Books


#922

I am new to this topic… Don’t know why it took me so long as I love reading and am always looking for something new to read. So it has been great to read through some of the opinions on here.
I do read a lot of crime fiction but not only - not a fan of auto/biographies.
One of the best books I have read in recent times is Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. It also comes in audio form and is beautifully read. It is set through the period of the Indian Wars and the American Civil War. It follows the journey of a young Irish teen as seen through his eyes.


#923

Yes, I’ve seen that. Happened on it one day while channel surfing. Not bad, but definitely a B movie. As always, there are some great scenes. And as is not infrequently the case in Elmore Leonard books, it’s the “weak and helpless” woman who fires the shot that kills the villain.

In fact, as I think about it, the villain in that book, who’s a hit man known as The Blackbird, could well have been a model for Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No Country for Old Men. Completely different plot, but the same sort of seemingly invincible and utterly soul-less killer. They have a lot of similarities, anyway.


#924

Might have to be a Sci Fi fan to appreciate it but I enjoyed this illustrated article.


#925

I don’t know how long Astounding lasted but I remember seeing a few old copies in dentists’ waiting rooms etc when I was very young. It didn’t make much impression on me.

The 30s to about the 70s really were the golden age of SF. My favourites were the books of John Wyndham, especially The Chrysalids, which I still read from time to time. His specialty was to take ordinary people and confront them with a new and unknown threat and examine their reactions.

At home we had some SF including Penguin Science Fiction, More Penguin Science Fiction and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction. These were short story anthologies that collected the very best and I loved them.


#926

It’s been a long time between drinks, but I finally got back onto Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther books. I’d read a 3-novel compendium a few years ago where Bernie was a Berlin police detective in the years before the war.

This one, Prussian Blue, has him working as a concierge on the French Riviera in 1956 when he’s coerced by the Stasi boss to hunt down an English spy.

Most of the action goes back to April 1939 when he’s ordered by his boss, Heydrich, to investigate a murder taking place in the weeks before Hitler was presented with the Eagle’s Nest in Bavaria.


#927

I was given Don Winslow’s The Force for Christmas, which I’d read, so I exchanged it for Germaine Greer’s book On Rape. I think she’s said many things over the years that make a lot of sense, but this book is a complete dog’s breakfast.

It’s one of a series of books On various things: Don Watson On Indignation, Leigh Sales On Doubt, etc., all published by MUP. This is the first I’ve come across. It’s very short, only 10,000 words (88 very small pages), so it’s an essay, really, rather than a book.

It’s a dog’s breakfast because it really seems to be just random thoughts, not advancing any lines of argument and not reaching any conclusions. Many of the random thoughts are quite peculiar.

She begins by defining rape as the penetration of the vagina by the ■■■■■ without the consent of the woman. That was the legal definition of rape for a very long time until it began to be enlarged in the last 30-odd years of the 20th century to include ■■■■ rape, oral rape and penetration by things other than the ■■■■■. Personally I think the old definition was too narrow but the enlargements have gone too far.

She begins with examples of non-consensual sex, such as the woman whose husband insists on sex that she does not want, but lets him rather than kick up a fuss and end the marriage. I would say myself that that’s consensual, even though the consent was only given as the lesser of two evils. She goes on to a bit about the history of rape laws, the extent of and reasons for not reporting rape, consequences for the woman and whether being raped necessarily ruins a woman’s life forever and various other miscellaneous matters. She ends with a couple of assertions about “heterosexual” being on its last legs and perhaps doomed, which seems to me to be an absolutely extraordinary statement.

As I said, it’s a mess, with no clear theme and no clear purpose. I was very disappointed.


#928

Rachel Kushner’s Mars Room is at its best, which is very good, when it doesn’t force the narrative into contrived conventional plot lines clearly designed to please the publisher. Set in an woman’s prison, it documents the mind-numbing absurdity of a system which long ago abandoned any pretensions of rehabilitation. The prisoners determination to carve out some sort of functioning existence is inspirational and I was particularly taken with the ingenuity involved in using the toilets as a portal for smuggling “icecream sandwiches” wrapped in Kotex and plastic wrap from the canteen.
The plot is essentially linear and uses flashbacks to fill in blank spots as it moves towards its climax. And this is where it lost me because the final scenes asked me to suspend more belief than I wanted.
Kushner’s not a prose stylist but she has a crisp and direct approach and lets the narrative do most of the heavy lifting. It made the Booker shortlist and was the bookies favourite at one stage. A good read but more conventional than I had expected or hoped.


