Works of fiction to enchant the mind’s eye.
The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, Roger Ebert has been reviewing movies since 1967, and his memoir, Life Itself, chronicles his childhood and career, offering a unique perspective on the evolution of journalism and cinema over the last four decades, as well as an unflinching account of his recent ordeal with thyroid cancer — all in the context of a life the author insists has been blessed. This week, he points us to three of his favorite books that help him beguile the hours he doesn’t spend in screening rooms.
By Rohinton Mistry
“Here is the best new novel I’ve read in recent years. It centers on two poor tailors in India, whose lives reflect the great changes in their nation during their lifetimes. Mistry is a natural storyteller, and here he has the sweep and fascination of Dickens, and a similar cast of unforgettable characters. How will I ever forget the affluent man who discovers by accident a legless beggar at a street corner is his brother? At a loss how to help him, he realizes that money would only destroy the beggar’s role as a neighborhood gossip and ‘post office.’ So he buys him ball-bearing wheels for the cart that supports his trunk.”
By Charles Palliser
“Speaking of Dickens, here is a deep, vast, and richly Dickensian modern novel of London. A quincunx is ‘an arrangement of five objects with four at the corners of a square or rectangle and the fifth at its center.’ In this case, Palliser deals with five generations of five families, and five codicils to a will, all with his hero at the center. The portrait of life in those days includes harrowing details about how people could be signed away for life in a madhouse against their wills, and a trade of scavenging for coins and other treasures in the sewers beneath the city (where a rising tide can trap and doom you).”
By Georges Simenon
“Few novelists are more readable than Simenon, whose prose flows like running water. This is a new title in the New York Review of Books‘ ongoing republication of his best books. It’s told in the form of a self-justification written to a magistrate by a man ho is being tried for a heartless and inexplicable murder. Simenon is masterful in the way he toys with point of view, so that in this man’s words, and through his eyes, we see what others must have seen in him. One of the romans dur that Simenon wrote apart from his popular Maigret novels. Oh, I wrote the introduction to this edition.”