Author Topic: The All-New Books Thread  (Read 37492 times)

Serge

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The All-New Books Thread
« on: April 14, 2016, 08:17:59 PM »
Seeing as the old thread is fast slipping down page two, and is a bumper 60 pages at that, I thought I might as well start a new thread for what we've read recently.

Since I was last in these parts, I've read:

Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada. Hands down, one of the best books I've ever read. The sense of helplessness and impending doom that hangs over the book, gathering pace the further you get into it, is incredible. I'm glad that I only found out after I'd finished it that they've made a film based on it, as I wouldn't have wanted the actor's faces in my head as I was reading it. Well, one actor in particular.

Perfidia by James Ellroy. The first I've read of his since 'The Cold Six Thousand' bored me rigid, and thankfully a return to form, even if he is a little bit too in love with the character of Dudley Smith.

The Year Of The Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota. A brilliant (and I believe I'm legally obliged to add 'timely') novel about the lives of three immigrants living in Sheffield and the sheer amount of shit they have to put up with, before and after their arrival in the UK. So good that I'm willing to overlook the two massive plotholes.

Off The Map by Alastair Bonnett. Fantastic book about strange and largely unmapped places on this planet, whether it's closed cities in Russia or the gigantic island in the Pacific made up of castaway rubbish. Frequently had me rushing to Google to investigate places further.

Rain by Melissa Harrison. A slim volume by one of my current favourite authors, recounting four walks in Britain in, er, the rain. It is only about 60 pages worth of text puffed up to a 100 page book, but it'll tide me over until her next proper one.

Blood On Snow by Jo Nesbo and The Martini Shot by George Pelecanos. The two most recent books (in paperback) by my two favourite crime writers, both disappointing in their own way. The Nesbo shouldn't have come out under his name (for complicated reasons) and the Pelecanos proves that he works better as a novelist than a short story writer.

Channel Shore by Tom Fort. Not bad cycle ride along the south coast of Britain. I was more interested in the first half, being more familiar with Kent and Sussex and more interested in the development of seaside resorts than I was in the wilder, south-western half. On a similar note, I also read Patrick Barkham's Coastlines, which was pretty good.

Stalin Ate My Homework and Thatcher Stole My Trousers by Alexei Sayle, which I read the wrong way around. Somehow, I'd never got around to reading 'Stalin..', but picked up 'Thatcher..' as I knew it would cover the rise of the alternative comedy scene. As it also covers his life living in London in the 70s, a period I'm endlessly fascinated by, it couldn't fail for me, really. He does recycle the odd old line here and there, but it is really funny too. So, having enjoyed that, I then went back and read the first one, which is equally as good. Fingers crossed that he'll do a volume 3 covering 'Stuff' and beyond.

One For The Books by Joe Queenan, in which the formerly funny Mr Queenan sneers at people for not having read as many highbrow books as he has for 200 pages. What happened to this guy?

Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of Life, in which Jonas Jonasson repeats all of the jokes that he had previously made in his first two books. His faux-naive style, which was charming in 'The 100 Year-Old Man..' and slightly less so in 'The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden', really wears out its welcome here. I don't think I'll bother any further than this.

1966 by Jon Savage. A 600-page Mojo article.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. Touted as 'the sequel to Kitchen Confidential' - what does that make 'A Cook's Tour' and 'The Nasty Bits' then? - this starts well but dribbles out into an endless series of puff pieces about American chefs I've never heard of and couldn't give a shit about.

The Night Manager by John Le Carre. Had to check it out after enjoying the TV version. Suffers a lot from Le Carre's habit of writing every character who's not a middle or upper class white male as a stereotyped string of cliches - a black Carribean restaurant owner called Mama Low is particularly teeth-grinding. He also gets too wrapped up in details, which I usually like in his books, but it did make this a bit of a chore.

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, which basically made me want to attack all psychologists with a large baseball bat with spikes through it.

