Prague by Arthur Phillips C/D

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I'm going to read it for a book club that some people at work invited me to. It doesn't look like the kind of thing I would ordinarily read, but I hope it's good.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 20 January 2005 22:49 (sixteen years ago) link

I read it a couple of years ago, thought it was very good. Twentysomething USians in Budapest, looking for the cool experience that will define their youth and they'll be able to look back on when they're older, worried that they're in the wrong place to find it.

Ray (Ray), Friday, 21 January 2005 11:03 (sixteen years ago) link

My impression has been that if you've ever had an experience living abroad, you will love this book. Or if you have any connection to/love for Eastern Europe. I fell into both categories, and therefore loved it. I read it twice: the first time for myself, and the second time for a book group. Everyone else in the book group didn't really like it; the only other woman who liked it as much as I did was from Croatia and had lived abroad in various places for most of her life. Everyone else couldn't relate, and therefore found it dull. Then again, some of these same haters raved about The DaVinci Code, so I don't know if I would trust their tastes.

Pay particular attention to the character of Mark: his obsession with nostalgia makes him, in my opinion, one of the greatest, most memorable modern literary characters.

zan, Friday, 21 January 2005 16:29 (sixteen years ago) link

See, this is the kind of ILB thing I like. Ray's description of the book makes it seem like self-indulgent, Ethan Hawke-ish wank. Yet Ray likes this book, and so does Zan. So now I want to read it too.


accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 21 January 2005 16:36 (sixteen years ago) link

It is very self-indulgent. But if you were an American living in Eastern Europe in the early nineties, everyone and everything was self-indulgent. (Even some of the people who were there with Peace Corps were intolerable brats.) Phillips' main character observes that everyone in Budapest at the time is either trying to turn their experience into a novel or movie script, or make money out of it. The book relates exactly what it's supposed to, in exactly the form you'd expect someone who lived there at the time to put it in.

The coolest thing? I met Arthur Phillips, and he's not pretentious at all. I think he did a great job of writing characters who embody the spirit of that time, without making it about his experience any more than was necessary (he actually admitted when asked that he had written himself into the book: as a saxophonist playing in a jazz club in a very fleeting scene). He's very much poking fun at these people and this time, while still making it feel nostalgic for those who were "there."

The only thing I was really mad about was that he wrote this book before I did.

Ooooo I could go on and on, but I'll stop. Read it if you want to...

zan, Friday, 21 January 2005 16:56 (sixteen years ago) link

Interesting, I'm looking forward to reading it. I was actually a little worried about being biased against the characters since I was never one of those kids who went to Europe or lived abroad for fun (or any other reason, it just didn't occur to me). I do have 20-something friends who lived in Prague for a year, though, so I'll have to ask them if they've read this.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 21 January 2005 17:11 (sixteen years ago) link

It was pretty good. It is definitely a time-capsule/snapshot of a place and time and the characters are self-conscious in that they know it; they are purposely there to help define history. It's an interesting conceit and it plays out nicely. There's this fresh combo of cynicism and idealism that I can relate to. Part of the problem is that I read Prague right after I read Everything Is Illuminated and it pales in comparison, but what doesn't.

mcd (mcd), Friday, 21 January 2005 17:12 (sixteen years ago) link

At least it sounds like there will be good book group fodder.

I'm not sure that I've actually participated in a non-college-related book group, should be interesting!

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 21 January 2005 17:36 (sixteen years ago) link

"...seem like self-indulgent, Ethan Hawke-ish wank"
It kind of is, in that being a relatively wealthy westerner spending a gap year in the east is a self-indulgent, wankerish thing to do, and the characters are kind of aware of that.

Ray (Ray), Monday, 24 January 2005 10:31 (sixteen years ago) link

My neighbor from Prague recommended this to me, so I guess it's none too bad of a depiction of the city. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

jocelyn (Jocelyn), Monday, 24 January 2005 14:29 (sixteen years ago) link

Jocelyn: Unfortunately, Prague only shows up in the book as a city for a split second. The story takes place in Budapest. It's called Prague because the main character keeps on wondering if Prague is where he should be, where it's all happening. Meanwhile, Budapest feels like the secondary, plan B city...

zan, Monday, 24 January 2005 15:56 (sixteen years ago) link

I know Arthur Phillips! He was the title character in my college play Let's Drop in on Sandy Random. He was kind of a dick so we played pranks on him, but then we got to be friends. He played sax in a cool band, they played a soul version of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love!"

