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Showing posts from December, 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 Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco

Labyrinths has long sat on my various bookshelves (at least since 2014, and is currently lost in a box somewhere in the desolate, dusty wastes of my as yet deconstructed new home) existing conflictingly both as something to be desired and something to be avoided. Yes, it’s an acknowledged masterpiece by a canonical genius. But it’s also short stories and essays. And you know how I feel about those.
However, it may yet find its way shortly into my work bag (once recovered) and thus into my brain via my eyes on the commute, and it has a lot to do with Umberto Eco and this historical murder mystery.
Better humans than I have extolled the great verisimilitude, scholarship, historicity and semeiotical brilliance of Eco’s debut novel – that’s right, it’s his FIRST NOVEL – so you won’t find me banging on about it. In fact, you should probably go away and read this article by David Fish and be more entertained and informed and left more in awe of this book than you thought possible. I prefer in…

Dancing In The Dark: My Struggle Volume 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Knausgaard fatigue might soon be a diagnosable condition, listed in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, if only readers failed to persevere past the first few volumes of My Struggle. I was certainly moved to take some time off between books, to recuperate and steel myself for the next onslaught. But just what it is that so thoroughly drains is something of a mystery, when I most certainly feel full and almost buoyant by book’s end. Is it the weight of confession? Is it the exposure of thoughts I’d had and still have, thoughts I believed were unique to me but were now laid bare for all to read? Some measure of shame? Whatever it is, it makes for a tense time to be around me, that’s for sure. It’s a strange thing to be bursting to talk about it but be too exhausted to explain the context.
Anyhow, volume four sees Karl Ove embark on his abortive teaching career, aged 18, in some far-flung corner of northern Norway. What this comes down to in essen…