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Showing posts from April, 2018

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…

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

Hi, how’ve you been? I’ve been busy myself, thanks for asking. In fact, I was so busy I began contemplating a terminal hiatus from this, ostensibly purposeless endeavour. However, for reasons, I chose not to take it. So on with the show and back to Helen DeWitt.
If there’s one thing about this dense, frankly mind-bogglingly erudite book to love/find empathy with (apart from my own Canadian edition’s deckle-edged hardbackedness – deckle edges; good or bad? Discuss!), it would have to be the passages narrated by Sibylla, mother to genius progeny Ludo. As a parent to one post-toddler and one pre-toddler, as well as occasional taker-up-of-space in the lives of three other young human beings, there are so very few occasions where a simple conversation can be carried out to its logical terminus without interruption and digression; conversations start, stop, return to the beginning, are interrupted once more, are delayed and postponed, and cycle back again until it’s time to give up, get off …

Sucker's Portfolio by Kurt Vonnegut

In slowly working through my scant remaining volumes of Vonnegut, and in need of bumping up my ‘books reviewed’ figures for the year to date, I selected this short and slim volume that Amazon assured me was “…a collection of seven never before published works from Kurt Vonnegut.”

I call bullshit on that.
It might be that my mind, once so reliable, is playing tricks on me, it could be that someone is fucking lying, or it might be that my mind is playing tricks on me, but I’m confident I’ve read all these before somewhere else (except for the unfinished short sci-fi piece included as an appendix). No matter though, as for the short commuter journey from Penarth into Cardiff proper they were a thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly bleak in trademark Vonnegut black humanism style, amuse-bouche for the short commuter jaunt from my home in Penarth to my place of work… Have I said this before? No matter though, as they were thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly bleak…
Should I go on? I’ll go on.
I was