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Showing posts from September, 2012

***UTTER FILTH WARNING*** House of Holes by Nicholson Baker

In order to truly do justice to this book, and the rather spiffy reputation of Mr Baker for clever and challenging fiction, I attempted to read several reviews, posted around the time of publication, in many British broadsheets of firm middle-groundedness and of some repute. This may or may not be a cardinal sin of lazy reviewers, but I was in need of inspiration, prior to beginning reading, to keep my focus, as from what I understood of Baker's latest "novel" (parenthesis may be clarified later) it could curdle a bishop's milk. 

Embarking on this tangent, you may expect that I found something unusual in my foraging. Indeed, the unexpected truffle among the mushrooms was the near constantly vituperative tone of most reviewers (the one exception - a rather entertaining piece in The Paris Review). Filth, pornography, and (sad to say I can't remember which review this was in, despite going in search of it a second time) a wank-book*, were just some of the surprising …

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson

Every so often there comes along a book that is capable of devastation, one that wreaks emotional havoc and leaves strewn in its wake nothing but exhaustion, myopia and psychological ruin. I refer you to something like A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (back when it was biography and not fiction) or, for very different reasons, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (which, at over a million words, is the very definition of an exhausting read). Both books have had, at different times, the same power to make me want to engulf any handy intoxicant and cry myself to sleep.

Picture then, if you will, not one novel, not even 7 (à la Marcel Proust), but 9 books of the most soul-crushing emotional turmoil imaginable. Admittedly I have yet to read books 7, 8 and 9, but after reading the second omnibus of Thomas Covenant, I think I’m due a break.
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever sees the eponymous sceptic and leper thrust back into the service of The Land, an alternate reality…

The Case For Working With Your Hands... by Matthew Crawford

You know those books where, prior to reading them under the weight of readerly guilt for having to this point completely neglected them, you had avoided them as you expect, once the plunge has been taken and cover opened, to be confronted by a whimsical piece of nonsense, written whilst whiling away a few hours between gloating about how wonderful your life is to your dwindling stock of friends and sleeping with your ridiculously good-looking wife who also makes the world’s greatest vegan curry, and destined to annoy the shit out of you because you had the vain hope that maybe just this once it would be worthwhile and life-changing but are fully expecting to be seriously disappointed? That.
Sorry, did I just utilise a Twitter device?
Well, “That” in this case would be a gigantic fucking* lie. This book, scholarly in a slightly biased fashion, anecdotal in an entertaining and endearing manner, so so very interesting in a “Jesus Hindu Krishna I’ve wasted my life” sort-of-way, is the anti…

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

I have always held the snug and comforting illusion that Eco, being a rotund, avuncular European in my mind (and in reality, once I’d bothered to look him up, judging from a photo grabbed from Wikipedia – Eco is the ever so slightly less hirsute mammal on the right) was a properly cuddly old European Intellectual (capital I no less) who wrote comfortable fables of a suitably magical realism or historical fantasy bent. No doubt, the rather good but clearly inadequate cinematic version of The Name Of The Rose is partially to blame.
A cursory investigation however dredged up a host of worrying and confusing concepts and authors from the swamps of my lost and forgotten academic hinterland – post-modernism, semiotics, intertextuality, honkadori; Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Roland Barthes. When I purchased a signed copy of The Prague Cemetery from the lovely people at Rossiter Books (you can follow them on Twitter so you can) I believed I was in for a challenging but ente…