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The Laughing Monsters: A Novel por Denis…
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The Laughing Monsters: A Novel (original 2014; edição 2014)

por Denis Johnson (Autor)

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3301858,649 (3.25)15
"A literary spy thriller set in Africa, where an intelligence agent is caught up in a get rich quick scheme"--
Título:The Laughing Monsters: A Novel
Autores:Denis Johnson (Autor)
Informação:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2014), Edition: 1st, 240 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
Etiquetas:mystery-crime, to-read

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The Laughing Monsters por Denis Johnson (2014)

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» Ver também 15 menções

Mostrando 1-5 de 18 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This is simply fantastic writing, and much different from anything else I have read (or in this case listed to) by Johnson. It takes place in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and the Congo, and it tells the story of a morally ambiguous Danish/American man, Roland Nair, who has worked in various intelligence agencies. The plot, which is murky at times, has him looking for an old colleague, the unforgettable Michael Adriko, who has a scheme to make a lot of money in Africa. Except that the book is not really so much about the plot as it is about Nair's inner conflicts and turmoil as he floats through this strange world trying to find some place for himself in it. It portrays the mindset of an anchorless person extremely well, and the collection of characters, almost 100% shady, that he encounters are very memorable, as are the settings and landscapes. This is a deeply immersive, very strange book that grabbed hold of me and didn't let go. It could have been much longer, in fact, and I would probably have enjoyed it as much or more--but a longer book would have made it much more a book about plot instead of a book about this very human, very pitiful character. One can only wonder where he goes from here.

The audio book was extremely well read by Scott Shepherd in a variety of accents that brought all the characters to life, especially Nair's desperation as things get darker and darker. ( )
  datrappert | Aug 30, 2020 |
After reading Tree of Smoke and Jesus' Son, I became a Denis Johnson fanboy. This, the last book he published while he was alive, confirms me as a fan. His depiction of Freetown, Sierra Leone, where I lived for a time almost 45 years ago, rang true despite a very thin plot. Of course, I read Johnson for his writing skill, his ambivalent characters and the murkiness of his plots. ( )
1 vote nmele | May 19, 2020 |
Denis Johnson, for me at least, has always represented a more important place in American Lit than Bukowski. He is a tenderer, internationally aware, less solipsistic writer in my opinion. Though Johnson's writing lacks a lot of the wild humor, it is still black comedy and is often rowdy and mean.

The Laughing Monsters is a terse, constrained Heart of Darkness, where most of the day-to-day duties of an international amateur (or professional?) terrorist lend it an air of realism. The larger-than-life characters and grandiose plot devices undermine the seemingly less-than-competent narrator's blase attitude toward existence. Like Bukowski, the main character lugs around a sack of discontent and unfulfilled ideals, and an obvious label of 'washed-up' immediately comes to mind.

Taking place in Ghana, the Congo and Sierra Leone, about as much action occurs as one might expect from D. J., which is to say, not a ton, but just enough to justify all of the brooding, which is just another of many excuses to drink, not to mention a convenient moment to engage in a tad of womanizing.

Money is the root of all evil. We all understand that. But from Nair's perspective, it is a necessary, and alluring evil. This is more of a travel narrative, I thought, than an espionage thriller, and the commentary it gives on the state of affairs and the picture it paints of the African continent is absorbing and well worth the cover price. ( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
The first book I've finished in two months....

Johnson is one of my favorite authors. This one was good, but not his best. More Nobody Move than Train Dreams.

It reads like a pastiche of Le Carre and Heart of Darkness, but with sense of humor.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Johnson, but I'd refer the uninitiated elsewhere. ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
Denis Johnson obviously has a thing for espionage as it’s supposedly practiced today. Although it’s set a few decades in the past, Tree of Smoke centered on the gathering, use, and misuse of intelligence, in particular military intelligence. In The Laughing Monsters we get spies plying their trade again, although in this case the misbehavior seems to drown out the good behavior. The Laughing Monsters features Denis Johnson’s unvarnished prose in the service of a seemingly random plot - there’s no reason a spy caper should follow logic, is there? - and a venal, unstable, impossible-to-predict first person narrator. It’s engaging as hell.

The height of Mr. Johnson’s powers comes into play here: we accompany a presumably competent narrator through a halting, lurching reality, some of it built on a seeming sense, the rest on lunatic delusion, or maybe hallucination. This presentation challenges the reader to keep her balance as best she can, because she’s going to need it to weather the storms of apparent betrayal, incarceration, near-death from thirst, and the constant - and not always successful - running from the authorities.

On the face of the narrative, we have Nair, a captain in the Danish army and spy for an arm of NATO. In Sierra Leone he meets up with a friend, a black man, Michael Adriko, from an African tribe, who has lived in the US for some time. Michael is “attached” as a trainer to the US Army but might be AWOL. Michael has cooked up a harebrained scheme to sting some very shady characters out of millions by selling them fake enriched uranium. Nair has an equally underhanded scheme afoot when the two team up. While trailing along with him, Nair helps Micheal defy death in a couple of frightening scrapes, while trying to steal his fiancée, who for some reason is with Michael in Africa.

Yes, it’s a screwy plot, delightfully so; rather simple on the surface, but full of convolutions underneath. I found the most entertaining prose written in the dialog. Nair’s interrogation by an American intelligence official is supreme. I wanted to put in a sample, but there’s just too much. The verbal sparring between the spy and the counterspy, often in sentences of three or fewer words, is priceless. I laughed, I reread it, and I laughed all over again. Conversations among Nair, Michael, and the fiancée Davidia, are almost as funny.

The Laughing Monsters is a slim, entertaining spy caper, where spies use their knowledge and skills to reach for ill-gotten gains. We don’t know for most of the book whether Nair and Michael are friends or enemies. There is certainly no giveaway or hint of how the thing will turn out, so no spoilers here, either.

The monsters of the title are many: there is a mountain range called that, the ubiquitous armed bands of looters and rapists that populate parts of Africa are certainly monsters, and the U.S., which displays its monstrousness through military assets and its use of law for convenience. I compare this to Nobody Move, Johnson’s celebrated short piece, for its focus on the moral shadows, for its brand of action, and for its injection of delightful dialog. ( )
  LukeS | Mar 29, 2016 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 18 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
“The Laughing Monsters” is a minor work — there’s no rocketing prose or conceptual jumping of lanes. Cheerfully nihilistic, it’s a buddy book dependent for much of its situation on several of Johnson’s early journalistic pieces about Liberia and Charles Taylor and the “atmosphere of happy horror” pervasive at the time. The whores and martinis and low-rent espionage seem no more than familiarly nostalgic, as does a time pre-Ebola. Africa is a hard land and it’s getting even harder.
adicionada por ozzer | editarNew York Times, JOY WILLIAMS (Nov 7, 2014)
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