The Auto Biography by Mark Wallington - picked up for £2 in The Works, out of residual fondness for his early books, which got me into the 'funny travel writing' genre in the first place, I zipped through this in a day and a half and enjoyed it far more than the above two books which I read immediately beforehand. So, it acted as a palate-cleanser, but also made me laugh a hell of a lot too.

I also tried to read 'The Revenant', which was so dull that my arse actually fell off as I was reading it, and 'Uprooted' by Nina Lyon, which I just wasn't in the mood for, but might try and return to at some point. I skim-read Randall Munroe's 'What If?' one rainy afternoon too.


Petey Pate

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2016, 02:07:31 PM »
You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, which basically made me want to attack all psychologists with a large baseball bat with spikes through it.

I though this was pretty good, it definitely taught me a lot I didn't know about psychology and the case studies he cites were interesting.  The author does comes across a bit smug at times but I felt he at least acknowledges the limits of the field.  There's an equally good sequel entitled You Are Now Less Dumb.  I think the chapters in both were originally blog posts on the author's website.  I've enjoyed what I've heard of his podcasts too.

https://youarenotsosmart.com

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2016, 03:22:45 PM »
Yeah, to be fair, there was some interesting stuff in it, and I certainly recognised a lot of myself in certain chapters, but most of the tests he recounts, especially their repeated use of electric shocks on people and animals, didn't make me warm to the field of psychology in any way. To be honest, I've never had much time for them, so I was going in biased (I'm sure here's a chapter about that in there somewhere.)

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2016, 03:37:46 PM »
I just finished David Mitchell's Black Swan Green and found it pretty disappointing. It wasn't particularly bad and I kind of enjoyed it but if that was the first book I'd read by Mitchell, I don't think I'd be getting anything else by him. Seemed more like an earnest Adrian Mole than anything else. Good to catch an early glimpse of Hugo though.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2016, 03:47:35 PM »
Yeah, I agree completely. It seemed like a tremendous comedown after 'Cloud Atlas' - in fact, if I were to find out that it was actually written when he was younger and buffed up and bought out to have a new book on the shelves more quickly after CA, I wouldn't be surprised. I've got no evidence to back this unkind supposition up, mind you, just the feeling I had whilst reading it that its thinly disguised autobiographical element seemed more like the work of someone just starting out, not someone on their fourth novel.

Have you read 'The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet'? That was my favourite of his so far. I haven't read 'The Bone Clocks' yet, despite having had it on my shelf for about a year - it's been pooh-poohed too much by people whose opinions I tend to trust.

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2016, 03:57:46 PM »
Yeah, I agree completely. It seemed like a tremendous comedown after 'Cloud Atlas' - in fact, if I were to find out that it was actually written when he was younger and buffed up and bought out to have a new book on the shelves more quickly after CA, I wouldn't be surprised. I've got no evidence to back this unkind supposition up, mind you, just the feeling I had whilst reading it that its thinly disguised autobiographical element seemed more like the work of someone just starting out, not someone on their fourth novel.

Have you read 'The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet'? That was my favourite of his so far. I haven't read 'The Bone Clocks' yet, despite having had it on my shelf for about a year - it's been pooh-poohed too much by people whose opinions I tend to trust.

I liked The Bone Clocks a fair amount, but it didn't set my world on fire. It's worth reading, but it's not an essential novel.

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2016, 04:15:24 PM »
I think it was the fantasy element that split people. It wasn't wholly successful for me, but there's plenty in there to enjoy for Mitchell-heads.

Serge, if you love 'Thousand Autumns', as I do, it's well worth reading for reasons I won't spoil. But there is a solid link between the two books not to mention several other of his novels.

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2016, 04:51:11 PM »
And the same applies with Slade House, which probably wouldn't make much sense to anyone who hadn't read The Bone Clocks. Slade House really is a minor work too, but it's enjoyable enough as a minor spin-off and doesn't take long to read.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2016, 05:30:35 PM »
Have you read 'The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet'? That was my favourite of his so far. I haven't read 'The Bone Clocks' yet, despite having had it on my shelf for about a year - it's been pooh-poohed too much by people whose opinions I tend to trust.

