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The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald

Wait, which chickadee is she again?
To give John D. MacDonald his due, his entertaining and quixotic detective fictions have certainly kept my attention for longer than more challenging and potentially rewarding works from chaps like David Foster Wallace and John Barth, for whom I need to build up a tolerance in the intervals between books which is depleted during the reading so that I might have the courage to finish them in a less than diabolically lengthy period and so that their influence on my own writing has the opportunity to wane and diminish. I am a terrible, terrible mimic of other peoples' styles. MacDonald provides a salve to a disquieted mind, something chewy but not strongly flavoured - no, sorry that's not quite accurate. Travis McGee has a very distinct flavour, a cherrywood smoked, Plymouth ginned, sun lotioned and salt tanged flavour. What is missing is the active involvement of the reader, making it all so much fun and fluff, pretty pictures with primary colours. It's easy just to read and to not think. 

It's probably the same reason I like a beer every couple of minutes, from time to time. Thinking is HARD.

So tilting at this particular windmill is particularly redundant. Yes, as a main character Travis is flawed; he's knowingly sexist, requires some one-on-one sessions with the diversity trainers at Bahia Mar, and could stop vacillating between perceived nobility and gratuitous violence for five minutes without dying of the shame. The novels are showing their age, now that we're into an age of spying from the comfort of one's smart phone, with some old-fashioned phone-book sleuthing and whatnot, and frankly, all of the female characters, apart from the one with the woman who was... no, sorry I was mistaken, they all really blend into one vacuous and offensive stereotype, a damsel in need of rescuing, despite not wanting to and exercising her own cute little feet stamping independence before Trav either slugs 'er or beds 'er. But they're not all bad, or rather, they're all not bad. That's a feat in and of itself quite remarkable, a consistency which is hard to achieve and difficult to deride. The fact that I can't for the life of me remember the who what where why of this one* is neither here nor there. Trav's flaws provide friction, drama, and plot devices. His blind spots are where the baddies live, and if he doesn't get knocked out at least once a novel then, frankly, what's the point? His hirsute side-kick Meyer, the supposed brains of the operation, provides a nice little counterpoint to hulking brutality and low cunning, and there are numerous titillating if nauseating moments of amorousness. All in all, this is pulp at it's least worst, and if you can't do anything else with your life but do the reading without the thinking, this would certainly kill some of that endless time of yours.

*No, wait, it's all coming back to me. There was a boat, a bad guy, a girl, and - sorry, I could actually be talking about any single one of the series. I tried, really I did.

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Damned If I Do by Percival Everett

Where I should be recovering from a particularly nasty stomach bug, rather I appear to be on a Percival Everett trip today - first Strom, now Damned - but he really is that good. Good as in read-everything-he's-written-now good. Good as in I'm writing this on my iPad never more than two meters from the nearest toilet good. That's good. 

Damned If I Do is short stories, yes. That I have a curious relationship with short fiction is undisputed, but there are some like Breece D'J Pancake and Haruki Murakami that just have to be read, objections or no. Thankfully, it appears Everett has inherited some of their ability to write convincing, understated and ultimately addictive snippets of prose. And snippets they are. Somewhere I read once a quote from China Mielville where he says he just loves it when writers don't show the reader the monster in its entirety, that leaving something of the horror to the imagination of his audience adds a level of engagement and makes the …

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

Open Door by Iosi Havilio

*Shame Klaxon*
I am ashamed to admit it but I know next to nothing about Borges. I know the names of his books. I know he crops up almost without fail when conversations include literature from South America. I know his words book-end so many novels that I have that habitual proving-my-bold-assertion-mind-blankness which means my brain knows it to be true and won't humour your scepticism with an example*. And I know it's likely the biggest single lacuna in my entire reading history**.
So you may imagine my lack of surprise, on finishing this novel and reading the afterword by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, and author of works on the history and politics of Latin America, that Borges pops up, within three lines of text. Three lines! He wastes no time does Oscar. Of course, my shame bristled and I was ready to adopt the usual casual hostility to something of which I was ignorant. But straight away, I understood what he was saying. I have often consid…