Official Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

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inaramid
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Latest Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Official Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Post by inaramid » 11 Sep 2018, 05:53

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "St. Anthony's Fire" by Garry Harper.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Sitting down to read St. Anthony’s Fire by Garry Harper is like falling into a crazy, drug-induced dream. We find ourselves in The City, following the mishaps of an unlucky trio of friends who each must contend with the not-so-usual hassles of city life. Reliable and pensive Rabelais is grappling with an existential question. Irritable, brash Orrin is trying to rectify a clerical error. Only the shrewd, ironic John is living the American dream: “doing as little work as possible with no repercussions.”

Then things took a turn for the absurd. Rabelais’s quest for The Answer unwittingly sparked the genesis of a new religion, Rabelaism, along with a rabid band of followers who called themselves the Rabelites. Orin, who had to drop one ‘R’ from his name in a silly case of mistaken identity, was forced to run for mayor, swept up by a tide of blind, overzealous supporters. And John? Well, let’s just say his life went up in flames.

In St. Anthony’s Fire, Harper turns a satirical eye on religion, politics, the business world, corporate life, sociology, psychology, and the very pulse of the society that we live in. The City could be anywhere, and its flock of sometimes naïve, often mindless denizens could just as well be us. Harper deftly steers his protagonists into a series of strange, hilarious calamities, all the while juggling their interactions with a compelling cast of supporting characters. We meet a doe-eyed bachelorette dreaming of true love, a poor rich girl forced by her parents to attend — gasp! — art school, a press relations officer who single-handedly redefined the concept of ‘employee commitment,’ ardent activists and cultists, and lots and lots of the idiotic voting public.

Harper sets in motion a chain of events so ridiculous, so inanely impossible, that it was difficult to keep a straight face when confronted with the situations themselves, with the characters’ reactions, and with the personal and societal fallouts. At one point, it seemed to me like the characters lacked agency and that the entire point of the book was to demonstrate just how much the individual is a slave to the whims of the many. Events didn’t strictly follow chronology, and there were several disparate plot elements that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. Towards the middle, my greatest worry was that I’d emerge out of the madness of it all with no clear conclusion or resolution and no substantial takeaway other than several moments of gut-busting laughter. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. At the very least, I could walk away from the book entertained.

However, the book description did warn, “If reading it leaves you feeling frustrated and miserable, with a worse outlook on life and the world around you, then it has done its job.” And indeed, I stopped laughing. There was a moment when it all became too real, that sobering moment when the book was no longer a book but a mirror of the world I live in. Yes, this is a darkly comedic work of fiction that seems to lampoon the entire notion of society, of humanity, but it does so within the confines of a compelling story. It’s not an easy read, and Harper (perhaps deliberately) made it even more challenging to absorb. Harper’s prose is articulate but far from simple. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met the words pococurantism, hebetudinous, farouche, prosopons, and solipsistic until my immersion in St. Anthony’s Fire. I couldn’t decide if the text was pretentious or if Harper was being ironic with his choice of words. Regardless, the constant need to check the dictionary is the only deterrent I could see for readers not to enjoy this work.

I rate St. Anthony’s Fire a well-deserved 4 out of 4 stars. The book is professionally edited and presented, something that would make a great gift for the budding philosopher or any keen-eyed academic. It might not lend itself so well to the casual reader, but give it time, like I did, and it might just grow on you, too. Hilariously absurd and yet absurdly true, St. Anthony’s Fire is a timely book for these turbulent times.

******
St. Anthony's Fire
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Post by Amanda Deck » 11 Sep 2018, 19:43

Other than wishing the darkness hit first and THEN the laughter, it sounds like something I want to read. "Lampoon the entire notion of society, of humanity..." is what my sons and I do at times to deal with the absurdity of life, fits right in. I don't particularly enjoy the thought of a confusing book, but it's not as if my brain couldn't use a workout now and again.

