Author Topic: The All-New Books Thread  (Read 37090 times)

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #480 on: July 14, 2017, 09:59:01 PM »
Peirene? I really like a lot of their stuff. Sometimes it can be a little stuffy / wooden, but usually they have an interesting range of stuff that I would never read otherwise because I can't do any other languages. Reader For Hire was one of my favourite books last year.


That's the publisher! Yeah, maybe it's my choice of books rather than translations per se (obviously). All the ones on that label that I've bought seem to be about mums planning to kill their children or psychiatrists lying or a woman sitting in a park on her own.

mikeyg27

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #481 on: July 14, 2017, 11:09:33 PM »
That's the publisher! Yeah, maybe it's my choice of books rather than translations per se (obviously). All the ones on that label that I've bought seem to be about mums planning to kill their children or psychiatrists lying or a woman sitting in a park on her own.

Oh, I can definitely see why they would be off-putting. There's an awful lot of family strife bullshit in the books they choose. I just like them because they're usually interesting and short, and because they put their books on sale on the website all the time (and it feels dirty admitting this since the books are so well designed, but the books also often go super-cheap on the kindle store and they're perfect for that format too).

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #482 on: July 15, 2017, 12:38:50 AM »
Ice by Anna Kavan is a stone-cold masterpiece.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #483 on: July 15, 2017, 06:08:54 AM »
The Notebook by Agota Kristof (1986) has lots of short chapters and fewer than 200 pages. And it's good.

Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen (1988) is also very short. A story about a woman who belongs in the kitchen.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #484 on: July 15, 2017, 06:44:58 PM »
Economics: The Users Guide - Ha-Joon Chang, very detailed on current and previous economics throughout the world but also dumbed-down for us simpletons 

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #485 on: July 22, 2017, 11:21:11 AM »
I've read Don Winslow's The Force, which is very good, great plot and good writing style.

I've just started this, on the back of loving 'Power Of The Dog' and 'The Cartel', and although I'm enjoying it, he does seem to be taking the hard-boiled style to the limits of parody. Actually, overstepping the limits at times....

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #486 on: July 27, 2017, 01:40:49 AM »
Well, we have a Man Booker longlist!

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

A lot of experienced Bookerers on there, several winners, several previously-shortlisteds.

I'm blogging it this year, trying to beat my failure last year and read the whole list by the announcement of the winner (I lost by three last time). I've already read Autumn and Swing Time, which should make things a lot easier, although I'm fucking dreading Auster's brick of a novel, especially after Serge's review.

I'm intrigued by The Underground Railroad, because of the Game of Thrones writers. This book's been getting a lot of buzz, but then last week, the Game of Thrones showrunners announced a new show they're making about 'what if the South won the Civil War and slavery still existed?', and I saw loads of people kicking off and complaining that black people STILL only get to be slaves in fiction. Given that, and also that last year's winner, The Sellout, was a really knowing look at things like slavery and segregation as things that define black Americans (essentially being a satire about how the return of slavery and segregation is the key to tackling the problems plaguing black communities), in a way that feels a bit like it's definitively putting that restrictive narrative in the past, I'm interested to see that a novel all about slavery is now the next big thing. I mean, a lot of the people kicking off about this new show were telling people to go read The Underground Railroad instead, which proper boggled my brain.

That's just an idle thought, though. No doubt it will be much more complex and meaningful than my shallow assumptions, and I can't wait to read it, that's just something I've been thinking about in the wake of the response to the Game of Thrones Civil War thing. I'm not gonna put it in my blog. Because I'M SCARED.

newbridge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #487 on: July 27, 2017, 04:29:45 AM »
Didn't the criticism about that Confederate show had more to do with the fact that they were making a show where the Confederacy won (particularly when the show creators in question are the sort of people one wouldn't expect to do a nuanced or sensitive version of that)?

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #488 on: July 27, 2017, 11:32:37 AM »
That was the main thrust of it, but I did see a lot of complaints about the fact that we can't seem to move away from fiction casting black people as slaves.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #489 on: July 27, 2017, 01:21:28 PM »
I'm fucking dreading Auster's brick of a novel, especially after Serge's review.

??? - I loved it. My thread on it is here, but my opening post is massively spoilery.

'The Underground Railroad' is great. I seem to have had a massive problem with any historical fiction that isn't crime-based over the past few years, so it was a relief to read one that's just great all the way through.

