An informed yet dry scholarly essay examining the significance of time in Muriel Spark’s fiction.
Author of 22 novels, award-winning Scottish writer Dame Muriel Spark is perhaps most famous for her work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). In this extended essay, Bruno focuses on this and four other novels—Memento Mori (1959), The Girls of Slender Means (1963), The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) and The Driver’s Seat (1970)—as a way of exploring Spark’s fragmented and cyclical approach to time in her fiction. Bruno begins by examining how Spark’s life is mirrored in her fiction, addressing the role of war, religion, thrift and economy, and she then goes on to critically investigate the books themselves. The theme of time is carefully intertwined with that of memory; the manner in which Spark disrupts chronology in her fiction is tackled with aplomb. Bruno also emphasizes Spark’s interest in natural cycles, such as the passing of the seasons, as well as her use of complex time shifts intended to imitate violent disruptions in life. The reluctance to examine Spark’s entire body of work makes for a rather stunted study, although the author succeeds in working methodically through each of the chosen novels, drawing out relevant strands and providing sharp textual analysis. An awkward turn of phrase can sometimes discredit Bruno’s argument, however: “A pattern also exists in the confusion of the modern world. It is for the individual to search for it.” The result is a style both tangled and stuffy. Throughout, the essay can sometimes come across as a reworked graduate dissertation, particularly with regard to its repetitious statements of intent. The dissertation stylemight not engage a nonacademic readership, although it will certainly appeal to Spark’s dedicated fan base.
With the tenor of a thoroughly researched student essay, this insightful book will appeal to fans eager to learn more about a talented author.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.