No. I actually read the first page or two on Sunday night but it didn't immediately grab me so I jetisoned it in favour of BSG. (I normally give stuff more of a chance but my daily commute lasts an hour so if I take something I don't like to work with me, I'm bookless.) Will definitely try it again though , although I don't really like reading books by the same author consecutively so need to find something else first. I've got the 2nd and 3rd parts of Jane Smiley's Some Luck trilogy on the shelf but I can't remember big chunks from the first book so may have to skim read that first.

Just read Adrian Tomine's Killing and Dying (graphic novel) short stories on the way to work and back today. Really good. Not quite up there with Chris Ware (who reviewed it for The Guardian and said that one of the stories in this is possibly the best short form graphic story ever written) but pretty close.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2016, 10:29:41 PM »
Hmm, I might have to bump 'The Bone Clocks' up the 'to-read' pile. Which is as out of hand as ever.

neveragain

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2016, 11:17:04 PM »
If you've any interest, I would rate Mitchell's books in descending order thus:

Cloud Atlas - obviously his best, works on so many layers, each section its own brilliant world and endlessly re-readable (to me, at least)
Ghostwritten - just as good in terms of quality of stories - the Lady in the Tea Shack and the wandering spirit are mesmerising - but, despite it being linked through fateful meetings, they don't really link together overall.. not that it matters
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet / number9dream - put these together as I think they're of equal value, bursting with creative energy but so brilliantly different; one a Dutch historical romance, the other a Japanese neo-noir
Black Swan Green - I can see why it hasn't bowled people over in general, but as a parochial bildungsroman it's as fine as you could find
The Bone Clocks - very good but overlong, retreading territory of previous books and the penultimate chapter with its fantasy battle style is quite challenging
Slade House - enjoyable ghostly story, nice exercise in genre but fairly throwaway in the end (most of the narrators aren't particularly memorable)

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2016, 11:16:56 PM »
fiction:

I read The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham over Christmas. It's a funny view into the lives of rich Americans living, as much as possible, in Europe in the interwar period. A young heir to a bourgeois fortune marries the niece of a wealthy art dealer and socialite. The niece however secretly longs for the affable but free-spirited former-fiance of her youth, a minor piloting hero in WWI, who alternately lives a life of adventure and voluntary menial labour in the far east and bohemian circles of the wealthy underclass in Paris (perhaps familiar through Orwell and Miller). Maugham gives it a sense of heightened realism by claiming that everything recounted was actually related to him in anecdote by the characters.

nonfiction:

I think the problem with nonfiction history is that we're constantly being plunged out of our depths, or otherwise being presented with lists of facts that fail to gel into any useful structure of historical reference.

We buy a book called "The 30 Years War" wanting to get on and finally learn just what it was all about, but we end up reading something that a professor has written according to her notion of "common knowledge." In other words, we have the capacity to understand and assimilate perhaps the first sentence of every paragraph, which leaves 80% of the book, omitting the page-sacrificing ritual of the "notes" section, remaining; which consist of autistic details that pretend to be the sole basis from which the conclusions were drawn.

Far better, in comparison, to read something designed to take those first sentences of every paragraph and to streamline the cavalcade of funny-sounding names and geographical references within one work, all explained to the careful reader. And when it's not a book targeted, humiliating, at kids (though these are hardly a bad idea), all the better still.

So this is what I like about Geoffrey Bibby's Four Thousand Years Ago. Within 400 pages you have about a millennium of known history in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean until the fall of Troy. It's not a miscellany of "fun facts" and it's not an autistic battle of the books... it's a self-contained map of history which uses human interest without apology (expect a token bow to the scholars in its introduction). An honorable mention for G.M.Trevelyan's A Shortened History of England is called for here.

