One Big Damn Puzzler

( 10 )

Overview

On an island paradise somewhere in the South Pacific, Managua—the only native who can read or write—is busily translating Hamlet into pidgin English when a plane interrupts his noble work. Strapping on his false leg, he makes his way to the landing strip to greet the unexpected arrival: William Hardt, a young American lawyer driven by his misguided ambition to win reparations for the island's inhabitants.

Hardt is not the first white outsider to pay a visit; the British came ...

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Overview

On an island paradise somewhere in the South Pacific, Managua—the only native who can read or write—is busily translating Hamlet into pidgin English when a plane interrupts his noble work. Strapping on his false leg, he makes his way to the landing strip to greet the unexpected arrival: William Hardt, a young American lawyer driven by his misguided ambition to win reparations for the island's inhabitants.

Hardt is not the first white outsider to pay a visit; the British came earlier, bringing their language, the small pigs that run wild in the jungle, and Shakespeare . . . and the Americans followed with guns, land mines, and Coca-Cola. But in this place of riotously logical ritual, Hardt's determined quest to do good could make him the most devastating visitor of all.

Profoundly moving and achingly funny, One Big Damn Puzzler brilliantly explores the collision of the twenty-first century with unsullied pagan reality—and establishes John Harding as one of the most imaginative contemporary chroniclers of the human condition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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Fans of The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages will hoot riotously over Harding's timely tale. Managua, an elder member of an aboriginal tribe on a remote Pacific island, is the sole literate member of his community. An incomplete copy of Hamlet in hand, Managua has dedicated himself to translating the play for the edification of his people, using the island's limited lexicon. "Is be or is be not," he interprets the famous soliloquy, "is be one big damn puzzler."

After their departure from the island, the relatively benign British left a smattering of culture, an introduction to pork, and an unfinished hotel; whereas subsequently, the American military left a history of rape, a trail of unexploded ordnance (like many of his fellow islanders, Managua has only one leg), and, ominously, a generalized craving for Coca-Cola.

Young American lawyer William Hardt is determined to win compensation for the injuries sustained by the islanders. But wise Managua knows that dollars mean trouble. Yet Hardt cannot counter the impact of his well-meant yet naïve actions -- except by adapting to the old ways of the islanders himself. Supremely entertaining, with a clever plot that entwines classic literature, current events, and common sense, One Big Damn Puzzler is a must-read. (Summer 2007 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

Set on a fictional South Pacific island inhabited by black bantam pigs and a clan of nearly-naked eccentrics, this excessively zany British import has a raging conscience and a muted heart. Managua, a one-legged tribesman (most of his fellow inhabitants are missing limbs), is obsessed with transcribing Hamletinto island pidgin and finds his unconventional paradise disturbed when William Hardt, a white American lawyer, arrives to arrange reparations for natives whose limbs have been blown off by the landmines left behind years ago by the American military. Hardt soon witnesses a staggering array of peculiarities: the "the shitting beach" where villagers empty their bowels every morning; transvestite men forced into dressing in drag by parents who wanted girls; vision quests brought on by consuming "kassa," a red hallucinogenic paste. A few years after his departure from the island, Hardt's successful mission has drastic consequences for the island. Journalist Harding (While the Sun Shines) is an equal opportunity and brutally sharp lampooner, though he sometimes misses (notably in his invocation of 9/11 as a parallel to corporate America's exploitation of the island). Folly, silliness and cultural sucker punches come at full speed in this ribald, imaginative farce. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061132186
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 791,369
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

John Harding was born in a small Fenland village in the Isle of Ely in 1951. He studied English at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor before becoming a freelance writer. Harding is the author of two previous novels, What We Did on Our Holiday, which was shortlisted for the WH Smith New Talent Award, and the acclaimed While the Sun Shines. He lives in Richmond upon Thames with his wife and two sons.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2011

    I've recomended this numerous times, it's never disappointed.

    This is such a creative story! There are so many great characters. I love the islanders manner of speaking. The main character is endearing with his o.c.d ways. There are so many different elements to the story, but everything put together makes a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    Unlike anything else you may have read

    Life on a remote south pacific island juxtaposed with western notions of happiness and prosperity are explored in a touching, and unique tale which will have you laughing out loud. One Big Damn Puzzler is in a league of its own, it's too hard to compare it to anything else. Just read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    great read

    Creative storyline that makes you laugh and think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2007

    PERFECT SUMMER READ!

    This book has it all! If you can get past the graphic beach scenes you will love this book.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    the Brits gave them Shakespeare - the Americans left guns, landmines, and lawsuits

    On a remote South Pacific island, most of the inhabitants have lost one or both limbs due to landmines left by the American military years ago. In that environs, American attorney William Hardt arrives to coordinate compensation for those native victims of the military¿s neglect. To his shock they all speak English, albeit the King¿s English not the Americanized version. --- However, he meets a strange bunch of locals starting with the seemingly articulate Managua, who plans to translate Hamlet into island pidgin. He finds more oddities as parents preferring daughter dress their sons in female garb, pigs running loose owning the island because they are descendents of the British colonization, and the use by apparently everyone of the hallucinogenic 'kassa'. However, the most stunning thing of all remains the all natural giant toilet bowl ¿shitting beach' where everyone goes to take a communal crap. Still Hardt completes the mission though he has no concept of what he wrought when the serpent reentered paradise. --- Nothing is sacred as John Harding acerbically rips the globalization of American military-big business exploitation f the world. The story line is filled with jabs, hooks, and crosses including several below the belt as ONE BIG DAMN PUZZLER satirizes everything from the misuse of the 9/11 tragedy to the ¿corporacizing¿ war fighting to the growing of big government by those claiming small government goals to the illusion of a giant toilet bowl beach dump where anyone can pollute with all natural crap. The natives sum up this humorous often gross satire by knowing the Brits gave them Shakespeare while the Americans left guns, landmines, and lawsuits. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted July 29, 2009

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    Posted November 1, 2008

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    Posted December 14, 2008

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    Posted November 2, 2010

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    Posted December 13, 2009

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