Madness is better than defeat
Book - 2018
"A wild, astonishing novel (by arguably England's most accomplished young writer) about Manhattan and Hollywood in the 1930s, Mayan gods, and a CIA operation gone terribly wrong--and the Booker short-listed Ned Beauman's magnum opus thus far. In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemi...ngly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is a locus of conspiracies grander than anyone could ever have guessed. Shot through with insanity, conspiracy, ingenuity, and adventure, showcasing Beauman's anarchic humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat teases, absorbs, entertains, and dazzles in equal measure"--
- Action and adventure fiction
New York :
Alfred A. Knopf
- First United States edition
- Item Description
- "This is Borzoi Book."
"Originally published in Great Britain by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, a Hachette UK company, London, in 2017."
- Physical Description
- 399 pages ; 25 cm
- Main Author
*Starred Review* We described the ever-innovative, unabashedly unconventional Beauman's The Teleportation Accident (2013) as taking readers down a narrative wormhole. That wormhole just got deeper and, well, more corkscrewy. Beauman's latest, as brilliant as it is offbeat, begins in 1938 with an underwater wrestling match between an octopus and a longshoreman, a scene that quickly comes to feel quaintly realistic. Our narrator is a newspaper reporter called Zonulet, who moves on to become a CIA agent—until the wormhole (in the form of a Mayan temple in the Honduran jungle) draws him down. The temple has attracted two very different sets of Americans: a group of New Yorkers assigned the task of disassembling the recently discovered structure and carting it back to Manhattan, and a Hollywood film crew determined to make a Conrad-inspired movie set at the temple. Twenty years on—we're into the '50s now—the two groups remain at loggerheads, coexisting in a state that swings from Lord of the Flies to Brigadoon in the Jungle. There's plenty more, too, from CIA dirty tricks to some charming elements of metafiction, delivered by Zonulet's sometime lover, Vansaka, who complains that Zonulet/Beauman introduces a minor character in the beginning and then expects us "to remember who he is 10,000 pages later." She's right, of course, but in the end, like Vansaka, we stick with Zonulet anyway. Wormholes are like that, especially if they're as flat-out beguiling as this one. Each twist leads to something more head-scratchingly tantalizing than what came before, and it doesn't hurt that the whole thing is just so damn clever and crazy funny. Don't even think about giving up partway in, because, as Zonulet explains, "until it is too late to turn back, you have not really set out." Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
In a Virginia warehouse in 1959, Zonulet, a journalist-turned-CIA agent, pores through a massive archive of documents, searching for evidence that will clear his name. In so doing, he provides a long and twisty account of his attempt to locate two groups of Americans who traveled to Spanish Honduras in 1938 and vanished without a trace. One group, financed by a New York industrialist, was sent to find a sacred Mayan temple, deconstruct it, and bring it back to the United States. The other was a film crew from Los Angeles sent to find the same temple and use it as a backdrop for a Hollywood comedy. The standoff in the jungle would keep them there for years, and a more fanciful cast of characters would be hard to imagine. Among them are a Cambridge ethnologist hoping to secure her academic reputation, a malicious gossip columnist who wields power by virtue of the secrets he has uncovered, and a Nazi war criminal who convinces the news-starved people of both groups that the war ended peacefully with a German-American alliance. VERDICT Mystery, murder, and mayhem abound in this highly imaginative, devilishly plotted adventure from Granta Best of Young British Writers Beauman, author of the Man Booker long-listed The Teleportation Accident.—Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
In this rowdy, thoroughly satisfying literary adventure, Beauman (Glow) takes readers deep into the jungle of Honduras. An eclectic Hollywood film crew sets out to film on location at a mysterious Mayan temple, but they arrive to find that another group of Americans got there the day before and is disassembling the temple in order to take it back as a trophy for their wealthy benefactor. There is a standoff between the two groups: the days turn into weeks and the weeks into years. After 18 years, the two factions have turned into minisocieties acting out a sort of proxy war on behalf of their two backers. The extensive cast includes a relentless newspaper gossip columnist on one side and a burgeoning ethnologist on the other. Somehow, the film crew uses the silver they find to manufacture film stock from scratch and produce millions of feet of footage that ultimately end up in a secret government archive. Yet, the mystery that eludes both camps—and the reason secret agents are circling the situation—is what's inside the temple itself. Exquisitely comic and absurd, Beauman's imaginative novel brims with the snappy dialogue, vivid scenery, and converging story lines of an old Hollywood classic; it also says something essential about the nature of film and memory. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Feb.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.
In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a huge Hollywood production on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues. Twenty years later, a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit the temple for his own ends, unaware that it is a locus of conspiracies far grander than anyone could ever have guessed.
Shot through with intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, and showcasing Beauman’s riotous humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat is a novel without parallel: inventive, anarchic, and delightfully insane.