Books


#862

Excellent dialogue. He’s way up there.

I was scared the latest one would wander down the old tried-and-true line, but it didn’t.

It shows a Washington that diplomats, public servants and politicians would rarely venture, and also described why a lot of Washingtonians supports the Dallas Cowboys rather than the Redskins.


#863

Nate Chinen’s “Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century” is a bit a curate’s egg. It’s been lavishly praised and is bound to prove to be influential, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
As the New York Times jazz critic he knows his stuff and essentially follows the great man approach where the themes of each chapter are lined up behind the musician/s he considers the key protagonist/leader, figures such as Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spaulding, Viyay Iyer, Robert Glasper etc. It’s a problematic approach but not surprising for a US writer and it does provide a dubious sense of structure. His basic argument isn’t that groundbreaking, the thesis of traditionalism has clashed with the antithesis of avant gardism and the synthesis will be fusion. (If so, heaven help us.)
The Good
-His coverage of the turn of the century jazz wars, where Wynton Marsalis circled the wagons around the tradition and the donor dollars, is thorough and informed.
-He provides an eye opening survey of the massive jazz education industry which exploded in the early 00s and dominates the current musical landscape in the US.
-It really does whet your appetite for listening to music, I have created a you tube playlist based on his recommendations that runs into the hundreds.
-It does provide a counter view to the hugely influential and thoroughly chauvinistic Ken Burns series.
The not so Good
-He mostly ignores big band and large ensemble music, an area which has produced wonderful music this century.
-With the worthy exceptions of Cassandra Wilson and Cecile Salvant, singers, still the mainstay of commercial jazz, barely rate a mention and I don’t think a single male singer gets a gig.
-He champions the new fusion with its emphasis on soul and hip hop and r&b. I struggle with this, fusion wasn’t the answer in the 70s and 80s and I can’t see why it has to be in the future.
-He gives the bums rush to non US jazz, with some tokenistic references to fledgling artists tacked on at the end. Now if any band deserved a chapter on 21st century influence it is EST, and they don’t crack it for a mention.
-He does feature a few women late but barely mentions Maria Schneider who is a towering figure of 21st century jazz.

It certainly got me thinking and biitching and, more importantly, listening.


#864

I’ve read two recently by authors I like, although both were a bit disappointing.

First was Transcription by Kate Atkinson, who’s written some good ones about a character called Jackson Brodie and a number of others as well. She’s English and Transcription is set in various time periods, mostly in the early part of 1940, pre-Dunkirk. The story is told in the third person but entirely through the eyes of a woman called Juliet Armstrong, who’s recruited by MI5 to eavesdrop on Nazi sympathisers. The author has a habit of telling you that something big has happened, but holding back on revealing what it is for a chapter or two, which I think is questionable technique; but in this one she springs a surprise right at the end that completely turns everything on its head. As we’ve been living in the mind of Juliet for the entire book to that point without the slightest mention of something that would have been at the front of her mind, I think the twist was a cheap trick that completely spoiled the book for me.

The other is Liane Moriarty’s latest, Nine Separate Lives, about a bunch of disparate people who find themselves together on a 10-day health and wellness retreat. I like Liane Moriarty a lot and have read all of them, but this is a way off her best.


#865

Just started the latest John Rebus by Ian Rankin…In a House of Lies, or some such.

Rebus is pretty much fully retired now, and suffering from emphysema, or COPD, and his long-time offsider, Siobhan Clarke, is working on the discovery of a body in a boot hidden in a wood. Of course, Rebus was 2IC on the original case and can’t help sticking his oar in. His former adversary, Malcolm Fox, who was in The Complaints (the Scottish Internal Affairs), has stuck his head above the parapet too.

Rebus has been the subject of two TV series, the first with John Hannah (Four Weddings, Spartacus) but he was too pretty, and the second with a much more suitable Ken Stott, who plays the grumpy Edinburgh curmudgeon pretty well.

Rankin is said to live in the same very swish neighbourhood as J K Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith. He’s another one of those authors I’ve been reading for 25 years. Some have slowed, some have stopped, some have died, but Rankin, Connelly etc put out their one or two a year.

There’s also a new Jane Harper out…an Australian author who wrote The Dry…one of the new genre of Outback Noir. Don’t think this is related to her first two books.


#866

Haven’t read a Rebus for a while, I’m waiting for him to solve a case while he’s receiving palliative care, but I do admit to enjoying him regularly in the past. Is he still skulling Irn Bru?
More seriously, have you read Jane Harper and more importantly is she any good? I nearly read The Dry but got put off by the hype.


#867

The Dry was very good…Forces of Nature not so good in my opinion because it just felt like rain dripping down the back of my neck.

I think the last ten years of Rebus have been pretty good.


