Literature | ‘The Ballad of a Small Player’ listed among NYT’s top books

The Ballad of a Small Player,’ written by British novelist Lawrence Osborne and set in Macau, has been listed among the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2014.
“The setting is Macau, on the top of mainland China [and] west of Hong Kong, where our narrator, a man known to the locals as Lord Doyle, sits hunched at the tables of casinos, mustering a show of exceptional nonchalance as he burns his way through a stash of money,” writes The New York Times.
Lawrence Osborne has lived in many countries, including Thailand, France, Italy, Morocco and now the United States of America. Mr Osborne told the South China Morning Post in August that the book’s main character, as a Westerner living in Asia, mimics – to a certain extent – the author’s own life.
He said that “the aura of supernatural” in Chinese casinos has always fascinated him.
Mr Osborne chose Hong Kong and Macau for the novel’s background as he believes his story is “a fable of money,” and therefore needed to “take root in a city devoted to money in a spectacular and visceral way.”
According to The New York Times review, “‘The Ballad of a Small Player’ forgoes Osborne’s gifts of social satire but retains his sense of dread and gift for gimlet-eyed metaphors. Examples include “that old crone’s face ‘like an overripe peach, furred and uneven;’ a gambler on his way to the table ‘like a raccoon on its way to a Dumpster’ (…).”
Mr Osborne’s novel “is a vivid and feverish portrait of a soul in self-inflicted purgatorio,” stated The New York Times.
A review by British newspaper The Guardian noted that “the beauty of this novel is in the elegance and precision of its prose.”
The New York Times 100 Notable Books list comprises of noteworthy fiction, poetry and nonfiction selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review each year.

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