In , Two Rival Expeditions Set Off For A Lost Mayan Temple 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 Seemingly 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 The Locus Of Grander Conspiracies Than Anyone Could Have Imagined It went on a bit.Beauman is clearly very talented but also very clearly knows he is talented He s not as talented as he thinks he is 3.78 3.5 Madcap and complex definitely not historical fiction as we know it Madness Is Better than Defeat takes its title from a line in Orson Welles s never filmed screenplay of Heart of Darkness We open in 1959 with Zonulet, a 43 year old alcoholic CIA officer, writing a tell all memoir about what happened when two parties set out to find a Mayan temple in Honduras in 1938 Sadistic business magnate Elias Coehorn, Sr sent his feckless son, Elias Jr., to dismantle the temple and bring it back to New York City, while Arnold Spindler, chairman of Kingdom Pictures, tasked Jervis Whelt with directing a movie on location at the temple Hearts in Darkness, a comedy about a spoiled society boy who s sent on an archaeological dig to a Mayan temple and opens a nightclub when he gets there.The scene is set for a clash of cultures the New York faction bent on destruction versus the Los Angeles crew intent on creation They re joined by Joan Burlingame, a stuffy Cambridge anthropologist, and Leland Trimble, a gossip journalist who was formerly Zonulet s colleague at the New York Evening Mirror To start with, the screwball plot is uncannily similar to that of Hearts in Darkness itself, and it seems the stalemate between the two groups will be mined purely for comic potential But as the years pass and the deadlock continues, this becomes of a psychological study of a community in isolation, rather like The Lord of the Flies or T.C Boyle s The Terranauts.Alliances are formed and broken based on blackmail over the characters past and present indiscretions routines and workarounds are developed though an attempt to recreate Bloody Marys and Eggs Benedict bombs soon a whole new generation is being raised with little knowledge of what s happened outside this jungle for than a decade all they have to go on is false information about the outcome of World War II conveyed by an ex Nazi.They spoke in American accents and they had all been taught a sort of eschatology in which they would one day return with their parents to Hollywood or New York But they belonged to the rainforest and to the temple And the geometry of the latter was so primal to them that any talk of disassembly or reassembly struck them as abstract, almost paradoxical.One of the hardest things to believe about the story line so you ll simply have to suspend your disbelief is that no one was overly concerned when these two groups failed to reappear after assignments that were meant to last only a matter of weeks Not until Zonulet gets to Honduras in 1956 to learn about a secret CIA guerrilla training camp in the area is there sustained interest in what became of these exiled Americans, and it s another two years before their jungle idyll comes to an explosive end.What we have here is a twist on the Mummy s Curse trope, with the temple causing many to lose their minds or their lives I wish the novel could have retained its initial screwball charm without going quite so dark and strange, but that s Beauman for you I also thought that this was a good 100 150 pages too long, with many secondary characters, subplots and asides than necessary Ironically, even after nearly 500 pages, its conclusion left me wondering about some loose ends But the writing is consistently amusing, particularly the voices captured in letters or diaries and the wacky metaphors The sky in the west was mixing an Old Fashioned All her blood had thickened in her head like the last of the catsup They were so slathered in mulch that their two bodies together might have been some octopod newly burped from a mudpot To describe the truck as temperamental would have been condescending rather, I had the impression it had been earnestly wrestling with a deep crisis of personal faith about the very principle of internal combustion as a motive power I ve been a Ned Beauman fan ever since I read his debut, Boxer, Beetle, in 2011 Born in 1985, the Londoner is now the author of four novels and was named one of Granta s 20 best British novelists under the age of 40 If I tell you that some common elements in his work are Nazis, pharmaceuticals and gay sex, and that his first two books reminded me most of Nick Harkaway, you ll get some idea of the niche he s working in.If you re new to Beauman, I d suggest starting with The Teleportation Accident, my favorite of his novels From there you could move on to Boxer, Beetle or Glow this one can wait until you re a confirmed admirer.Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck. I have no idea how to review this I think it might actually be impossible to describe The blurb sums up the plot well enough in the late 1930s, two rival American expeditions find themselves in a stalemate over an ancient temple in Honduras, and when the objectives of one group can t be achieved without the assent of the other, the situation descends into a ludicrous stand off Twenty years later with both groups still there a CIA agent heads into the jungle to track them down But that did not prepare me for the deranged blend of conspiracy and farce I found myself grappling with and, perhaps inexplicably, enjoying.Beauman s verbose style is familiar from his other novels, but here there s something looser about it, a rambling feel, a less snappy timbre I often found myself reading a passage or a long run on sentence with no clue what point it was going to end up making having to flick back and forth to figure out where and when in the story I was making it through two pages of dialogue before realising I was reading only one side of a conversation This may well sound like well, not much of a recommendation Yet it s also true that I found the book gripping perhaps precisely because I so frequently had no idea where the story was going, what it was about, or even who the protagonist was.Madness is Better than Defeat is peppered with references to Heart of Darkness it reminded me of Martin MacInnes Infinite Ground and Kea Wilson s We Eat Our Own both idiosyncratic jungle set novels, the latter of which also involves the shooting of a film Despite that, there isn t really anything else like it If you relish the type of stories you cannot predict, that keep you on your toes where the author is always about twenty steps ahead of the reader this one s for you.I received an advance review copy of Madness is Better than Defeat from the publisher, Sceptre.TinyLetter Twitter Instagram Tumblr 49th street in Manhattan, a diver wrestling an octopus, all bets are off.This eccentric event is the catalyst, the moment in time that sets the tone to what follows, a tale that goes against all odds and possibly all reason.Spanish Honduras the epicenter.1938 Word has it that a group of French archeologists ran into an unidentified Mayan temple while exploring the deep jungle near the town of San Esteban Only