Haven't read the book though.

Haibun (Begs2Differ), Monday, 24 January 2005 19:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Heh, apparently he wrote himself into Prague as a jazz saxophonist in a club. I was wondering if he was a good player. I sort of hope not, since he's an excellent writer.

I'm enjoying it so far. I don't find the characters sympathetic at all, but I'm trying to tell myself that shouldn't be a requirement anyway.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 27 January 2005 23:03 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Huh, I'm surprised that he came out with a new novel (Angelica) and I didn't hear anything about it. Looks interesting?

(I liked Prague and kind of loved the Egyptologist, btw)

Jordan, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:23 (fourteen years ago) link

(I liked Prague and kind of loved the Egyptologist, btw)

I felt the same way(wasn't Egyptologist terrific?) and the new book surprised me also...I think it's gotten very favorable reviews but while I thought it was technically very good, I didn't really connect with it. It is somewhat cold and clinical feeling.

johnny crunch, Tuesday, 3 July 2007 02:17 (fourteen years ago) link

Hmmm, I spent five years in Prague wondering if I shouldn't be somewhere further East or if I didn't come too late. I know I should read this but I suspect it'll be a little too familiar.

I remember when this came out in Prague, pretty much the talk of the (expat) town, everybdoy patting each other on the back for being where it was at.

baaderonixx, Wednesday, 4 July 2007 16:21 (fourteen years ago) link

one month passes...

Angelica is so good.

Jordan, Monday, 6 August 2007 18:33 (fourteen years ago) link

you liked? i was about to pick that up the other day

carne asada, Monday, 6 August 2007 18:40 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, best fiction I've read in awhile.

Jordan, Monday, 6 August 2007 19:18 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

"The Song Is You"

Julian Donahue is in love with his iPod.

Each song that shuffles through "this greatest of all human inventions" triggers a memory—there are songs for the girls from when he was single; there’s the one for the day he met his wife-to-be, and another for the day his son was born. But when his family falls apart, even music loses its hold on him, and he has nothing.

Until one snowy night in Brooklyn, when his life’s soundtrack—and life itself—starts to play again. He stumbles into a bar and sees Cait O’Dwyer, a flame haired Irish rock singer performing with her band, and a strange and unlikely love affair is ignited.

Over the next few months, their passion for music and each other is played out, though they never meet. In cryptic e-mails, text messages, cellphone videos, and lyrics posted on Cait’s website, they find something in their bizarre friendship that they cannot find anywhere else. Cait’s star is on the rise, and Julian gently guides her along her path to fame—but always from a distance—and she responds to the one voice who understands her, more than a fan, but still less than a lover.

As their feelings grow more feverish, keeping a safe distance becomes impossible. What follows is a love story and a uniquely heart-breaking dark comedy about obsession and loss.

The Song Is You is a closely observed tale of love in the digital age that blurs the line between the longing for intimacy and the longing for oblivion.

oh man, i've liked all his other books but this sounds terrible.

some know what you dude last summer (Jordan), Wednesday, 19 November 2008 21:48 (twelve years ago) link

wow wtf

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 19 November 2008 22:06 (twelve years ago) link

four months pass...,26259/

good review at the av club, but i still don't know if i can make it past the premise.

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Monday, 13 April 2009 18:44 (twelve years ago) link

it got a good review in the NYT book review, by another author, not some "professional" reviewer

Mr. Que, Monday, 13 April 2009 18:45 (twelve years ago) link

just read the egyptologist and angelica, need to add prague and (i guess) this new one to my library hold list

congratulations (n/a), Monday, 13 April 2009 18:50 (twelve years ago) link

xp wau im a big fan of kate christensen too (nyt reviewer). her liking it is enough for me to hit my library 4 this

johnny crunch, Monday, 13 April 2009 19:00 (twelve years ago) link

i haven't read any kate christensen but i'll check her out.

that review does put some of my fears to rest but i'd almost rather read a musician's review of this than an author's, you know?

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Monday, 13 April 2009 19:37 (twelve years ago) link

fiction about music is usually pretty iffy, i agree, but the NYT review sounds promising

congratulations (n/a), Monday, 13 April 2009 19:37 (twelve years ago) link

got abt 40 pgs into this yesterday and im diggin it.

