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Showing posts from February, 2019

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…

Think Like An Anthropologist by Matthew Engelke

I got this one quite wrong. I remember picking it up in Griffin Books in Penarth as it was another example of excellent design – small, compact, blue and with a rewardingly tactile cover – and because it offered an opportunity to learn how to Think Like An Anthropologist. Of course, it doesn’t really. In that, I was a little disappointed.
In fact, once opened, it provides a neat if Eurocentric primer of some of the conceptual pillars in the study of Anthropology, citing key thinkers in the field and not sticking too closely to the usual chronological development of a ‘science’ which is only now just over 150 years old. He talks about the relative perceptions of culture, values, value (discreet ideas), and some emotive issues such as blood and civilization, the latter used so often in a pejorative sense by dog-whistle politicians and policy-makers. It was a quick and informative read, covering a lot of ground and making lots of really interesting clarifications about the discipline and…

Cinnamon Skin by John D MacDonald

If, by now, you seriously think I can remember what makes this, the 20th JD MacDonald novel different, and therefore worthy of an extended review, from the other 19 previous novels (of which I have read all), then you clearly don’t know me very well.
From a Good Reads synopsis, I recall that someone’s boat blows up, a niece is kabloo-ied, and Trav suspects foul play. Of course he’s right and so after some sex with another chickadee or punchboard or pussycat or honey he solves everything and he and Meyer can go back to some vague slobbing about and misogynistic reminiscences aboard their respective boats.
So far so formulaic.
And that’s it, basically.

Fun, fruity if a little dated, and worth reading if only for nostalgia’s sake, but at least I have only a few more to go now before I can consign this series to the dusty shelves of the unduly forgotten.