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Showing posts from May, 2013

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…

City of the Falling Sky by Joseph Evans

This book has a triple distinction of, for me, quite significant... er, significance. Permit me to elaborate. It is the first book I’ve read by a person who was a friend before they wrote it rather than a person who became a friend because they wrote a book. Joe and I worked together for Gedin knows how many years as booksellers, and was the only person who actually wanted (and liked) to arrange the Tokyopop alphabetically by series. Little did I know he was secretly nursing a creative spark*. I made a vague promise years ago that I would get round to reading it, with the caveat that it would be as soon as I owned an electronic device capable of downloading it, unlikely given the collective ambivalence expressed by fellow booksellers to the new Sony E-Reader the shop was then stocking (although clearly not shared by Joe, considering this, his first book, now has over 50,000 downloads). This is also consideration number one for readers of this review.It is the first teenage / adult cros…

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

I thought I'd talked about Thomas Bernhard here somewhere before - the vitriol, the bitterness, the hilarity that was Old Masters - but it appears not, or, more likely, that I search like I think; superficially. Nevertheless, at least I now have the opportunity to present him for your consideration, albeit with the oily glaze of my opinion applied liberally. 

An Austrian author and playwright, Bernhard had a curious relationship with the land of his birth. He was highly critical of both the people and state, regularly attacking the church, the government, the populace (who he labelled stupid and stubbornly contemptuous) and venerable old institutions like the concert halls and cultural venues of Vienna. Indeed, in his will, he strictly forbade any new productions of his works, both unpublished novels and poems, and stagings of his plays. His characters often deliver long monologues filled with bile and spite, frequently inhabiting considered but oddly irrational-seeming positions. …