Julian Donahue is in love with his iPod.

just seein ^this^ again on the inside flap tho made me want to close it immediately

johnny crunch, Friday, 17 April 2009 14:30 (twelve years ago) link

finished it tonight. honestly, it was great and i agree w/ the nyt review wholeheartedly.

johnny crunch, Monday, 27 April 2009 03:37 (twelve years ago) link

huh just finished the song is you and found it pretty disappointing, though the problem wasn't so much the writing but that i wasn't really interested in the story and didn't understand the characters (particularly the main female character). some of the music stuff was decently done, especially the song lyrics and the more cynical stuff about audiences and band relationships. but there was a fair amount of embarrassing music stuff too, like terrible joke band names and a lot of really overromanticized stuff about performance (though this fits in with the overall tone of the book).

congratulations (n/a), Friday, 8 May 2009 19:56 (twelve years ago) link

actually the writing was a lot more ornate than his other books too. the egyptologist is still my fave

congratulations (n/a), Friday, 8 May 2009 19:59 (twelve years ago) link

yea tbqh i would still rate them something like:


tho i like them all.

i think the song is you is a bit of a fantasy incorporating nice concepts abt obsession & playfulness juxtoposed against idk social norms and being a stalker that i really dug. did not really feel the character of the brother and the 'incident' but the main f and main m both worked for me.

basically the nyt review nailed how i feel more eloquently than i ever could which i why i just cited to that again

johnny crunch, Friday, 8 May 2009 21:09 (twelve years ago) link

two months pass...

dude has an interesting article in the newest issue of the believer (the music issue) about the pitfalls of writing about music. it's short enough that you can read it in the bookstore without buying the mag.

congratulations (n/a), Friday, 31 July 2009 01:58 (twelve years ago) link

oh it's also right here:

congratulations (n/a), Friday, 31 July 2009 01:59 (twelve years ago) link

i liked prague, definitely a lighter read than i usually go for. i kinda forgot about it tho, sounds like i should check some of these other titles out.

velko, Friday, 31 July 2009 02:47 (twelve years ago) link

i'm enjoying 'the song is you' so far, despite my misgivings.

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Friday, 31 July 2009 13:35 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

new one sounds pretty entertaining:

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 10 February 2011 23:19 (ten years ago) link

i guess they're not playing marketing games with it anymore

bows don't kill people, arrows do (Jordan), Thursday, 10 February 2011 23:22 (ten years ago) link

guess i put this on a shakespeare thread instead of here:

i'm guessing arthur phillips is playing games here, and his next book is going to be fakespeare?

― bows don't kill people, arrows do (Jordan), Monday, January 3, 2011 3:30 PM (1 month ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

bows don't kill people, arrows do (Jordan), Thursday, 10 February 2011 23:23 (ten years ago) link

oh i didn't see that. also can't watch it right now.

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 10 February 2011 23:37 (ten years ago) link

two months pass...

it's relatively amazing to me how phillips can regularly pick topics/genres that i would otherwise never seek out & yet i enjoy them.

memoir & coming-of-age mixed w/ fakespeare? ugh right, but im 100+ pgs in and into it

johnny crunch, Thursday, 5 May 2011 17:06 (ten years ago) link

seven years pass...

suddenly just remembered this guy and wondered where he's been ... 7 years since his last book

na (NA), Thursday, 26 July 2018 21:10 (three years ago) link

Afaik he's been writing for tv (like that Bloodline show), and working on adaptations of his novels for Hollywood, ie making that real money.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 26 July 2018 21:17 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

i kind of forgot about arthur phillips but i was looking for something to read and apparently he published a new novel in february - "the king at the edge of the world." gonna check it out.

na (NA), Wednesday, 1 July 2020 14:01 (one year ago) link

huh, report back!

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 1 July 2020 14:08 (one year ago) link

I loved it, my fave new novel in awhile.

change display name (Jordan), Wednesday, 1 July 2020 14:31 (one year ago) link

yeah "the king at the edge of the world" was very good. best "literary fiction" i've read in a long while.

na (NA), Monday, 13 July 2020 15:13 (one year ago) link

Glad you enjoyed it!

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 16 July 2020 21:33 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

After finishing The King at the Edge of the World I thought I could stand to read some more by this guy, I guess I'll pick up The Egyptologist next.

ledge, Monday, 11 October 2021 08:39 (one week ago) link

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