I've actually read four of the longlist - as well as the Auster and Whitehead, I've also read the Arundhati Roy and George Saunders novels. I'd rank those four - Auster, Roy, Whitehead, Saunders. Though they're all good. Shame that Michael Chabon was overlooked - 'Moonglow' is my book of the year so far.

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #490 on: July 27, 2017, 01:40:38 PM »
Fucking hell I think I'm thinking of the Private Eye review. I'm gonna start tearing out the literature section whenever I buy it now, it's confusing my brain-mind.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #491 on: July 27, 2017, 01:41:44 PM »
I seem to remember that Mark Steels Stockbroker didn't like the Auster very much.....

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #492 on: July 27, 2017, 01:45:28 PM »
Annoyingly on looking back at your review, I remember reading it at the time and it making me really intrigued and excited about the book.

I'm going to bed.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #493 on: July 27, 2017, 01:46:20 PM »
No you're not, young man, you've got books to read!

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #494 on: July 27, 2017, 02:15:22 PM »
Oh, I can definitely see why they would be off-putting. There's an awful lot of family strife bullshit in the books they choose. I just like them because they're usually interesting and short, and because they put their books on sale on the website all the time (and it feels dirty admitting this since the books are so well designed, but the books also often go super-cheap on the kindle store and they're perfect for that format too).

I'm personally acquainted with the founder of Peirene, and her remit has always been to publish interesting, short works that would otherwise not get published in English, because larger publishers consider the cost of translation too much for such short books. I'll let her know that she's hitting the right demographic though! Her salons are also worth attending - you can meet/listen to/argue with the author and there's booze and home-cooked nosh to boot.

All the ones on that label that I've bought seem to be about mums planning to kill their children...

You might be amused by the subject of her first novel!

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/08/magda-meike-ziervogel-review



BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #495 on: July 28, 2017, 01:20:19 AM »
No you're not, young man, you've got books to read!

Done! Knocked out three of the fuckers.

Okay - two of them I'd already read. And I basically only read them because I assumed they'd be on the list, and I wanted a headstart. But read them I have.

My two already-reads were Ali Smith's Autumn, and Zadie Smith's Swing Time. And, right, were you guys planning on telling me at any point that Zadie is Doc Brown's older sister? Doc Brown as in David Brent's new pal Doc Brown? I ask of you.

This was my first Smith book (the Ali one not the Zadie one), and I'm a little breathless over how much she packs into such a short, fast read. Whole lives distilled, art evoked, Brexit tackled without ever becoming an agenda-driven novel.

Sadly I wasn't as fond of Swing Time. Don't get me wrong - it's fantastic. I just think, having adored White Teeth, it feels like it covers a lot of the same ideas. But this is by no means a knock to the quality of the book itself which is, as ever with Smith (the Zadie one not the Ali one), a painfully honest look at the impact of culture and community and history on the individual, beautiful in structure and prose. Zadie is overdue a win, but I think White Teeth would have deserved it better.

Finally, I knocked out Mohsin Hamid's Exit West today. Much like Smith's book (the Ali one not the Zadie one) it's a very quick read, but one that packs in a journey of so much length it feels like a magic trick, and again, a story that deals with the hot-button issue of immigration in a way that feels timeless, and avoids the dangers of seeming topical.

Autumn is my top pick so far, followed by Exit West and then Swing Time.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #496 on: July 28, 2017, 08:27:22 AM »
I wanted to like George Saunders' novel but found it utterly baffling.  Incomprehensible, even.  A shame because I love his non-fiction writing.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #497 on: July 28, 2017, 11:36:59 AM »
Really? Once I got the hang of the format, I didn't have any trouble. Having flicked through it before I read it, I did worry that some of the (dead) characters were going to be well-known people from American history and that I would need a crash course in their backgrounds to understand it, but they're pretty much all fictional (as are some of the allegedly real-life quotes in the other chapters).

Re: Ali & Zadie. Can't stand Zadie, I've always been surprised that 'White Teeth' was published as it was - if it had had about two hundred pages pruned it might have actually been a decent novel. I can't believe a first time novelist was allowed to get away with so much unnecessary flab. Still have never read Ali Smith, must get around to that.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #498 on: July 28, 2017, 12:32:58 PM »
Really? Once I got the hang of the format, I didn't have any trouble. Having flicked through it before I read it, I did worry that some of the (dead) characters were going to be well-known people from American history and that I would need a crash course in their backgrounds to understand it, but they're pretty much all fictional (as are some of the allegedly real-life quotes in the other chapters).

