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Showing posts from May, 2014

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…

Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

I recall chortling along at the age of fifteen or so to those gadabouts with their silly walks and dead Nordic psittacines when, in a small boarding house in Minehead, Somerset, Bimmler, Ron Vibbentrop and one Mr Hilter sat planning a little hike to Bideford but are gently chided by the newcomers that the map they have is of Stalingrad. "Not much fun in Stalingrad," Mr Hilter agrees with the landlady through gritted teeth.

To my adolescent mind, it was comedy gold, the idea that 'Mein Dickie Old Chum' was billeted in a B&B whilst plotting his return to power via the North Minehead bye-elections, surrounded by typical holidaying bourgeois couples with the political nous of a wiener schnitzel. 
Fast forward a mere forty five years* and along comes Timur Vermes** and his satire. Now, I don't have enough knowledge of the burgeoning (or otherwise) German satire scene to confidently place this work into context. Is there really a battery of Hitler impersonators roami…

The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber

To be fair to this e-book, it probably deserves a mini mention but not much more. Typical of the era, and of the author* these are dangerously sanitised versions of much loved and much more gruesome and explicit tales. Still, they're quite entertaining for a three year old and there's lots of them, so as they're stored electronically on the branded e-reading device of choice, I can take them camping rather than lug a suitcase of children's books with me (and lessening the space available for the lugging of large quantities of alcohol, for once he's gone to sleep).
* I also read Myths of the Norsemen by this author and it exhibits all of the same typical Victorian values in so-called educational literature for children.