Blinder Data

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2016, 12:37:08 PM »
Finally finished Constance Garnett's translation of Crime and Punishment. That's the last 'classic' I'll put myself through for a while. What a slog. Fucking miserable murderer Raskolnikov feeling sorry for himself for 600 pages. It had interesting parts and characters, but so many words and so little said sometimes.

The most frustrating part for me was the constant silences between characters. It might be something to do with the translation, but each time characters didn't speak but stared at each other (which happened a lot) it was never described as for 'a long time' or 'a short while' but incredibly specific measurements of time, like 'two minutes' or 'a full five minutes'. Are you telling me they stared at each other for five whole minutes without saying anything? And they didn't burst into laughter? Bollocks. It was otherwise quite realistic so it took me right out of the story.

Anyway, reading a graphic novel of The Alchemist which is meh. Clunky dialogue. Plot and motivation all over the place.

Will probably tackle Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - not a big sci-fi reader but I've heard great things.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2016, 12:52:04 PM »
Alternating between Raymond Chandler and Ann Tyler at the moment.  An odd combination but it works.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2016, 08:51:57 PM »
What I've read since the OP:

The Long Player Goodbye by Travis Elborough. Excellent book by an excellent man. (Full disclosure: I know him and he is an excellent man.) The history of the LP from 1948 until 2008 (when it was written), with many a diversion along the way and his own opinions about artists strewn liberally throughout. As I agree with most of his opinions, I enjoyed it a great deal. The only thing that let it down - and I've noticed this is happening more and more these days - is printing errors all the way through the book - at one point, the last line of a page appears underneath a footnote! I know books aren't selling like they used to, but surely they can afford proofreaders and typesetters who know what they're doing?

1971: Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth. Named after an album from, er, 1972. Despite that, and the fact that CAN apparently have a keyboard player called Irwin Schmidt, this helped stave off the pangs of missing 'Word' magazine. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't so much a round up of the music of 1971 - despite featuring on the cover, 'Tago Mago' gets a paragraph, 'Histoire De Melody Nelson' a mention in a list, and 'Maggot Brain' is retitled 'Gag A Maggot'[1] in another list - but more of a book about how the music industry as we know it today was formed. As such, it can't be faulted, even if I would happily never read another word about The Beatles, the Stones or Led Zeppelin (all of whom I love, but you know what I mean.) My favourite chapter was the one about Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye, as at least I'm not bored to death of their stories yet. Despite all of this moaning, I did actually enjoy this book - Hepworth keeps it light, and it doesn't do your head in like Jon Savage's '1966' does - but still wish we'd got the book I was expecting.

And finally, The Girl In The Spider's Web, the opinion-dividing fourth book in the Millennium series, with David Lagercrantz taking over from the obviously dead Stieg Larsson. Again, although I'm about to point out all of its flaws, I did actually enjoy this book, I zipped through it in a couple of days, reading it whenever I had a few minutes to spare, and although, like Larsson, I can't claim that Lagercrantz is actually a great writer, he can definitely write a decent enough page-turner, and I'll certainly read any future installments there will inevitably be (there is a massive plot point left gaping open.)

It does suffer from one of my least favourite fictional tropes, that of the character who gets injured in a way that would actually put them out of action for days or weeks, yet somehow shrugs off being shot/being stabbed through the hand/having their back broken to carry on chasing the bad guy. In this case, Salander is shot about halfway through the book, and still hasn't received medical attention by the end of the book, but seems to be doing just fine. Also, it has the annoying contrivance of a character in peril doing something stupid rather than the obvious clever option that would keep them out of harms way. In this case, Frans Balder is murdered, despite having been told several hours earlier to GET INTO THE FUCKING PANIC ROOM THAT HE FUCKING HAS LIKE YOU WOULD IF YOU HAD A FUCKING PANIC ROOM AND YOU'D ALREADY BEEN TOLD ABOUT FUCKING PROWLERS UP TO NO GOOD OUTSIDE YOUR FUCKING HOUSE. Apart from that, and some heavily expositionary dialogue, I did like it, honestly.
 1. Actually an album by Swamp Dogg in 1973.