I have this on my 'to read' pile. Really looking forward to it. Sounds fascinating.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #499 on: July 28, 2017, 12:35:27 PM »
Re: Ali & Zadie. Can't stand Zadie, I've always been surprised that 'White Teeth' was published as it was - if it had had about two hundred pages pruned it might have actually been a decent novel. I can't believe a first time novelist was allowed to get away with so much unnecessary flab. Still have never read Ali Smith, must get around to that.

White Teeth was a book I couldn't get into. Found it so hard to read. There's not many books that I don't finish, and this was one of them.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #500 on: July 28, 2017, 01:24:04 PM »
Funnily enough, I've given up on two in the last week - 'The Crow Girl' by Erik Axl Sund and 'Daniel Defoe's Railway Journey' by Stuart Campbell. With 'The Crow Girl', it didn't help that the book is essentially a trilogy that has been traslated and cobbled togather into one 766 page book, a fact that isn't mentioned on the cover, and which I only became aware of by noticing it on the copyright page. 80 pages into it, there was a small revelation about one of the main characters that immediately gave away what the rest of the book was about and I realised that I didn't have to schlep through another 686 pages to confirm it - I just peeked ahead and it turned out I was right. It was also a dull book which thought that graphic scenes of child abuse somehow added grit to it. 'Daniel Defoe's Railway Journey' was just an account of some fucking tedious train journeys through Britain which the author thought he'd spice up by inventing ficticious interludes in which Daniel Defoe is travelling with him and commenting on the journeys. It doesn't work.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #501 on: July 28, 2017, 02:34:46 PM »
Really? Once I got the hang of the format, I didn't have any trouble. Having flicked through it before I read it, I did worry that some of the (dead) characters were going to be well-known people from American history and that I would need a crash course in their backgrounds to understand it, but they're pretty much all fictional (as are some of the allegedly real-life quotes in the other chapters).

I'm completely dense.  Can you explain the format to me please?  Just when you get a minute.

Read All That Is by James Salter on holiday. Stunning.  Lives built in a paragraph.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #502 on: July 28, 2017, 08:09:02 PM »
I'm completely dense.  Can you explain the format to me please?  Just when you get a minute.

It alternates between the chapters concerning the dead in the graveyard and the chapters which purport to be contemporary quotes from people observing the events.

In the first case, they are the dead who are trapped in the Bardo (a Buddhist concept of the afterlife, I believe - Saunders is a Buddhist) and unable to 'die' properly as they still think they have unfinished business on Earth, so are hanging around in the graveyard at the time when Willie Lincoln dies. Each chapter in this style basically works like a screenplay, with each character talking in turn to advance the narrative.

In the second case, they are quotes from newspapers, diaries, books, etc, from people who were actually witnessing the events (Lincoln's actions just before and after the death of his son), arranged in such a way as to show that people's memories contradict each other when they are talking about the things they think they've seen. This is further muddied by the fact that some of the quotes are entirely ficticious.

I know that probably doesn't help, but it clicked with me very quickly......though, as I say, it literally only took me a couple of hours or so to read the whole thing. If it wasn't for the way it's presented, it could easily be called a novella and fit in one of his books of short stories.

neveragain

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #503 on: July 28, 2017, 09:07:19 PM »
Has anyone here read Six Stories by Matt Weslowakowski (or something, I'm not sure of his name)?

Horror story told in the style of episodes from an 'unexplained mysteries' radio show. Couldn't get into it but heard a lot of good things.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #504 on: July 29, 2017, 10:24:20 AM »
Has anyone here read Six Stories by Matt Weslowakowski (or something, I'm not sure of his name)?

Horror story told in the style of episodes from an 'unexplained mysteries' radio show. Couldn't get into it but heard a lot of good things.
It's on my 'to read' pile..

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #505 on: July 29, 2017, 12:14:13 PM »
This was my first Smith book (the Ali one not the Zadie one), and I'm a little breathless over how much she packs into such a short, fast read. Whole lives distilled, art evoked, Brexit tackled without ever becoming an agenda-driven novel.

I really enjoyed Autumn. I even posted a photo of one of the pages on here. It was such a zippy read that I was surprised that it made the longlist. I've only read two so far, the other being Jon McGregor's Reservoir 13. (As a vaguely interesting aside, I actually got to inform him the last time he made the longlist in 2006 and his wife told me that I'd made their weekend. Fascinating stuff.)

I've just finished Broken River by J Robert Lennon. It was ok. Again, fascinating stuff.

Hobo, where are you going to do your Booker blog?

