Rather than write a standard review about a book written by a chess playing GM who used to live in Santa Fe, NM, I will enumerate intriguing snippets with or without commentary or observations.
One thing that has always intrigued me when reading the work of any stimulating author is whether the author shares the views of the characters he develops. Lisa’s author Jesse Kraai may prefer not to divulge this type of information maintaining the mystery so as to prop up the sales of future writings which is understandable for any budding author.
Here come the snippets:
- The novel’s protagonist Lisa attended a college prep school called Mens Conscia Recti(motto of CPS in Oakland,CA which translates to a mind conscious of integrity I believe). She was bored and unimpressed with students and teachers at this school comparing the students to cattle being fed and led to slaughter.
- Lisa is told by a tournament organizer(assistant arbiter) that the late GM Igor Ivanov was fond of conversing with his pieces(Perhaps Chess Psychology author Jonathan Rowson was privy to Ivanov’s predilection?)
- Lisa is compared with a Hercules beetle, whose pincers are remarkably disproportionate in size to the rest of the bug’s body, when she incisively and ruthlessly exposes the hypocrisy and shallow ways of the people around her in her journal.
- A corpulent tome of mate in twos is lent to Lisa by Ivanov as he grudgingly accepts her as a student despite the fact she an American with presumed lack of appreciation for the Royal Game. She compares solving these puzzles with “pointless math problems”. I do wonder if the author agrees with the mindset of the unforgettable character he developed regarding plowing through 500 mates in two as part of ones chess education?
- “Now she saw that each piece really only acquires meaning as part of an evolving conversation, that the individualism of each piece is clothed with larger, moving patterns” In one word, this pithy and instructional penned phrase is tantamount to the single term Coordination which is a well established element of the game….Ask Dan Heisman. Moreover, Kraai’s description of piece harmony reminds me of a writing he yielded about the way Josh Friedel sizes up or evaluates a chess position.
- The author’s tendency to issue scatological phrases rather randomly might offend the K through 6 mothers(likely not his intended audience, but the more readers the more bucks!), to wit “intestinal muck” construed as excrement, multiple utterances of “shit”, presence of a “very large human turd” located proximate to where protagonist had sat down to study her teacher’s first assignment. If expletives flow naturally in a story and are necessary to better understand plot line or character development, then fine. It was almost was as if the author was trying to keep his readers awake which was quite unnecessary for an effort that was already quite the page turner for me.
- Perhaps this is reaching, but I recall 2 or 3 appearances of the phrase “Polgar girls”. It is unlikely that the protagonist, as I understand her development, would use this phrase as the most common reference is “Polgar sisters” or women to the younger Lisa. So the bone I am picking is “girls” is marginally derisive or disrespectful when the “girls” you are talking about are the best women players in the world or any mature women for that matter. Oh well….enough of the tenuous rant.
- Lisa’s life was directionless and empty until the alcoholic Ivanov mentored her. The PHD philosopher author characterized the transformation as an “unambiguous vector” borrowing from the lexicon of physics.
- Ivanov opined “White American women make underground system to stop the chess”. Sometimes addict chess players don’t see how aberrant and on the fringe their obsession is viewed by the mainstream. Addict chess players are rarely provident often burdening their families and loved ones with their lack of ambition. Many suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) not realizing the rest of the world could not care less about their obsession with a board game. Some women see chess as a crucial waste of intellectual energy keeping their husband from utilizing brain in fashion that would produce more income for his family. This is somewhat offset by the quality of the sex after dad has come home from long tense tournament needing a way to liberate volcanic libido provided he did not already do it by himself.