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Muriel Spark must have considered that she was not doing full justice to her talents by exercising it only in small fictional forms. This, however, is her only attempt at a fullsize novel. The theme and the setting are alike promising. The heroine is half-Jewish and half British county family, and she has been converted to Catholicism (this is the author's own position). She goes to Jerusalem to make a pilgrimage to the holy places, but Israel and Jordan share Jerusalem between them, snarling at each other through the Mandelbaum Gate which divides them. Barbara, the heroine, will be in danger in Jordan, since it must leak out that she has Jewish blood, and the plot concerns the attempt of an ineffectual British consular official to get her safely juicy couture outlet back to the Israeli sector. Much of the story is fantastic thriller material, involving mad disguises, unexpected sexual exploits, discoveries of unsuspected espionage. The moral seems to be that in a mad world -- which a divided Jerusalem well enough symbolizes -- we must become mad ourselves, throwing away our traditional allegiance to logic. Even the gucci jewelry Catholic Church has its contradictions and divisions (as we see, for instance, from the attitude of the Italian Franciscans to the English priest saying mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), but there is eternal truth -- Jerusalem the Golden -- underlying all. The best analogue of a God who reveals himself in strange ways is the wayward imagination of man. Though there is a certain lack of the old ruthlessness and magic here (it was recovered when Muriel Spark reverted to short forms), it is a well-wrought and stimulating novel hard to forget.God is death, the eternal butcher, full of the filthiest and most ingenious practical jokes.The young officer Churchill falls in love with Catharine Casement, who deserves this benison after a nightmare life with a sadistic husband; then God sneaks in sniggering with the gift of cancer to the breast. There are other divinely dealt nastinesses. Ayscue, who says that he took clerical orders coach outlet the better to wage war on God, risks a prayer towards the end of the story: "Catharine. Don't do it to her. Let her get well and stay well. Please." But, an earnest of His infinite badness, God at once has a stab, not louis vuitton outlet store at Catharine, but at a smaller and more defenceless life. I can of only one sourer ending -- that of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, a book which, affirming the devil, also affirms a beneficent God. In this Amis universe there is only God the Great Gangster. Can one really wage war against him? One can make certain existential gestures, totally impotent, but that perhaps is better than doing nothing. Theologically unsound, The Anti-Death League is nevertheless a noble cry from the heart on behalf of human suffering.This can be described as a masque of ultimate bitterness -- not against human institutions but against God -- in the form of a -weapon-and-spy story. The setting is not the land of the Flemings (though, as Amis's James Bond pastiche Colonel Sun shows, he can be comfortable enough in that country) but England in the sixties, with a cold war and a yellow peril, the chief male interest distributed among the officers of No.6 Headquarters Administration Battalion, which is engaged on something . This army unit has, as it must have, collective death in view. Someone unknown -- we find out at last, but we are expertly kept guessing -- finds, among these potential killers, the organization of the title. Ayscue, the chaplain, is sent an anonymous juicy couture outlet poem for the unit magazine he is starting, and this is the first shot in a war against God. God speaks in this ode To a Baby Born Without Limbs and promises "plenty of other stuff up My sleeve -- Such as Luekemia and polio" (the misspelling is a deliberate blind).This book is gucci allegory, parody, didactic treatise, fable, religious codex, and the taking of it seriously entails the taking of it unseriously. Before you begin the story, you have to read a series of fake publisher's readers' reports on the book itself (an ironic frame, as with Don Quixote). Then you dive into an all too intelligible allegory. George the hero has been brought up among goats by a Professor Spielman who, out of love with the world which suicidally perverts pure science, has become a tragophile, believing that "der goats is humaner than der men, and der men is goatisher than der goats". George goes to New Tammany College to learn to be human. This is the most important establishment on West Campus, which is in rivalry with East Campus. There have been terrible riots, but none since Tammany invented WESCAC to destroy its enemies. The university is a universe of deadly acronyms. WESCAC can EAT people (Electroencephalic Amplification and Transmission); it has been turned, because of the dangers from EASCAC, into a computer-annihilator of great power. George himself is a produce of a Grand-tutorial Ideal: Laboratory Eugenical Selection -- hence GILES. His striving towards being a messiah or Grand Tutor gives the book coach store outlet its plot. He rejects NOCTIS (Non-Conceptual Thinking and Intuitional Synthesis), even science itself, and -- we have to have a full-length parody of Oedipus Tyrannos to make the point -- the Panglossian optimism of the Chancellor which, being untragic, is also not tragoid (or goatish). This sounds fantastic and is, all 742 pages of it. This is a brief taut masterpiece dealing with the realities of life in present-day South Africa. One morning Liz van den Sandt receives a telegram saying that her former husband, Max, has drowned himself. Why? Intelligent, sensitive, a little neurotic, he had wished to live life honourably, not in the manner of the majority of white South Africans, who accept apartheid as a condition of their smug prosperity. He had the opportunity of entering one of the professions of the white establishment, or of following a political career like his father's -- one that was based on hypocrisy and lies, the alternative being treason to the state. Max louis vuitton outlet store rejected such ambition, but the rejection obviated the fulfilment of a need that all human beings have -- to belong to the society into which one is born, to be accepted. He sought to be accepted by liberal or radical groups, he even worked with black politicians, but he could not belong to the oppressed -- the segregated townships, the chained prada outlet prisoners. Under police interrogation he was forced to betray his white and black associates, totally lost self-respect, had no alternative to suicide.Walker Percy is a novelist of the American South, perhaps not well known in Britain. James Dickey the poet says: "I consider Mr Percy the most original novelist now writing in English," a large claim. Of the originality one need be in no doubt. The chief character here is a young Southerner, Barrett, decent, amiable, but pathologically withdrawn from life, viewing it through a Tetzlar telescope which, with $8.35, "an old frame house, and a defunct plantation", makes up his patrimony. He sets up his telescope in Central Park, Manhattan, and keeps seeing a lady he s of as the Handsome Woman, as well as a girl who he learns is prada called Kitty. He follows them, eavesdrops, s he is in love with the girl, moves in the direction of being involved with people again. He is very much a Southerner, capable of spasms of useless hatred for the Union, romantic though trained as an engineer, chivalric, a misfit in brutal New York. Love is confirmed, but what does one do about love? Love means responsibility not gucci outlet online only for Kitty but for her brother Jamie, who is slowly dying of an incurable disease. The three move south, looking for a home, an identity. The plot is less important than the delineation of character, the preoccupation with the way people speak and define themselves geographically and historically (Percy is a professional linguist and has written learnedly about language), and the rendering of a composite South ("the localities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have been deliberately scrambled," says a prefatory note). The death of Jamie is the more moving for the spareness of the language -- "Jamie's bowels opened again with the spent schleppen sound of an old man's sphincter" -- and the casual nobility of Barrett, "the last gentleman", never embarrasses.Narayan is the best of the Indian writers in English -- graceful, economical, realistic but drawn to fantasy, gently humorous -- and the fictional territory of Malgudi he has created is perhaps as important a contribution to modern literature as Patrick White's Sarsaparilla or even Hardy's Wessex. He writes so consistently well that it is painful to limit him to a single book

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