California Literary Review

Profile of Garan Holcombe

Articles written for the California Literary Review:

  • Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
    Posted on 23 Sep 2008 in Fiction Reviews

    The novel is narrated by August Brill, a writer, a widower, an old man. Brill is recovering from a car accident and sharing a house with his daughter and granddaughter, who are both grieving their own losses. Brill can’t sleep and so tells himself a story about a man called Owen Brick, who wakes up to find himself in another America, an America at war, but with itself rather than Iraq. An America in which the Towers stand while all around them falls apart.

  • Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder by David Healy
    Posted on 10 Sep 2008 in Medicine, Non-Fiction Reviews, Psychology

    He refuses to accept the dominance of money over medicine and the alarming diagnoses of bipolar disorder in infants. ‘We now have a system that inhibits our abilities to find cures while encouraging companies to seek short-term profits by co-opting bipolar disorder for the purposes of increasing the sales of major tranquilizers to infants. Giving major tranquilizers to children is little different from giving children cancer chemotherapy when they have a cold.’

  • Diary of a Bad Year by J. M. Coetzee
    Posted on 06 Feb 2008 in Australia, Fiction Reviews

    His cold restraint, often criticized, is the source of his tremendous power as a novelist. His themes—displacement, power, the value of literature, the fictive possibilities of personal history—are worked and reworked into novels which shine hard like diamonds, unbreakable.

  • 30,000 Years of Art
    Posted on 04 Feb 2008 in Art, Non-Fiction Reviews

    ‘Coffee table book’ is a familiar pejorative used to describe an intellectual lounge ornament which, should the need arise, can also serve as a doorstop, table prop or weapon in marital dispute.

  • The Flawless Skin of Ugly People by Doug Crandell
    Posted on 17 Dec 2007 in Fiction Reviews

    Hobbie suffers from acne vulgaris, which has forced him into a retreat from life. ‘Other than work, I rarely go out, avoiding people as much as possible. I shop the 24-hour Wal-Mart, rent movies from the Internet, and basically stay hidden as much as I can. Having to endure people’s stares is what has made my jobs so tortuous. Sometimes I dream about pulling on this magical mask that makes my face flawless.’

  • The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
    Posted on 12 Nov 2007 in Fiction Reviews, Great Britain, Humor

    There is also something conversational about the way he writes, a straightforwardness, and a beguiling, gentle rhythm. And of course, there is that dry wit. Bennett has a genius for the sardonic one-liner, his timing is immaculate.

  • What is intelligence? by James R. Flynn
    Posted on 01 Nov 2007 in Non-Fiction Reviews, Psychology, Science

    ‘The Flynn Effect’ was the phrase Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray coined in their book The Bell Curve, to describe the enormous gains in IQ scores in the 20th century from one generation to the next, which James R Flynn, Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago, did so much to measure and document.

  • Noogie’s Time To Shine by Jim Knipfel
    Posted on 01 Oct 2007 in Crime Fiction, Fiction Reviews, Humor

    One day, a young boy scares Noogie when he is the middle of restocking a machine in Fast Eddie’s Drug Hut by shouting ‘bang’. Noogie drops four thousand dollars in twenties all over the floor, screams at the kid and then gathers the notes up. It is only when he has loaded them all into the ATM that he finds a stray twenty under his shoe. It is then that the idea for the ‘perfect slow-motion heist’ occurs to him.

  • Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
    Posted on 17 Sep 2007 in Fiction Reviews, Humor

    The childishness, the pettiness, the jealously, the nitpicking, the backstabbing, the politicking, of all this is delicious, authentic, accurate and brilliantly realised. Ferris’s office is one of pranks and games; sushi rolls find their way behind people’s bookshelves, things go missing from desks, and chairs are mysteriously swapped. There are the customary shifts and swings of popularity and power; endless arguments about who deserves to go, and who deserves to stay; and regular colloquies about some of the more unusual behaviour of the staff. But Ferris’s novel is as much about the way we act when thrown together with strangers, as it is office life.

  • Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
    Posted on 30 Aug 2007 in Fiction Reviews, Great Britain

    The Arlington Park of the title is a ‘green, ruminative, inchoate suburb’ with ‘avenues and well-pruned hedges’. We follow five married women who live there, all of whom, we are to imagine, are in early middle-age. They have young children and live in nice, comfortable houses. They do not want for money. But each is beset by worries as to the nature and meaning of their domesticated, suburban lives.

  • So Many Ways To Begin by Jon McGregor
    Posted on 16 Jul 2007 in Fiction Reviews, Great Britain

    David and Eleanor’s story is an unremarkable one. But their ordinary disappointments and frustrations are precisely what make the novel memorable. McGregor generates great poignancy by naming each chapter after various fragments of the characters’ lives, a letter, a photograph, an old wooden boat. Like Roddy Doyle, McGregor takes uncelebrated lives and invests them with dignity and depth.

  • The Collector by John Fowles
    Posted on 11 Apr 2007 in Classics, Fiction Reviews, Great Britain, Thrillers

    Fowles was a writer who always seemed content to remain in the shadows, on the edge of things. He would emerge now and again to play the part of the cantankerous recluse, but he was, in essence a private, even hermetic man.

  • Spanish Cinema: Almodóvar and Amenábar
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Movies, Movies & TV, Spain

    With camp, hedonistic and sexually vulgar films, notable for their strong, flamboyant women and their comic, melodramatic treatment of everything from necrophilia to the need to keep your eye on the gazpacho, Almodóvar has risen to the top of the Spanish film industry. But now…

  • Stanley Kubrick: The Legacy of a Cinematic Legend
    Posted on 25 Mar 2007 in Biography, Movies, Movies & TV

    Many continue to see the director’s films as cold and cynical, as being somehow stripped of heart and sentiment, as being products of a hard and rational intellect.

  • A Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson: A World to Fear and Loathe More
    Posted on 16 Mar 2007 in Biography, Non-Fiction Reviews, Writers

    Three books changed my life. George Orwell’s 1984, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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