Archive - February 2017

6 Recent and Contemporary Satirical Novels
6 Historical Satires
14 Curious Literary Terms (Part 2)
5 Recommended Non-Fiction Books

6 Recent and Contemporary Satirical Novels

Last week’s post was devoted to historical satires. This week we turn our attention to more recent and contemporary satires. Click on the links to read my reviews. If you haven’t done so already you might be interested in signing up to my newsletter (more information at bottom of this post).


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)


Based on Heller’s own experiences as a bombardier in WWII, this best-selling, satirical, anti-war novel, took its American author eight years to write.

My Review: Set on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during WWII, Catch-22 is about the exploits of the fictitious 256th Squadron. We follow protagonist Yossarian and his comrades’ farcical attempts…(more)

Subject Satirised: War


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse-Five’s anti-war rhetoric has resulted in it being banned from numerous US schools and libraries. This satirical story is about a survivor of the notorious firebombing of Dresden.

My Review: Narrated in a non-linear order, the story follows protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s journey through life. A married optometrist with two children, Billy is a veteran of World War II, and a survivor of the notorious…(more)

Subject Satirised: War


High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (1975)


High-Rise is a tale about how the social order can fragment. Tense, bleak and satirical, it explores the connection between technology and the human condition.

My Review: Set in an apartment tower block in London, High-Rise is a dystopian tale about the intense animosity that develops between the building’s various floors. The story centres around three characters…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Contemporary society & high-rise housing


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

American Psycho

American Psycho is a satire of the yuppies culture of the 1980s that caused outrage when it was published due to its explicit violent and sexual content. It went on to become a cult classic.

My Review: American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame. The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman…(more)

Subject Satirised: 1980s yuppies culture


Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (1999)

The book’s premise, the superficial vanity of the beauty industry, is used both to explore the unattractive side of human nature and, in customary Palahniuk fashion, to satirise society.

My Review: Shannon McFarland is a catwalk model, who is the centre of attention wherever she goes. That is until she ‘accidentally’ blasts her jaw shot off with a gun whilst driving down the highway. Shannon is left…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Human nature & the beauty industry 


Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (2007)


Rant challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires, motives and beliefs. There are obvious parallels with  the gospels.

My Review: Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. Rant’s childhood companions from the small rural town where…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Human nature, society & oral history 


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A Black Comedy of True Distinction

6 Historical Satires

This week’s post is dedicated to six of history’s most famous literary satires. There will be a second instalment featuring more recent and contemporary satires next week. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)


Gulliver’s Travels is a humorous and vulgar satirical work that mocks politics, non-conformist churches, science, the social order and the accepted role of the family.

My Review: Intrepid English adventurer Lemuel Gulliver’s fictional memoirs are divided into four parts. In the first our shipwrecked protagonist is washed ashore in the land of Lilliput, a place populated by people so…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Pretty much everything


Candide by Voltaire (1759)


Candide is an eighteenth-century satirical classic that evaluates optimism; the prevailing philosophical ideology of The Enlightenment. Voltaire sought to dispel the belief that all is for the best when it is not.

My Review: Brought up in the household of a German baron, cheerful protagonist Candide has been instilled with the philosophy of Leibniz, notably – That all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds…(more)

Subjects Satirised: The Church & The Enlightenment


Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)

Dead Souls is an uncompleted, satirical novel that parodies Imperial Russia and provincial Russian life. Targets for ridicule include the gentry and rural officials.

My Review: Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov is travelling around provincial Russia, visiting landowners. His purpose is to purchase papers relating to their serfs who have died since the last census. By doing so Chichikov relieves…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Provincial Russian life & more besides


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a satire of American southern antebellum society that parodies religion, morality, literature and above all the practice of slavery.

My Review: 13-year-old Huckleberry Finn is living in Missouri with a widow who plans to ‘sivilize’ him. That is until his alcoholic father relocates him to an isolated cabin in the woods. Huck fakes his own death and escapes…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Slavery & numerous others


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World

This dystopian work utilises erudite social commentary and subtle satire to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient.

My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma…(more)

Subjects Satirised: Society, technology & totalitarianism


Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

Light-hearted and wryly humorous, this satirical work lampoons the romanticised, often doom-laden ‘loam and lovechild’ novels of the 19th and early 20th century.