grassbath

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2016, 10:33:37 PM »
Just finished Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, about life in 90s Belfast. At its best when descriptive and treating the lives of minor or background characters - some brilliant renderings of urban life, with a particularly powerful pair of chapters detailing the sleeping city at night, and then a bomb strike of the day afterward, with all sorts of clever foreshadowing. A lot of the humour fell flat though, and although the author clearly had a fairly good idea of the ins and outs of the politics, the tone of its discussion between characters didn't ring true for me.

Currently halfway through Summer by Edith Wharton, whose House of Mirth I loved. Terribly sad, lonely-feeling stuff, it's fantastic. I keep frigging my sad-bone with it by poring over and savouring the most desolate bits. Some quite dark and daring undercurrents (incest, rape) for turn of the century literature as well.

Today I also read Here by Richard McGuire, a graphic novel that as a shorter strip was apparently influential in the medium, but this expanded volume is the first I'd heard of it. Every double-page spread is a shot of the same space - mainly a middle-class living room, but different panels cutting into the scene and representing different snapshots in time with all the people who ever lived there and all the things that ever passed through that space - stretching from thousands of years BCE to thousands of years into the post-apocalyptic future, with some interesting implicit stuff about colonialism and the history of America. Genius stuff that gets you thinking about the long game of existence and the transience of your own life, and breathtakingly beautiful aesthetically in many places, perfect to peruse on a lazy, thoughtful afternoon.

buttgammon

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2016, 12:04:43 AM »
Finally got round to reading Tom McCarthy's Satin Island, which I've almost finished in two sittings. Like his other stuff, it's not to everyone's taste but I'm liking it a lot. There is something peculiarly dispassionate about the narrator that reminds me of his earlier book Remainder, and it's almost as though he is holding back on his actual inner life (although it intrudes at times too). This seems deliberate too; a lot of the book deals with the over-saturation of knowledge in contemporary culture, and I think this withholding of information is a reaction against that. At its best, it reminds me a bit of Delillo. There is a recurring image of an oil slick that strikes me as something that might appear in White Noise. Beyond that, I can see the same potential pitfalls too. As much as I love Delillo, I've heard him accused of being too deliberately clever for the sake of being clever; in one or two instances, as with The Body Artist, I've agreed with that criticism. At times, I've had that thought about McCarthy. For example, there is a bit where he talks about Deleuze's idea of the fold and although it fits the character and what he is trying to grasp, I don't think there's a good way to talk about stuff like this in a novel (arguably in any context) without it seeming too self-consciously smartarse.

Before that, I did a fair bit of delving into Beckett, including my first encounter with his Texts for Nothing. They're often overlooked but at their best, they're excellent.

The Beckett theme led me to go to a 'performance' of Cascando, which has to be one of the oddest experiences of my life. Cascando is a radio play that I wasn't familiar with (and I still don't think I am). The 'audience' had to take our shoes off and change into black cloaks. We put headphones on under the cloak hoods, through which the 'play' was broadcast. For the entire thirty-minute duration of the 'play', we were led to walk continually around a dark, mirrored room, listening to it on our headphones. It was a hell of an experience, though I genuinely couldn't recall any details about the text of the play immediately after leaving.

neveragain

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2016, 10:03:19 AM »
Read American Psycho recently. Despite the obsessive attention to what people are wearing/eating taking a bit of getting used to, I found it a gripping grotesque satire. Not subtle but it doesn't need to be. The narrator's voice is beautifully controlled and as things become increasingly disturbing it's almost impossible to put down (even if you want to).

Currently in the last section of Nineteen Eighty-Four and enjoying it so much more than I ever thought I would. Not only is it so insightful, with such a believably constructed dystopia, as you may expect with it becoming an archetype, but so personal and often funny. Just well-written, really.

I want to try Lolita next.