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #506 on: July 29, 2017, 01:06:44 PM »
Shame that Michael Chabon was overlooked - 'Moonglow' is my book of the year so far.

I'm really surprised that Paul Kingsnorth's Beast isn't on there. Also thought Ross Raisin's A Natural might feature.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #507 on: July 29, 2017, 09:06:49 PM »
My reading over the last couple of weeks.

As mentioned above, I finally got around to reading Colson Whitehead's excellent The Underground Railroad. As I also mentioned above, for a long time, it was starting to seem like the only historical fiction I enjoyed was that which was basically crime fiction in a historical setting, with any more literary historical stuff ('Golden Hill' or 'The Essex Serpent' for instance) just not grabbing me at all. So it was nice to finally read one that was just well written, gripping and thought-provoking. The much-vaunted 'steam-punk' element of the book - in which the Underground Railroad is a literal railroad - was, thankfully, overstated, and about 90% of the book is inspired by the actual history of slavery without pulling any punches or getting whimsical. Completely recommended.

Next, Tony Robinson's autobiography, No Cunning Plan, which was a cracking read. Naturally, I picked it up to read about 'Blackadder' and 'Who Dares Wins' (and yes, alright, 'Time Team'), but Robinson has led such an interesting life from the off that the whole thing is highly entertaining. (And, truth be told, he doesn't really say that much about 'Who Dares Wins'.) Starting out as a child actor alongside one Steve Marriott (a git even in his youth), for me, some of the most interesting parts were Robinson getting involved with communes and political theatre during the late sixties and seventies. Great stuff.

Then Don Winslow's new one, The Force, which was enjoyable enough, though not a patch on the drug-war epics of 'The Power Of The Dog' and 'The Cartel'. SPOILERS AHEAD! The main problem I had with 'The Force' was the manically hard-boiled hyper-macho prose style, which means that main character, Denny Malone, ticks off just about every cliche in the corrupt cop book: hard-drinkin' and druggin', womanizing, brutal, thumbing his nose at authority, etc - he even has a straight-as-a-die Captain to butt against - but, wouldn't you know, he's only doin' it this way because them scum on the street are even worse! His American-Irish heritage also indulges every cliche imaginable, culminating in a scene where he's sitting in a bar on Christmas Eve listening to the Pogues. There is still plenty to enjoy about the book (one death involving a split bag of heroin early in the book is devilishly inventive), and to be honest, it would all have been fine if it wasn't for the last 50 pages, where Malone turns into The Terminator, stalking through riot-torn New York, taking out the bad guys on the way to his inevitably redemptive death. Read the drug-war books - they're much better.

I followed that with Mail Obsession by Mark Mason, an enjoyable enough book which uses the framework of running through all of Britain's postcodes as an excuse to rattle off hundreds of odd and intriguing facts. A bit like one of Bill Bryson's 'things' books, basically. I was quite pleased to hear that the village of Knockin has a shop called - yes! - The Knockin Shop, and that Alan Sugar once absent-mindedly gave his wife a birthday card signed, 'Best Wishes, Sir Alan Sugar'.

And I've just finished Virginia Reeves mighty Work Like Any Other, a rattling tale set in 1920s Alabama, where a decision by the main character, Roscoe Martin, to nick a bit of free electricity to power his wife's farm leads to all kinds of bad shit happening to him, his family, friends, and just about everybody who comes into contact with him. I zipped through this in a day or so, the writing just crackles along, and I'm hoping that Reeves might be a discovery like Elizabeth Strout, whose new novels will always be something worth looking out for.

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #508 on: July 30, 2017, 10:52:49 AM »
I really enjoyed Autumn. I even posted a photo of one of the pages on here. It was such a zippy read that I was surprised that it made the longlist. I've only read two so far, the other being Jon McGregor's Reservoir 13. (As a vaguely interesting aside, I actually got to inform him the last time he made the longlist in 2006 and his wife told me that I'd made their weekend. Fascinating stuff.)

Ha, that's lovely! I'm actually coming on halfway through Reservoir 13 right now. I wasn't sure at first, but it's really won me over with its unexpected rhythm. I'm so hooked, on tenterhooks with every single plot thread.

Quote
Hobo, where are you going to do your Booker blog?

Here! It's just an intro and a longlist reaction so far, I'm aiming to do a review every Thursday.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #509 on: July 30, 2017, 11:11:55 AM »
Ah, great. I'll look forward to that.

Just read that one of the books - Elmet by Fiona Mozley - isn't even published until November (Amazon actually has it as January '18).