Author Topic: The All-New Books Thread  (Read 37097 times)

billtheburger

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #570 on: August 24, 2017, 09:43:03 AM »
Fear and loathing it is then.
It does seem right to read it on a family holiday for the antithesis.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #571 on: August 25, 2017, 07:34:18 PM »
I'm half way through a new translation of Cheese by Willem Elsschot (1933) after a Lezard recommendation in the Graun. So far it's a great droll read with wonderful, deadpan turns of phrase(s). It opens with the narrator not sure how to react to the death of his mother - makes me wonder if it influenced Camus's Outsider, although the petty, agonising tone of the narrator is more Mark Corrigan than Meursault.

The disconnect between reality and the narrator's sense of self-importance also puts me in mind of 'Nobody' Pooter or Alan Partridge (particularly as I've just finished the latter's travelogue). There's a whole chapter devoted to the narrator debating what to name his new cheese business.

Before Nomad I read Magnus Mills's latest (Forensic Records Society) - great as ever, though I feel I should probably move away from deadpan humour genre now...

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #572 on: August 25, 2017, 08:26:53 PM »
I found a box set of the first five Edward Marston Railway Detective books for six quid in a remainder bookshop a few weeks ago, so thought I'd give them a go. To be brutally honest, they're not really very good, but I quite enjoyed reading something that I didn't have to think too hard about, and I went through them at the rate of one a day, so they didn't take up too much of my time. He's not very good at the idea of whodunnits - in one of them, the killer doesn't appear until about 20 pages from the end, so you'd have no chance of guessing who it was. He basically ripped off the idea from Andrew martin's far superior 'Jim Stringer - Railway Detective' books, and I'd recommend them over these.

The I read Stuart Maconie's latest, The Long Road From Jarrow, where he recreates the route of the Jarrow March eighty years on, and tries to see if there are parallels. It's pretty good, and his heart's in the right place, but it is a little bit too full of Corbyn-bashing and predictions about how well he'd do in a General Election which immediately went out of date the second the book went to press.

And since then, I've been reading nothing but books about music:

Sara Marcus' Girls To The Front: The True Story Of The Riot Grrrl Revolution, which is excellent, and took me back to the days when people would make fanzines and Bikini Kill were still around.

Andy Partridge's Complicated Game, where he is interviewed by Todd Bernhardt about 30-odd XTC songs, but along the way talks about the whole history of the band, and various other things besides.

Stuart Cosgrove's fantastic Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul, an absolutely fantastic history of the year as seen through the prism of events in Detroit, most notably what's going on at Motown, the rise of John Sinclair and the MC5 and the riots that tore the city apart in the summer. The Motown strand plays the biggest part in the book, and largely dwells on the downfall of Florence Ballard of The Supremes. While Cosgrove tries to be as even-handed as possible, it's obvious that Diana Ross, with help from Berry Gordy, tipped an already fragile person over the edge and got the superstardom she wanted. There is also a lot about the other big showdown at the label that year, when songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland went on strike in the belief that they were being underpaid. The Sinclair/MC5 strand is possibly the most half-hearted - Cosgrove is obviously a soul boy and doesn't have the love for their music that he does for Motown, so although the events are covered, it's more like they're being paid lip service to than anything else. The riots and their aftermath are covered in detail, and the frankly appalling story of the Algiers Motel Murders, something I was completely unaware of before I read this book, is (rightly) given much of the narrative - and is also the subject of the new Kathryn Bigelow film, 'Detroit'. And the parallels with what's still going on in America are hard not to draw. I was also pleased to see that it's intended to be the first part of a trilogy, with further volumes - Memphis 68 and Harlem 69 promised.

Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy by Mike Love, in which it turns out that the bad guy in the Beach Boys story isn't actually all that bad. He is strange - leaving aside his interest in TM and astrology and all other kinds of hippy mystical bullshit - he does have an obsession with constantly mentioning how well his records did and how much money they made, which does come across as very Alan Partridge at times (though he never ends an anecdote by saying, 'needless to say, I had the last laugh', thankfully), and there is that weird bit where the death of a woman who may be an illegitimate daughter of his is relegated to a footnote (to be fair, she had shagged Dennis Wilson.) But overall, he comes across much better than his public image over the years would lead you to believe. He can be quite funny, he is properly self-deprecating at times, and his side of the story does come across as being legit - he didn't 'fire' Brian Wilson from that Beach Boys tour, he may not actually be a Republican (he is guarded about his political affiliations, but he certainly doesn't come across as a right-wing nutcase, and his concern for the environment, and the work he's done in that direction for decades are certainly at odds with much of the Republican mindset), and although he has plenty of character flaws, he is honest enough to own up to most of them. In fact, there's a case for it being said that the real villain in the Beach Boys story is.....Brian Wilson. Admittedly, much of the shady shenanigans done in his name are usually down to whoever is trying to control his mind at any given time (it's no secret that Eugene Landy is a pretty reprehensible sack of shit), but it's Brian who deliberately kept Love's name off the credits of dozens of Beach Boys songs, among them some of the biggest hits of all - 'California Girls' and 'I Get Around' for example - and happily let the money pile into his bank account for years, even at a time when Love was facing bankruptcy. So I went in expecting to read 'I, Love: We Need To Talk About Alan', and actually found....a decent read by a complex man.

