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Showing posts from March, 2012

Books of Note

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Not surprisingly, like a lot of John Darnielle’s music, particularly those songs on the album The Sunset Tree (Pale Green Things springs to mind and is very much worth listening to), his writing only slowly reveals itself and its narrative direction. Not in any turgid or tedious fashion, but rather in an unhurried, gentler and more thoughtful way. Universal Harvester rolls gently along its path with only a few disconcerting and probably deliberate hiccups. It starts in Iowa in the 1990s with a young man, still living at home with his father but unable to leave because of the weight of his mother’s death, years before, in a car crash. The trauma tethers Jeremy and his father together like the gravitational pull of a dead star in a comfortable and predictable but numb orbit, but it’s never something that either of them can discuss openly.
Jeremy works at a VHS rental store, so we’re assuredly early-Worldwide Web era. His job is simple, repetitive, and keeps him and his father in entertai…

Hope by Glen Duncan

"Nothing holds love together like shared vice or collusive perversion."
So says Glen Duncan, author of several of my favourite British novels in recent memory (most notably I, Lucifer, once reviewed, stunningly ineptly, on my behalf by some crackpot nitwit at Waterstone's [sorry, seems I included a redundant apostrophe there] HQ). More on that quotation and its relevance in a moment, but for now, on with the review.


Hope as I understand it is the first in the Duncan chronology and as such in places it does feel like he's working out some of the issues with reader-goading, info-dumping and whatnot that new authors need to be told to avoid by a trustworthy (or mercenary) editor. It may explain why, when first published, it was touted as that summer's "essential first novel" [Matthew De Abaitua in Esquire] and yet now is difficult to buy new. There is a recurrent motif, of memory as stones dropping into a pond of time and over which the 'author' has …

The Unburied by Charles Palliser

It is likely to upset the cultured reader, but I must begin by confessing that I was immediately disappointed that this novel was not a western.


Have all the cultured readers left? Okay, good. Further elaboration is probably necessary here, but you may already have guessed the unintentional link to The Unforgiven, that rather good horse opera with Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood a few years back. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found what was in essence a verbose and in places stodgy pastiche of a Victorian murder mystery. 


Now, don't get me wrong, I like a good murder as much as the next guy, but this one was old before the action herein took place, and the additional contemporaneous murder happens rather towards the end of the novel, so rather than a gripping read, it felt more like an episode of Time Team (one of the ones where they intend to discover secret caches of lost Roman loot but end up digging through some water mains). 


The premise is that some moth-eaten fart…