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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


C - Anna Benson I really wanted to believe that this book was meant ironically, that the narrator was the construction of a clever novelist who enjoyed playing with the reader's feelings, but having looked around a bit it's rather difficult to maintain that view. Sad to tell, I think it's no more and no less than it claims to be. Anna Benson, a 27 year old former Swedish table-tennis champion without a gram of literary talent, takes an extremely private story and turns it into an autobiographical novel in a way that makes Erica Jong appear, in comparison, a saint-like paragon of impeccable judgment and good taste.

Without apparently once stopping to ask herself whether she might be doing something tacky or inadvisable, Anna tells us how she falls in love with a woman, "C", who is twice her age and suffering from breast cancer. C, who comes across as a sympathetic character, initially rebuffs Anna's advances, but is worn down by Anna's charm and total inability to accept no for an answer. Anna then spends a large part of the novel complaining about C's "coldness" and the fact that she is not prepared to "give" as much as Anna does. We get to hear all the details of what they do together in bed during the course of a nine month long affair. The general tone is as though a blog has been turned into a sketchily connected narrative after minimal editing by a person who has never read anything more challenging than a relationship article in Marie Claire.

C believes that her cancer is in remission, but then discovers to her horror that it has metastasized to her brain. She is told she has at most months to live. The multiple tumors and the chemotherapy affect her personality, among other things removing her libido. She tells Anna that she no longer feels she is in love with her, but wishes to remains friends. Anna takes this as a personal affront and complains to the reader that she has been "dumped by a dying woman". C's last wish is that Anna should keep the story secret, so that her two sons do not have to deal with the additional trauma of discovering that their newly deceased mother was bisexual and had a taste for much younger women. She responds by publishing this book more or less immediately afterwards and giving interviews about it on Swedish TV.