I'm currently halfway through 'Meet Me In The Bathroom' about the New York music scene in the first decade of this century, which I might start a thread about when I've finished it.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #573 on: August 26, 2017, 03:31:59 AM »
I'm half way through a new translation of Cheese by Willem Elsschot (1933) after a Lezard recommendation in the Graun. So far it's a great droll read with wonderful, deadpan turns of phrase(s). It opens with the narrator not sure how to react to the death of his mother - makes me wonder if it influenced Camus's Outsider, although the petty, agonising tone of the narrator is more Mark Corrigan than Meursault.

The disconnect between reality and the narrator's sense of self-importance also puts me in mind of 'Nobody' Pooter or Alan Partridge (particularly as I've just finished the latter's travelogue). There's a whole chapter devoted to the narrator debating what to name his new cheese business.

I remember some excitement last year about the translation of a Dutch novel called The Evenings first published in 1947. Reviewers described it as an existentialist masterpiece and compared it with Camus, Salinger and Kerouac. Somehow it had remained obscure outside of the Netherlands. It was advertised with this minimal excerpt: 'I work in an office. I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is it.' But it's not actually a first person novel so I felt slightly misled and didn't end up reading it. I've just read the free first chapter of Cheese, starting out as a letter to someone or effectively to us. I liked that enough to order the book. Thanks for bringing it to attention. I'll just add that Jean-Philippe Toussaint is a funny contemporary Belgian writer, also a deadpan humourist I suppose, especially in his early short novels, Monsieur and The Bathroom. But you're done with that sort of book for now.

http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/reading-jean-philippe-toussaint/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/09/the-evenings-by-gerard-reve-review

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #574 on: August 26, 2017, 05:16:53 AM »
Can anybody recommend some good books about comedy please?

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #575 on: August 26, 2017, 01:26:02 PM »
If you can track them down, Roger Wimut's 'From Fringe To Flying Circus' and 'Didn't You Kill My Mother-In-Law?' are both great. STOP PRESS: Have just looked them up on Amazon, and they're both available second hand and cheap on there. While you're on Amazon, get hold of a copy of 'The Comic Inquisition' by John Hind, published in the 90s, but he interviews people like Alexei Sayle, Jerry Sadowitz, Stephen Fry, Stephen Wright, etc, etc, and well worth a read.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #576 on: August 26, 2017, 06:54:53 PM »
The name above should be Roger Wilmut, of course. I don't know who Roger Wimut is, or what he's doing in my post.

Howj Begg

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #577 on: August 28, 2017, 09:35:43 PM »
Finished Kafka's Diaries. Now reading 1968 by Mark Kurlansky, a pretty good journalistic round-up of all the events of the year, with an extensive focus on the Eastern Bloc, Czech and Polish, so far.

buttgammon

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #578 on: August 28, 2017, 11:06:36 PM »
I've just finished Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, which I devoured in a couple of days. I seriously loved it; there is an ambitious scope in terms of years and the number of characters, but also a real sense of smallness in the tiny glimpses we get of them. There are so many little narratives running through it, all enclosed in the bigger narrative, which is simply one of the passage of time. McGregor writes brilliantly about time, and my favourite bits of prose in the book are the passages where he addresses the little landmarks of another year advancing, like annual events in nature and in village life.

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #579 on: August 29, 2017, 12:02:56 AM »
It's beautiful, isn't it? I felt invested in certs characters and plotlines in a way I never quite have before, eagerly looking forward at each turn of the year to what's changed and what hasn't. And like you say, when he suddenly zooms in on some issue or other, it flaring up into something massive. Wonderful sense of scale.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #580 on: August 30, 2017, 03:56:14 PM »
Slaughterhouse 5.
Really enjoyed this lively and strange book. Nice and short too. This the only Vonnegut book I'd heard of but see there,s plenty others.
Any recommendations?

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #581 on: August 30, 2017, 04:32:11 PM »
There was a recent thread about Vonnegut with a few opinions about his books.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #582 on: August 30, 2017, 08:27:05 PM »
Nice one thanks

MoonDust

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #583 on: August 31, 2017, 10:57:03 AM »
Slaughterhouse 5.
Really enjoyed this lively and strange book. Nice and short too. This the only Vonnegut book I'd heard of but see there,s plenty others.
Any recommendations?