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Latest Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Post by inaramid » 11 Sep 2018, 20:06

Amanda Deck wrote:
11 Sep 2018, 19:43
Other than wishing the darkness hit first and THEN the laughter, it sounds like something I want to read. "Lampoon the entire notion of society, of humanity..." is what my sons and I do at times to deal with the absurdity of life, fits right in. I don't particularly enjoy the thought of a confusing book, but it's not as if my brain couldn't use a workout now and again.
:D The laughter is never in short supply -- and always at moments when it's needed. This isn't my first foray into satirical fiction, and the problem I often find with others is that there's only the barest semblance of a plot. Fortunately, this isn't the case with this book, but true, it will give your brain a workout. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by AliceofX » 12 Sep 2018, 03:27

Wow, you wrote a really great review. The story seems interesting, but it sounds like for me it would be a chore to get through a book like that.

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Post by kandscreeley » 12 Sep 2018, 08:23

Wow! Great review. I don't normally go for satire for the very reasons that you mention. It starts off as funny, but in the end, it's all too real. It hits home in a dark way. Thanks for the review. It sounds very well done, but I'm going to skip it.
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Post by Sakilunamermaid » 12 Sep 2018, 11:19

This satire that shines light on the sobering reality that we are all drones to the system and slaves to reality is pretty cool. I look forward to seeing this authors prose and writing style. I appreciate social commentary and the absurdity of the characters situations sounds quite compelling. Hopefully this doesn't make me overly pessimistic when it comes to politics and organized religion.

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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 12 Sep 2018, 23:16

Wow, judging by your review, seems like this book, just like its cover, is on fire! A satirical comedy with an engaging plot is surely a plus point however, this book can be quite a challenge to absorb. Thanks for the great review!

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Latest Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Post by inaramid » 13 Sep 2018, 00:15

Thanks for dropping by, guys!
AliceofX wrote:
12 Sep 2018, 03:27
Wow, you wrote a really great review. The story seems interesting, but it sounds like for me it would be a chore to get through a book like that.
It does take time. It makes you think, but it's also fun.

kandscreeley wrote:
12 Sep 2018, 08:23
It hits home in a dark way.
Exactly! It could be very disconcerting, but at least the book was very upfront about it.

Sakilunamermaid wrote:
12 Sep 2018, 11:19
Hopefully this doesn't make me overly pessimistic when it comes to politics and organized religion.
There are a lot of things that ring true, in a funny, ridiculous way. It will make you laugh. And reflect, too.

Debjani Ghosh wrote:
12 Sep 2018, 23:16
Wow, judging by your review, seems like this book, just like its cover, is on fire! A satirical comedy with an engaging plot is surely a plus point however, this book can be quite a challenge to absorb. Thanks for the great review!
The cover's really good, right? Right? Flames and fire are a unifying element throughout. Thank you for dropping by!

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Post by gen_g » 13 Sep 2018, 00:42

This certainly seems like a great example of satire. I'm definitely interested in this type of book, so I'll try to get a copy of it. Thanks for the stunning review!

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Latest Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Post by inaramid » 14 Sep 2018, 09:15

gen_g wrote:
13 Sep 2018, 00:42
This certainly seems like a great example of satire. I'm definitely interested in this type of book, so I'll try to get a copy of it. Thanks for the stunning review!
Yep! Can't wait to hear what you think about it. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by jcoad » 17 Sep 2018, 21:46

Not sure if I'm scared of or excited for this book. I've read my share of "deep" books but not sure if I've read one that is really just spoofing everything. Sounds like you have to have the right mindset to dig into this one so I'll keep it on my list for the right time. Thanks for the very thorough review!

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Latest Review: St. Anthony's Fire by Garry Harper

Post by inaramid » 18 Sep 2018, 10:17

jcoad wrote:
17 Sep 2018, 21:46
Not sure if I'm scared of or excited for this book. I've read my share of "deep" books but not sure if I've read one that is really just spoofing everything. Sounds like you have to have the right mindset to dig into this one so I'll keep it on my list for the right time. Thanks for the very thorough review!
It did take me a bit longer to finish this, but I couldn't remember a moment when I wasn't laughing or reflecting on things. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Allyseria » 18 Sep 2018, 18:32

Thank you for your review! I like that it has a lot of funny moments but I'm worried that the book will actually succeed in leaving me with a negative outlook on life :shock2:

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