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The Camera Killer by Thomas Glavinic

The whole area is cordoned off
and we're closing in.
I loved Night Work, Austrian Glavinic's own I am Legend, or maybe, more accurately, Last Man, given there aren't any vampires in it ('Neville, Neville!'). It was creepy as hell and completely unresolved, whilst being written straight, a little matter-of-fact, but cold and hard and sparse and brilliant! In fact, it put me in mind of Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (of which more anon) in so far as it was as though the Creator had lifted away all of the automatons whom He'd charged with interacting with the protagonist, in His divine experiment, leaving only the one real person and no explanation. Maybe His funding ran out!

I can't remember if I came to Glavinic through fellow Austrian Thomas Bernhard or if it was the other way around, but either way I was eager to find other works of his translated from Austrian. At only 100 pages or so, I'd considered this a little too slim to be a good read so left it for last. In the end, I think I made a singular mistake–this is better (in a different way) to Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw, his chess novel.

Okay, so it's going to be hard to review this objectively without a massive hint of a spoiler. Anyone who doesn't want the surprise ruined look away now. Maybe go read my review of Indiana, Indiana instead.

Right. Here it is. I'm sure all the Eng Lit graduates out there took a look at The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie at some point. You'll all know where I'm going with this. That was in essence a confessional novel. So is this. Although in retrospect it's given away in the very first line–"I have been requested to commit everything to paper."–it isn't until the very last page or so that the mystery is resolved. Our narrator is telling the story of his holiday with friends over the Easter weekend, which is tarnished by the reporting of an horrendous double murder, of two local children no less, by a man who filmed the whole thing. In reality, he doesn't actually do any of the killing, instead forcing the children into acts of suicide by threatening the rest of their family with terrible suffering and death. Anyway, this spurs on the media to a suitable and far too familiar frenzy, with one German TV news channel even going so far as to broadcast an edited version of the tape to its viewers. All the while the four friends (narrator and partner, and his friend Heinrich and partner) try to have a normal, relaxing, Easter weekend, playing games, eating and drinking, enjoying a little teasing and competition and attempting to patch up their typically slowly dissolving thirty-something friendships.

As the weekend progresses and they become alternately obsessed and repulsed by the media storm, they discuss the moral and ethical situation, try to find distractions, but are always pulled back into the story. As the net around the killer slowly tightens, we suddenly realise that the police are heading to the very house in which they're all staying–THE KILLER IS ALREADY IN THE HOUSE etc.

What sets this trite little morsel apart, though, is the bald telling, the humourless, emotionless voice of the narrator. He's reporting, as objectively as possible, on the situation as it unfolds, on the discussions amongst the friends and the reactions of the neighbours and the wider public. It's dry but taut with suspense! And the ending, although telegraphed so soon in the novel, is a slap-your-head moment. HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO BLIND etc. It's an optical illusion that once you see it, it can't be unseen and you have no idea how you could have seen it any other way before.

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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…

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*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…

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

I don't think I was asked to honour the old convention that a freebie necessitates an honest if gently favourable review (at least I can find no written proof). I will however, name-check the generous (and possibly over-optimistic) @TheWorkshyFop, editorial director of the independent British publisher, Dodo Ink, from whose proof boxes of new November lead titles this one arrived. Thank you, sir!
I recall James Miller, specifically Lost Boys, from the dim and distant past. It may have been a commission for Waterstones Books Quarterly, or perhaps I was doing a solid for the Little, Brown sales rep. Regardless, I remember nothing about the book except being underwhelmed. From reading old reviews, it seems it had the coat-tails of the contemporaneous zeitgeist in its teeth, but one slightly savage Guardian review* points out it was pretty badly done. This might explain why I remember very little, perhaps proving Auden's assertion that, "some books are undeservedly forgotten; …