A User's Manual

Book - 1987
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Perec's spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary. From the confessions of a racing cyclist to the plans of an avenging murderer, from a young ethnographer obsessed with a Sumatran tribe to the death of a trapeze artist, from the fears of an ex-croupier to the dreams of a sex-change pop star to an eccentric English millionaire who has devised the ultimate pastime, Life is a manual of human irony, portraying the mixed marriages of fortunes, passions and despairs, betrayals and bereavements, of hundreds of lives in Paris and around the world. But the novel is more than an extraordinary range of fictions; it is a closely observed account of life and experience. The apartment block's one hundred rooms are arranged in a magic square, and the book as a whole is peppered with a staggering range of literary puzzles and allusions, acrostics, problems of chess and logic, crosswords, and mathematical formula. All are there for the reader to solve in the best tradition of the detective novel.
Publisher: Boston : D.R. Godine, 1987
ISBN: 9780879237004
Characteristics: 581 p. ; 25 cm


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Mar 03, 2019

Available in UNC but not in public library.

Jan 13, 2018

This is an amazingly thoughtful, humane, funny, adventurous, and kaleidoscopic book! It certainly merits re-readings. There are so many unusual words that one is tempted to look them up but the prose gets its momentum going and its a shame to stop. If there is one great forbear who Perec owes a nod to, it is Rabelais (and he does get a brief mention in the text and in the index (that's right, this novel has an index!)); the zaniness, the lists, and the wildness are Rabelaisian in spirit. Ultimately, its a very uplifting and enlightening - and entertaining - book. I was going to mention my favorite chapters, but the list got too long.


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