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2016, 10:51:09 PM »
Read American Psycho recently. Despite the obsessive attention to what people are wearing/eating taking a bit of getting used to, I found it a gripping grotesque satire. Not subtle but it doesn't need to be. The narrator's voice is beautifully controlled and as things become increasingly disturbing it's almost impossible to put down (even if you want to).

Currently in the last section of Nineteen Eighty-Four and enjoying it so much more than I ever thought I would. Not only is it so insightful, with such a believably constructed dystopia, as you may expect with it becoming an archetype, but so personal and often funny. Just well-written, really.

I want to try Lolita next.

Agree on both points and Lolita is on my to read list too. In regards to American The book is so much more horrific than the film. What really got to me was how relate-able Bateman could be at times in his philosophical musings.

neveragain

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2016, 05:06:49 PM »
Yes, the notion that you could have a decent conversation with him (providing you wore the right clothes) without realising the cold void behind his eyes is the real horror, never mind all the depravity of hookers and rats and kids at the zoo.

Sam

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2016, 07:40:02 PM »
Just read Bruce Robinson's Paranoia in the laundrette. Very withnail, very good. Is it worth reading the peculiar memories one?

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2016, 07:16:17 PM »
Just read Bruce Robinson's Paranoia in the laundrette. Very withnail, very good. Is it worth reading the peculiar memories one?

I read it when it first came out and loved it - so much so that you've prompted me to read it again.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2016, 04:17:45 PM »
The last couple of weeks' reading:

Stuart Maconie's The Pie At Night, the sort-of sequel to his 'Pies And Prejudice', this time concentrating on what the people of Northern England do for fun. I actually enjoyed it more than the first one, largely because he's dropped the 'you thought it was all flat caps and whippets' tone and put some better jokes in. There's perhaps a little too much on sport, but to be fair, it was more about the social aspect of it rather than the sport itself, and so didn't bother me as much as I'd dreaded. It did read more like Bill Bryson's 'Things' books than his earlier stuff, too, so that helped. He's going to be at the Book Festival we have in town next month, so I'm hoping to get to see him talking about it.

I read about a third of Neil MacGregor's Germany: Memories Of A Nation before semi-abandoning it (I do intend to go back and finish it off), as it suffers strongly from what Retinend mentioned earlier in the thread - the author assuming that you've already read the 200 books that he's read on the subject, so don't need to be bought up to speed on what exactly the Holy Roman Empire is, for example. I did enjoy the bits I read, but having to break off to look stuff up on the internet was getting a little bit tiresome, and I just wanted to read something that I could zip straight through.

So I re-read two of my favourite books, Moon Palace and Leviathan by Paul Auster. It's over twenty years since I first read them, and probably about ten since I last gave them a re-read, and it's interesting how my opinions of them have changed over the years. I still like both of them (especially 'Moon Palace'), and they are cracking reads, but the (thinly-disguised Auster proxies of) narrators in each could benefit from a good slap. Pompous, self-righteous arseholes, especially in 'Leviathan'. I was only in my early twenties when I first read them, so far less cynical than I am now, but they really got on my tits at points. But I still like some of the mad ideas and coincidence-driven stories, and can even overlook the fact that he's not very good at writing female characters (I can barely tell you a single thing about the personality of Kitty Wu, the main female character in 'Moon Palace'.) I'd still recommend either over the over-rated 'New York Trilogy'.

And, as if to torture myself, I've just finished reading the 10-million selling The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins and wondering just how the fuck such a slight piece of work has managed to sell so many. For all the faults of 'The Da Vinci Code', at least it has albino monks and CIA men running about all over it, and I can kind of see how that caught on, but this? A fairly standard murder-mystery - I didn't guess who the murderer was, but when you do find out, if you do more than say, "Oh", I'll be surprised - with no particularly startling plot twists to speak of, and a rather dull narrator whose alcoholism stands in for a personality (and whose convenient black-outs serve only to give the book any semblance of tension.) Maybe this wouldn't matter so much if it was even well written, but it's such colourless prose, so hackneyed and cliched - the phrase 'a nameless dread' pops up at one point, which Bret Easton Ellis was satirising in 'American Psycho' 25 years ago - with completely unrealistic dialogue. How unrealistic? It's Ruth Rendell-level unrealistic. Not recommended, but at least it only took me half a day to read it.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2016, 05:29:08 PM »
I'm still reading Adrian Edmondson's The Gobbler. I can't offer any serious review other than its very saucy, very funny and makes me want to drink a lot. A year I've been at it and I still haven't finished it.