My Review: Although harbouring concerns about countryside living, recently orphaned, 19-year-old Flora Poste decides to go and live with relatives in rural Sussex. Her destination, the ramshackle and backward Cold…(more)

Subject Satirised: Loam and lovechild novels


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14 Curious Literary Terms (Part 2)

A while back I devoted a blog post to the subject of curious literary terms. This is the second and final instalment. The following literary terms are presented in alphabetical order.

Beast Fable — A narrative with speaking animals for characters. These didactic texts aim to teach us lessons about morality. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is one beast fable we are all familiar with.

Bowdlerise — A form of censorship that entails removing perceived indecent, immoral and/or pornographic words/passages from a narrative.

Eye Dialect — The use of unconventional spellings to signify conventional pronunciation. For example, ‘She shud of left by now’ in place of ‘She should have left by now.’

Oneiromancy — The belief that the future can be predicted by analysing dreams.

Onomatopoeia — Words that mimic sounds, e.g. a buzzing bee, or a crackling fire.

Ornamentalism —  An elaborate prose style in which the manner of narration is more important than its content. Vladimir Nabokov was an ardent devotee.

Pandect — A book purporting to contain all conceivable information on a given subject.

Portmanteau — A portmanteau combines two or more words to form a new word that expresses a single idea that is different from its component parts. Take brunch, a combination of two words, breakfast and lunch.

ProsopopoeiaA type of personification in which inanimate objects have the ability to speak.

Synecdoche — A device in which a part of a given thing represents the whole, or vice versa. If only I had some wheels (wheels are merely part of a car, but are representative of the whole).

Wanderjahr  A time in a character’s life when they diverge from their usual routine i.e. travelling, gap year etc.

Verbiage — Superfluous words in a sentence that detract from its impact.

Zeitgeist — The trends and fashions that represent the essence of a period in time.

Zoomorphic — Relating to a deity that is believed to take the form of an animal.


5 Recommended Non-Fiction Books

In recent years, in addition to my writing (3 novels to date) I have read a lot of fiction. But of late I have been indulging in some non-fiction reading for a change. After all variety is the spice of life, or so they say. The following 5 works of non-fiction intrigued me due to their subject matter, and they did not disappoint. Perhaps one or two might interest you too. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)

Narrated by a skilled storyteller, Dreamland is a meticulously researched, multi-faceted work about addiction, entrepreneurship and the perils posed by unrestrained corporate greed.

My Review: This award winning account of America’s opiate epidemic asserts that its origins are two-fold — the pharmaceutical industry and Mexican importation. In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced its new opiate-containing, prescription pain-reliever, OxyContin…(more)


King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (1998)

King Leopold’s Ghost is a compelling and disturbing tale of corruption, greed and the injustices of colonialism, the echoes of which continue to resonate in the DR Congo to this day.

My Review: The Belgian King, Leopold II, had grown envious of his European neighbours’ portfolio of colonies, and longed for a colony that he could call his own. After much deliberation Leopold set his heart on a vast tract of land in central Africa. British explorer Henry Morton Stanley was…(more)


Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie (2015)

Through fastidious research and extensive interviewing historian Lownie has created a compelling and revisionist account of the life of surely the most charismatic member of the ‘Cambridge Five’.

My Review: This biography of the notorious spy Guy Burgess recounts his life from birth through to premature death in Moscow, aged fifty-two in 1963. After spending his formative years at the naval college Dartmouth and Eton, Burgess attended Trinity College, Cambridge…(more)


The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese (2016)

The Voyeur’s Motel is comprised of the confessions of Gerald Foos, a former Colorado motel owner and voyeur. It is a curious and compelling work, boasting a perceptive protagonist and an effective journalistic approach.

My Review: Foos’s lifelong obsession began in childhood, spying on his aunt through the window of her bedroom. It was his purchase in the 1960s of the Manor Park Motel in Aurora, Colorado that provided Foos with the perfect opportunity to indulge in his passion. Having constructed a viewing area…(more)


Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)

Providing fascinating insights into North Korea, Nothing To Envy is an engrossing text that effortlessly captures the lives of its interviewed North Korean defector subjects. It is the best work of non fiction I have ever read.

My Review: Published in 2009, Nothing To Envy is a novelisation of interviews with various North Korean defectors, hailing from Chongjin, a bleak, northern industrial city, far from the country’s Potemkin village capital, Pyongyang. There is particular emphasis on the famine…(more)


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