rejects a guy only to accept him later. But this is exactly what she does with Darcy. While the first line of the novel states that “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”, we find that a single woman needs a man of good fortune more desperately. Darcy detests the ill-bred behaviour of the Bennet family, but his own Aunt is no better. Elizabeth takes pride in her judgement, which results in her unjustified prejudice against Darcy.
Though there is no explicit symbolism in the story, the love story serves as a tool for social commentary.
Thou Art Proletariat
The importance of reputation and class in Victorian society is emphasised time and again. Though the middle class Bennet family socializes with aristocrats like Darcy and Bingleys, they are clearly treated as inferiors. The snobbish Mr. Collins is another product of the class system.
Do you think class is still a decisive factor today when it comes to relationships? Of course, a Paris Hilton is not going to marry a loser, but then how far can someone go beyond his own league?
Comedy of Wits
Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him make an intelligent story supported by lots of quotable quotes.
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” — Elizabeth on Darcy.
Well said Liz.
Download ebook: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The magnificence and intricacy of London has influenced writers for centuries. Through their vivid depictions of the English capital, iconic authors such as Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, H.G Wells, and P.G. Wodehouse have enabled readers to revisit this city at different periods in history, and their works will undoubtedly remain deep seated in our hearts for many years to come.
What’s more, London lays claim as the birthplace of many famous writers including Robert Browning, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and the famous diarist Samuel Pepys; anyone looking into the literary heritage of this great city certainly won’t be disappointed.
London’s Literary History
One of the oldest portrayals of London in literature is courtesy of Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. Written in Old English and dating back to the early 1380s, it involves a collection of stories that describe a journey from Southwark in South London to Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer provides a wonderful description of life in the city at the time, which perhaps explains why this text is one of the most studied and celebrated in the English language.
In the 1722 book, A Journal of a Plague Year, Daniel Defoe provides an emotional account of a distressing era in London’s long history. It is believed that the novel delivers a very accurate description of the plague years, but Defoe would have been only five years old during the year the book was set (1665). For this reason it is now believed that this journal is in fact based on the experiences of Daniel Defoe’s uncle, Henry Foe. In contrast, Samuel Pepys published a diary of the plague years which was based on his own personal experiences.
Cherished author, Charles Dickens, sired some of the most well-known and beloved characters in English history. Now synonymous with 19th century London, his works include Oliver Twist, Bleak House, and Great Expectations. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of Dickens’ work is how he skilfully provides insights into the lives of those in different sectors of society, such as in Great Expectations where the protagonist, Pip, transitions from the ambit of a pauper to that of relative wealth. It is no surprise, then, that Dickens is particularly credited with highlighting the plight of the poor during these harsh times.
H.G. Wells was born in Kent but many of his books, such as The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine, are set against the backdrop of London. Although his work is science fiction, which is vastly different to the realistic portrayals of his literary counterparts, he still succeeds in providing wonderful perceptions of Victorian London. Despite the stark difference in genre, H.G. Wells’ work is sometimes compared with that of Charles Dickens due to his ability to shed light on the plight of the poor in society.
Irish born playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde, is best-known for his comedies, satires and tragedies including The Importance of Being Earnest, A Woman of No Importance and Salome. He wrote only one novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, which first appeared as a story in a magazine in 1890. Today it is studied as one of the greats in English literary history. Often described as Gothic fiction, the novel is set in London and portrays the downfall of a hedonistic young man as he indulges in the lavish entertainments and frivolities enjoyed only by the rich during the nineteenth-century.
Less educationally acclaimed, but a true classic nonetheless, The Jeeves and Wooster novel series by P.G. Wodehouse presents a comical and somewhat pompous view of the upper-classes in early nineteenth century London (although the series began life in New York). Wodehouse was a prolific writer; the Jeeves series totalled 35 short stories and 11 novels, and inspired the ever popular Jeeves and Wooster television programme starring Steven Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Wooster. It has recently been revealed that writer Sebastian Faulks is set to release a new novel, bringing the characters back to life once more.
We can only hope that, centuries from now, society will continue to identify these works and hundreds of others as the brilliant conceptions of equally brilliant minds. Likewise, as modern writers add to the literary landscape of London, we can hope to create a history and legacy of our own time, to be read and appreciated by generations to come. Among these modern novels, the most notable depictions of the city would include: Brick Lane by Monica Ali, A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, Portobello by Ruth Rendell, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.
Study the Literature of London at University
For anyone interested in delving into London’s great literature and developing their understanding of the city’s quasi-fictional history, joining a university course is one of the best options available. Thanks to the wealth of universities in central and Greater London, there are plenty of great opportunities to explore this topic in the capital itself, whether as an English or creative writing undergraduate or a postgraduate studying for an English Literature MA. Perhaps the best aspect of this choice is having easy access to all of the famous and hidden places that have provided, and continue to provide, so much inspiration.
Sarah Kealy is a student of English Literature, who has a keen interest in the history of her home city, London. She enjoys creative wrtiting, political debate, as well as contributing to blogs in her spare time.
Note: This is a guest post.
What if you wake up one morning to find yourself transformed into an enormous insect? What if your life suddenly takes a frighteningly different turn?
Alienation of the Condemned
Kafka’s classic is a dark fantasy with some absurdist humor. Metamorphosis is an apparently simple but bizarre story, which works on so many levels that no one’s too sure how to interpret it. But the primary theme is alienation of an individual in a society that is too afraid to accept changes. Metamorphosis would remind you Camus’ The Outsider, which deals with the same theme.
Gregor’s (The protagonist) metamorphosis isolates him from the rest of the society, and he is no longer a part of the established system. A psychological barrier separates him from his family and the people around him. However, it’s later revealed that his metamorphosis and consequent alienation is an extension of a long term feeling.
Anarchy in the Universe
The cause of Gregor’s predicament is never explained. A seemingly fair, dutiful fellow turns into a giant insect for no apparent reason. Kafka strongly suggests the existence of a chaotic universe, which functions in an illogical and chaotic manner. The absurdity of life is highlighted with surprisingly effective symbolism.
In Search of an Existentialist life
Pre-metamorphosis: Samsa’s life is miserable because family, society, and duties are most important to him and in the process he neglects his own existence. He is little more than a machine.
Post-metamorphosis: Samsa focuses too much on himself and is cut-off from the society. His life lacks purpose and becomes absurd.
The poor fellow struggles to live a meaningful and balanced life; so eventually he ceases to exist. The existentialist philosophers would say Samsa was not an an acting, feeling, living individual but someone with confused priorities in a world that might look frighteningly meaningless.
You, Me & Samsa
Readers can easily identify with the trapped, estranged, and lonely Gregor Samsa. If Dostoevsky had written an allegorical work of speculative fiction, he couldn’t have portrayed a more embittered protagonist with a more realistic agony. At the end of the day, are we not feeling a bit like Kafka’s Samsa or Camus’s Meursault?
Download Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis ebook:
Take a closer look at the bookshelf above. Looks great, huh? But could you figure out that the blackish left side is not a part of the shelf? Right, it’s just a bookshelf wallpaper. A pretty smart idea and the combination of the real and fake bookshelf looks darn good.