Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz

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Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Laura Bailey
Reviewed by Laura Bailey
Summary: Rhyming Love and Death carries the reader into a world where the line between fiction and reality is never where you expect it to be. It is a contemplation on the nature of both writing and of being a writer.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099521020

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Rhyming Love and Death is a kind of philosophical love letter to literature, or perhaps more so to fiction. It is a book about how to write, about the compulsion to write, and about the strange world that the writer of fiction must live in.

Throughout the novel the main character is, slightly ominously, only referred to as the Author. The vague hints of a plot are blurred and buried under a deliberate haze of confusion. The novel starts with the Author sitting in a Cafe while waiting to attend a 'literary evening' to discuss his latest book. From there onwards the reader has to work through a maze of fictitious events and people, trying to decide which of these events, if any, are really taking place, and which are simply stories created in the mind of the Author. We are told that the Author writes as a way of overcoming a fear of physical contact, a way to get to know people without actually having to 'touch them' and this is what Oz wants his reader to experience.

The novel is full of beautiful details, making the reader think and showing that the author, both the one who wrote the novel and the one whom it is about, are careful documenters of the human condition. The specificity of these details turns each character into an almost too false collection of idiosyncrasies which helps to make them memorable. However this also adds to the sense of isolation we get from the Author as he comments on each character's situation disconnectedly before moving onto the next.

There is also a feeling that this book is about itself, about its own creation, that the Author we are reading about is the author that we are reading. The book starts with a list of questions and ends with a list of characters. As if everything in the middle is the plan for a novel and not the novel itself. Essentially that is what it is, this novel is the Author showing his reader how he comes up with the ideas for his work through his own experiences.

The book is written mostly in a detached third person voice, which switches, even sometimes in the middle of sentences, to first person. This technique, although at times confusing, demonstrates the way that the Author becomes taken over by the characters that he creates. There are also a few places where the narrative switches suddenly to second person, addressing the reader, (or perhaps the author?) directly. This shows the reader the mindset of the Author, the constant internal monologue that is made up of other people's stories. It seems that the Author is unsure himself how much of his life is fiction and shows the reader the psychology of a writer.

The book is relatively short and the smoothness of the stream-of-consciousness style narrative means that the reader is pulled along right to the end without noticing. When the book finished I wanted to read it again, to get back into the well of thoughts, questions and details that is a kind of blissful vortex of unreality.

Rhyming Love and Death is a strange but inspiring confusion of ideas that forces you ask the question what is fiction, really? And even suggests the answer that maybe, when it comes down to it, everything is fiction.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you liked Rhyming Love and Death then you should try reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, or maybe Seconds Out by Martin Kohan.

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Buy Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz at Amazon.com.

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