Not read it but Cat's Cradle is meant to be good. Like you I've only read Slaughterhouse 5. I liked it but I didn't like how the narrator kept saying "so it goes" at the end of everything, or something like that. Don't know why I didn't like that, just got a bit annoying.

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #584 on: August 31, 2017, 01:31:07 PM »
He says 'so it goes' every time someone dies.

Twit 2

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #585 on: August 31, 2017, 01:45:53 PM »
As a big fan of Conrad and Melville I have ordered The North Water on the strength of the recommendations in this thread. Also on my to read pile:

Favid Foster Wallace - Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Thomas Ligotti - Songs of a Dead Dreamer/Grimscribe

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #586 on: August 31, 2017, 03:52:26 PM »
Not read it but Cat's Cradle is meant to be good. Like you I've only read Slaughterhouse 5. I liked it but I didn't like how the narrator kept saying "so it goes" at the end of everything, or something like that. Don't know why I didn't like that, just got a bit annoying.

He says 'so it goes' every time someone dies.

It echoes/translates the last line of a Brothers Grimm story "The Cat and Mouse in Partnership" when the cat inevitably eats the mouse: 'So it goes in the world'. I suppose it emphasises the fatalism that runs through Slaughterhouse 5.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #587 on: August 31, 2017, 08:03:34 PM »
He picks it up from the aliens who kidnap him who can see/travel through time. Death is no big deal for them as that person/thing is still alive at another easily seen/visited point in time,  so after a death 'so it goes'. I though it worked great when put after 'real',grim war deaths.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #588 on: August 31, 2017, 09:02:10 PM »
Can you add some more about that? I'm thinking mainly, what does the alien philosophy of time and eternity make us think about Dresden and history? And what sort of view of free will do you have personally?

BritishHobo

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #589 on: August 31, 2017, 11:19:49 PM »
Finished meself The Underground Railroad. I reckon it might win, but I wouldn't pick it myself. It's a great read, but I never felt it did enough with its unique premise to distinguish it from other slave narratives. I dunno, it just feels like it's not doing anything quite as original or clever or radical as The Sellout did last year.

Pepotamo1985

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #590 on: September 01, 2017, 09:40:13 AM »
Slaughterhouse 5.

That book is a total outlier in Vonnegut's oeuvre - not saying his other work isn't worth reading, but boy did I suffer repeat disappointment trying to find more books by him like it. Most of his other fiction is very much worth reading, but don't go into it expecting Slaughterhouse 6 or 7.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #591 on: September 01, 2017, 10:10:59 AM »
Finished meself The Underground Railroad. I reckon it might win, but I wouldn't pick it myself. It's a great read, but I never felt it did enough with its unique premise to distinguish it from other slave narratives. I dunno, it just feels like it's not doing anything quite as original or clever or radical as The Sellout did last year.

I've been thinking much the same. I have about 1/3 to go and it's a really engaging story but, IMO, too formulaic to win.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #592 on: September 04, 2017, 08:25:46 AM »
Can anybody recommend some good books about comedy please?


I really enjoyed I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Era by William Knoedelseder. It's the true story of how comedians in '70s Los Angeles unionised in an effort to force promoters to pay them.

Any of Jem Roberts's books about British comedy are excellent - he's written about ISIHAC, Blackadder and Douglas Adams. I particularly liked the depth of background research, so, for instance, in the Blackadder book, you get some fascinating stuff about the creation of Not The Nine O'Clock News.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #593 on: September 04, 2017, 09:49:01 AM »
What did you think about Autumn, Serge?

Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #594 on: September 04, 2017, 01:24:11 PM »
I think that's what they call a leading question.

Since my last post, I've read:

Meet Me In The Bathroom by Lizzy Goldman, which I started a thread about.

Then I read Woody Woodmansey's Spider From Mars, which is his autobiography, though heavily slanted towards the Bowie years, unsurprisingly. He comes across as a nice enough guy, even if he does sprinkle the book with a few Partridgean 'needless to say's. There's nothing hugely revelatory about the book, but it's a decent enough read. The only thing I can't reconcile with his character is the fact that he's a Scientologist!

Up next were two early John le Carré novels: A Murder Of Quality and The Looking Glass War. The first is an anomaly in the Smiley series, as it finds him retired from the Circus (Smiley's constant state of retiring and coming back is referred to in 'Looking Glass') and helping a friend get to the bottom of a gruesome murder in the West Country. The murder mystery aspect is really a convenient distraction to hang a polemic about Britain's public schools on - somewhat undermined by an afterword in which le Carré admits that he sent both of his children to public schools.