two returned from a party of nine, delusional but disturbingly lucid in regards to the ruins.With World War II on the verge of breaking, only two enterprises seem to take interest in the matter Elias Coehorn s Eastern Aggregate Company and Arnold Spindler s Kingdom Pictures While the first summons his rabble rousing son of the same name to disassemble the temple and bring it back to New York, the latter allures the aspiring director Jervis Whelt to use the ruins as scenario for a new picture titled Hearts of Darkness.The two expeditions, unaware of each other s existence, set off into the unknown Chaos ensues when, running a few days behind, Whelt arrives to find only half a temple standing and that s just the beginning As weeks become months and months years, the plot at the settlement develops in a Lord of the Flies fashion.The elaborate events depicted in this novel are brought to us by Zonulet, a dying reporter turned CIA operative who is writing his memoir to use as evidence on the case for which he is being tried Step by step, his retell will unearth obscure secrets and uncover astonishing twists that are but the tip of the enigmatic iceberg that is this story.Is madness better than defeat To read 4.5 stars, going upI have to say that there was at least one reviewer on that called this book dreck, and the reader only made it 100 pages and did a DNF on the book That is a shame Although it is beyond challenging, and you really do need a reservoir of patience to get through it, it is funny as hell, quirky and so right up my alley I was introduced to Ned Beauman s writing with his The Teleportation Accident, which also made me laugh out loud than once although given the subject matter I felt guilty in doing so Madness is Better Than Defeat begins in 1938 and follows two different expeditions into the Honduran Jungle, both focused on a particular Mayan temple with a design very different from the norm One of these has to do with the production of a movie, the other involves actually taking the temple apart and returning it to New York, where it will be reconstructed at the home of a wealthy and powerful businessman A standoff ensues between the two sides when the movie people discover that the New York faction has already started demolishing the temple, but each side is determined to follow through with their assigned tasks As the decades go by and no one is sent in search of these people which should raise flags immediately , they create their own society, which evolves through several forms over the years If that s not weird enough, the arrival of the CIA in Honduras makes things even strange While we live in their jungle world for a while, the narrator of this story, an OSS CIA veteran who may or may not be under the influence of psychotropic spores, has his own problems, busy day and night in an impossible search for evidence buried deep in a warehouse, which he hopes will exonerate him from charges stemming from his actions in Honduras The author brings into his work a number of movie references, history, and philosophy before all is said and done satire and allegory combine, especially when it comes to the CIA It is crazy good, and highly recommended, especially for fans of Beauman s work If you want straight plot and straight narrative, forget it you won t find it here I loved this book. The author s writing style was not a good match for me, to put it mildly It was trying so hard to be madcap, quirky and crude I not so much abandoned this book as fled as quickly as I could Others may like it so I suggest trying a preview before buying I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I don t even know what to say I wanted to absolutely love this book due to its originality and its quirkiness and because it opens in my hometown of Springfield, Virginia, an unincorporated town in Fairfax County, and a place literally no one outside the Beltway has ever heard of But unfortunately, as quickly as I zoomed through most of it, it would frequently fail to hold my attention I would read a passage, and have to go back and re read it, completely unsure of what I just read This could happen three or four times before I finally grasped what was going on.I think Beauman is trying to be very clever, and he really is But at times he s trying too hard to be too clever, and it s just flying over some of his readers heads I am impressed with his writing on the whole it s hard to remember that Beauman is still a young man, only in his early 30s, because there s a maturity there that makes one think that he s a decade or two older than he really is.For me, this was like reading a Coen brothers movie That could be a bonus for some, but it s not for me. Ned Beauman s new novel, Madness Is Better Than Defeat, begins with a wrestling match between a man and an octopus, which offers a fair warning of what it feels like to get wrapped up in this tentacled book Just when you think you ve got a handle on his shapeshifting plot, Beauman sprays ink and leaves you wondering where he s darted off to next.I have to confess that as the pages of Madness Is Better Than Defeat furled on toward 400, I wasn t always entirely sure what was happening I was never sure why it was happening , but it s all so weirdly delightful that I kept racing along after him muttering, Madness is better than defeat I thought Bauman was joking it s never entirely clear when he isn t but that phrase does actually come from the end of a script Orson Welles wrote for an adaptation of Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness Although Welles never completed that film, it s the gonzo centerpiece of Beauman s novel, which stares into the menacing jungle and whispers, The humor The humor The narrator is a CIA agent named Zonulet who s struggling to To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post https www.washingtonpost.com entert To watch the Totally Hip Video Book Review of this novel, go here https www.washingtonpost.com entert I m generally a really big fan of Beauman, whose comically purple prose and wild ambition and willingness to go pretty much anywhere makes him an incredibly fun read while also feeling like you re reading the next David Mitchell But this one didn t quite work for me.The basic set up, that there s a movie crew in the in the 40s who get lost for twenty years, could be fun, I guess, given its shades of, among other things, Terry Gilliam s attempts to film Quixote, or Apocalypse Now or take your pick But this didn t quite deliver maybe it was too outlandish from the start, but there s a lot of wheel spinning, at least to me, sections on how to make film in the jungle from the existing elements there It s not Moby Dick, but many of the digressions here felt like they weren t fun enough to stand on their own, and which didn t really add much to the overall story The long view that Beauman takes of his adventure means that characters don t generally develop as much as just lurch through stations of the cross.It s not terrible, and there are funny and strange and some really funny writing here about Hollywood and some good riffs on journalism But it doesn t come together effectively.