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2016, 06:13:23 PM »
I'm still reading Adrian Edmondson's The Gobbler. I can't offer any serious review other than its very saucy, very funny and makes me want to drink a lot. A year I've been at it and I still haven't finished it.

I read this in my teens. Persevere to the finish though, as it is certainly memorable.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #25 on: May 24, 2016, 08:02:32 PM »
I've just zipped through Ryan Gattis' All Involved, which I thought was excellent. It's set during the six days of the L.A. Riots in 1992, when parts of the town were practically a war zone, and deals with how some people turn that to an advantage in a tit-for-tat battle of revenge. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, nearly always a character who's appeared in an earlier chapter or who has a connection to someone who has. I thought this would quickly get annoying, but in fact, it's a brilliant structure.

It's not perfect - I suspect it was written with one eye on it eventually becoming a movie, and sometimes the character's inner thoughts read like information dumps rather than things people would actually think (especially what they're thinking while they're trying to get around without being injured or killed.) The chapters written from the point of view of gang members are inevitably the best, and although I can see that it helps to try and present other viewpoints, they don't always come off. In particular, one chapter written from the point of view of an anonymous black ops man is particularly strange, and I'm not sure whether it lays on the anti-establishment message a bit thick.

I made the mistake of looking Gattis up, and he seems to be a bit of a pillock. Admittedly, he can't help looking like daytime TV antiques expert David Harper, but his claim that he's a 'survivor of violence' is pretty risible - he was injured (admittedly, quite horrendously) during a football match at school, which doesn't exactly make him like for like with the people he's writing about - but I don't have a problem with people not coming from the background they're writing about, and he doesn't patronise any of the characters, and there are certain people you root for throughout the book, regardless of what they've done.

Pretty good. Recommended.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 10:11:05 PM by Serge »

MoonDust

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #26 on: May 30, 2016, 01:48:51 PM »
Whilst waiting to read the next book from the Culture series (having just read Consider Phlebas - my first venture into "hard" sci-fi) I'm currently reading Your Republic Is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim.

It's all set within 24 hours, and is about Ki-Yong, a North Korean sleeper agent who's been living in Good Korea for years, building up his fake life with a job, wife and child. No one's the wiser he's a spy. Then one day, having spent years not hearing a peep from the North, he suddenly receives an email ordering him to return to the North immediately. Because it's been so long he doesn't know whether it's a genuine order or a trap.

I'm only about a quarter way through it, but I'm really enjoying it so far. Will report back once finished.

Edit: What the fuck? Every time I try and type "south" Korea, it keeps auto-correcting to Good Korea when I click post. How long has that feature been on here?

neveragain

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #27 on: May 30, 2016, 07:35:43 PM »
Bad Korea, Good Korea... Just testing.

Edit: Ha!

Dannyhood91

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #28 on: May 30, 2016, 07:42:43 PM »
Currently reading Slaughterhouse 5. After years of hearing about it, it sounds like my sort of thing. Disillusioned failure potters about without a clue, plus it has time travel and aliens in it.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #29 on: May 30, 2016, 07:53:56 PM »
Just read Bruce Robinson's Paranoia in the laundrette. Very withnail, very good. Is it worth reading the peculiar memories one?

It was turned into a film by Crispian Mills of Kula Shaker called A Fantastic Fear Of Everything starring Simon Pegg,  I didn't think it was very good, though.