'The Looking Glass War' finds him back in the espionage world, though Smiley only has a handful of walk-on parts, as it's mainly concerned with The Department, a branch of the secret service that in former years was a rival to The Circus, but whose standing has diminished in the post-war years. Relegated to a run-down house south of the river, the old men who hang on and run The Department grab at some unverified rumours about secret missile bases in East Germany and use them to feed their delusions and vanity, trying to maintain their relevance in a World which is no longer theirs. It all comes to a bad end - not for them, but for others who have got caught up in their misguided fervour. Sounds like the Tories on the Leave side to me......

And so, yes, Autumn, the latest Ali Smith book, long-listed for the Booker Prize for some fucking reason. I've never read Smith before, and thought if this was any good, then I'd have someone with a backlist to catch up on, and a further three books in her current cycle of seasonally named titles. Well, I can save my money, as 'Autumn' is utter fucking crap. On the plus side, the big print and slim page count meant that it only took me about two hours to read, but I'm pretty sure that that's roughly how long it took her to write it, too. It literally reads as if she just wrote down the first thing that came into her head at any given point. I don't mind a novel not having a coherent narrative if there's some kind of point to it, but this was just page after page of absolute drivel.

I suppose, on the plus side, she doesn't at any point indulge in my least favourite literary conceit of having whole chapters in italics, but she does succumb to my second least favourite, of endless, pointless lists which seem to be there merely to pad out the page count. One chapter is literally a list of sentences beginning 'All across the country...' followed by something that happened on Brexit day. They'd probably call it stream of consciousness, I call it a stream of watery diahorrea. Penguin will obviously publish any old shit now as long as it's got a name attached to it. If this makes the Booker shortlist over Auster or Roy, I'll be pissed off.

I'm going to read an Elizabeth Strout next to put me on an even keel.


Serge

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #595 on: September 04, 2017, 01:26:56 PM »
Unless you mean Autumn the season, in which case, I'm a big fan.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #596 on: September 04, 2017, 04:56:54 PM »
Can anybody recommend some good books about comedy please?

"Fun at One" by Tim Worthington is a fun enough read, it's the history of comedy on Radio 1. Includes all the usual suspects and a fair portion of you'll probably know already, but it's a breeze to read and I don't really get tired of reading about Rawlinson End, John Shuttleworth and the like. It's kindle only, it seems.

"Sunshine on Putty" by Ben Thompson is good, it's about 90s comedy, arguing that it's the golden age. There are interviews with R&M, Whitehouse, Higson, etc. At least I remember it being good, it's been a fair few years since I picked it up.

Also anything by Jem Roberts, as has already been suggested.

Dannyhood91

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Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #597 on: September 04, 2017, 04:59:35 PM »
I'm reading Naked Lunch. It's flipping bonkers.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #598 on: September 04, 2017, 08:00:24 PM »
And so, yes, Autumn, the latest Ali Smith book, long-listed for the Booker Prize for some fucking reason. I've never read Smith before, and thought if this was any good, then I'd have someone with a backlist to catch up on, and a further three books in her current cycle of seasonally named titles. Well, I can save my money, as 'Autumn' is utter fucking crap. On the plus side, the big print and slim page count meant that it only took me about two hours to read, but I'm pretty sure that that's roughly how long it took her to write it, too. It literally reads as if she just wrote down the first thing that came into her head at any given point. I don't mind a novel not having a coherent narrative if there's some kind of point to it, but this was just page after page of absolute drivel.

I suppose, on the plus side, she doesn't at any point indulge in my least favourite literary conceit of having whole chapters in italics, but she does succumb to my second least favourite, of endless, pointless lists which seem to be there merely to pad out the page count. One chapter is literally a list of sentences beginning 'All across the country...' followed by something that happened on Brexit day. They'd probably call it stream of consciousness, I call it a stream of watery diahorrea. Penguin will obviously publish any old shit now as long as it's got a name attached to it. If this makes the Booker shortlist over Auster or Roy, I'll be pissed off.

I really enjoyed Autumn! I found it really fresh and zippy. I particularly liked the chapter you singled out; it actually made me grin when I read it, just a great way of describing that ridiculous and horrifying aftermath of the Brexit vote. I'm going to hate the LCD Soundsystem LP now, just out of spite.

I don't think Autumn will win, by the way, if only because it's the first part of a quadrilology quadrilogy tetralogy series of 4. Others that won't win are, hopefully, The Underground Railroad, Elmet and History of Wolves. Out of the 6 1/2 I've read so far, I think Solar Bones should be the favourite although I enjoyed Reservoir 13 (and Autumn) much more.

Re: The All-New Books Thread
« Reply #599 on: September 04, 2017, 08:01:08 PM »
Unless you mean Autumn the season, in which case, I'm a big fan.

Felt have a song called Autumn. I wonder which is your least favourite.