#868

I thought The Dry was pretty good but not as good as it was cracked up to be. It’s told principally through the eyes of one character, a detective, but every so often there are little bits from other characters. Mostly that’s okay, but what put me off was that the big reveal comes from the thoughts of the victim of the big crime, which I thought was a cheat; after all, the point of a detective story is that the detective is supposed to solve the case. It was still pretty good though.

I agree with AN that Forces of Nature was not so good. My wife is now reading her new one and liking it.


#869

I’ve actually forgotten what the big reveal was, but I do remember that she conveyed the heat and the country very well.

I don’t like it when the story istold through the protagonist’s eyes, but every so often a chapter is told through someone else’s eyes, or narrated. Go the whole hog.

I got recommended Kate Atkinson quite a while back, but struggled. There’s a review of her new one in The Age this morning.


#870

I haven’t seen the review but I presume the book was Transcription, which is the one I mentioned above as being pretty good up to a very cheap trick at the end that spoilt it for me.

If you want good Kate Atkinson, look for ones about Jackson Brodie.

I’ve just started a book called A Keeper by Graham Norton of chat show fame. I quite like his show. I didn’t know he was a writer at all till I saw this one, and I’m only a couple of chapters into it, but so far I like it.


#871

I got the latest Michael Connelly up in Geelong yesterday. Bought it about 1pm…had a long lunch with my sister’s family, and finished the book shortly after getting home at 10 last night. And it’s 420 odd pages.

Right out of Connelly’s top drawer with a pairing up of Harry Bosch and his latest character, Renée Ballard, who first appeared in The Late Show a couple of books back. She’s a detective, formerly of robbery homicide in LA, but sent off to work the night shift (the late show) in Hollywood for charging her superior for sexual harassment. Helps if you’ve got connections.

This one, Dark Sacred Night, covers 3 or 4 separate stories but the main one is a cold case regarding the murder of a street girl 9 years ago. The girl’s mother was an opioid addict who pops up in the previous Bosch, Two Kinds of Truth.

Virtually nothing of the detectives’ private lives, which will suit @Shelton10.

Also grabbed the Jane Harper - The Lost Man, and the latest Stella Rimington (who used to run MI5).


#872

The protagonist in “Milkman” by Anna Burns, which I’m currently reading, is considered weird because she reads while she walks home from work, I hope you weren’t reading as you were dining.


#873

Well I’ve now finished Graham Norton’s A Keeper and I’m impressed. For the first 15 or so pages I was thinking I’d just wasted about $30, but it then really took off. It’s set in Ireland and the main character is an Irishwoman who lives in New York with her son and inherits a house in Ireland when her mother dies. Basically it’s about her discovering that everything she knew about her family history was false, but there’s a lot more besides. It’s a novel with a lot of plot, all of which hangs together pretty well. I’ll be reading more of him. Some seem to be available as audiobooks, read by the author. (The author is not always a good reader. John le Carré is. Richard Flanagan is not.)


#874

No…I didn’t. I may have done it when I was young. Admittedly, they were scrolls back in those days.


#875

Started the Jane Harper. This definitely appears to be Outback Noir.

Set 1500km west of Brisbane on a 3500 sqkm cattle property, the owner has been found dead of dehydration a few kilometres from his fully stocked car. That’s how it starts…not a spoiler. Plenty of time to do some reading this arvo.


#876

Just discovered that a Kindle touch seriously outperforms the traditional book if one arm is in a sling.
Also, one handed typing is a bittch.


#877

Half way though Small Victories, the history fo Faith No More.

very well researched.


#878

Finished it last night. Nothing like her first two books, but a good read nonetheless. Really about the isolation of the real outback with nearest towns 50-100 kms away and how that affects people. But with an inexplicable death at the centre of it from page one.


#879

My left arm is in a cast thanks to council roadworks so I’ll post a recent review of Anna Burns’s Milkman instead. Like my late father, Burns physically fled Northern Ireland but her mind lingered in the siege mentality of suburban Belfast. In the final acknowledgements the 56 year old ‘new’ writing sensation says she’d like to throw a party for all those who have helped her but not yet because they’d have to pay for it. Hopefully the Booker win will help to fund the festivities.
WARNING: Don’t read it if you need conventional linear plots.
I read lots of good books but very few great ones. I’m slow on the uptake so I didn’t realise how great it was until a third of the way through. So sad it’s finished.


#880

Read ‘The Lost Boy’ by Christina Henry.

The untold story of Peter Pan is one that I couldn’t put down. The way she set the tone to make it flow into the cartoon and movies we watched was great. Told the story from Peter’s friend Jamie. Was very dark and put a different light onto Peter.


#881

Just finished Golden Prey, the twenty-somethingth Lucas Davenport Prey book by John Sandford. Lucas is out of Minnesota now, as a US marshal, but still doing what he does best.