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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten


Oppdageren - Jan Kjærstad Oppdageren (The Discoverer in English) is the third and concluding volume of the trilogy that starts with Forføreren. Since the three volumes form a tightly-knit whole, it makes most sense to review the whole series, which is one of the most powerful, moving, original novels I've read in years. It's staggeringly inventive and daring, and it's not just displaying post-modernist cleverness for its own sake. Quite the contrary. The book has a burning desire to reach out to you, touch you, and change your life forever. It's very rare to find something like this.

The rest of this review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations


[After rereading the series]

It is a masterpiece. The beginning is mysterious and enticing; the middle, difficult and painful; the ending, extraordinarily powerful and moving.

A recurring image, which is presented in many different forms, is Māyā, the veil of illusion. At one point, Jonas, who is applying to architecture school, gives a presentation on his favorite part of Oslo. He arranges it in three semi-transparent layers. The outermost one shows the town as it is today. Behind it, and clearly visible, you can see the town as he remembers it, before it was brutally remodelled in the 60s. And if you look carefully, you can see just a hint of the third layer: a strange, temple-like building, quite unlike anything in the "real" Oslo.

As usual, the novel is referring to itself. Every book has a surface, and most worthwhile books have something underneath that surface, which you can see if you're paying any attention. But under both of these, one can sometimes catch a glimpse of the true book, the book the author wanted to write but was unable to realise due to his mortal limitations. The true version of this book is visible with quite unusual clarity. It's a trick, but it's a wonderful, awe-inspiring trick.

To conclude, for other readers who wondered what they looked like:

en sitronsommerfugl og en dagpåfugløye, en admiral og en neslesommerfugl