#929

Just finished reading David Gemmell’s Troy trilogy from 2005-7
“Lord of the Silver Bow”
“Shield of Thunder”
“Fall of Kings”.

A re-interpretation of the Trojan War. Really well written and puts a whole new spin on the legend. One of the better series I have read in the last few years and just wish I had found it 10 years ago.


#930

I’m reading The Rules of Backyard Cricket, written by Port Fairy local, Jock Serong.

It’s about two brothers of different temperaments, who grow up in the western suburbs and are, or have been, both batting prodigies.

The book is written from the viewpoint of younger brother, Darren, who narrates the book while bound in the boot of a car, being “taken for a ride”. He’s got involved with criminal elements, while his brother, Wally, is far more strait laced.

Only halfway through, but a damn good read about the toxic nature of professional sport.

I must admit I keep reading it as if it’s David Warner narrating, while Steve Smith is his brother.

No spoilers, as it’s obvious from the first page that Darren is being driven to his murder. I’m only halfway through.

Makes a change from the spy, pre-war and Cold War books by Philip Kerr, ex-MI5 boss Stella Rimington and Rory Clements. All good reads.


#931

Finished the book but I ‘ve got some major issues with how it all panned out.

And I’ve changed the brother from Steve Smith to Steve Waugh.

Apparently Jock Serong went to a book fair in India expecting to sell a motza. Sold two books.


#932

I thought it was excellent. Much better than The Dry that everyone enthuses about. Also much better than another of Jock Serong’s that I read that I think was called Java Force.

Mrs S is reading Philip Kerr but isn’t really gripped.

You should try Mick Herron if you haven’t already. Start with Slow Horses.


#933

There’s an old duck down here who loves Philip Kerr, and is already pencilling in her stay at the Adlon Hotel that Bernie Gunther patronises. It’s in the eastern section very near the Brandenberg Gate and next to the British Embassy. Major Berlin Hotel from early 20th century.

I’m onto Book 22 of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, New Iberia Blues. Dave always annoys me with his priggish self-righteousness but I can’t help myself. This one has similar themes to In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead (which was filmed by Tommy Lee Jones with John Goodman). They left the last three words out of the film title. Better than the early Robicheaux, Heaven’s Prisoners (#2 in the series) with Alec Baldwin, Eric Roberts and Teri Hatcher. New Iberia is out in the bayous, west of N’Awlins, just north of Avery Island which is the home of Tabasco Sauce.

Beautiful lyrical writer, JLBurke, but you can get annoyed with his heroes. He has his daughter, Alafair, also an author, with him, mirroring his character’s adopted daughter, also Alafair, whom he rescued from a plane crash in Heaven’s Prisoners as she and her mother were escaping from El Salvador.

Nearly everyone has a French Cajun name.


#934

This one was made into a film, B grade stuff, l have watched it twice, and really enjoyed it.


#935

Yes…as I said…you probably only enjoyed it because Teri H nuded up.


#936

So are they real & spectacular?


#937

She’d trimmed off a bit from her Lois and Clark and Seinfeld days. Not as spectacular as those halcyon days.


#938

FREE TO A GOOD HOME

I am cleaning out my bookcases and have decided that my sportsman collection needs a new home.

List

Matthew LLoyd - Straight Shooter
James Hird - Reading the Play
Greg Norman - The Way of the Shark
The Danihers
Wayne Carey - The Truth Hurts
Kevin Sheedy - Stand Your Ground
Steve Waugh - Out of My Comfort Zone
Mark Thomson - Bomber

All are good reads; Bomber tells more about footy tactics and Bomba’s brain. Carey tells some sad truths about his life, and the rest are just enjoyable.

I would rather some-one take them as one lot. So PM me if you want them.


#939

These books gone.

I do have many other books, getting rid by author, so series by Robert Ludlum, Jeffrey Archer, James Cavell and James A Michener getting the cop. Some hard-backs and many paperbacks.


#940

I have just finished my audiobook of Possession by AS Byatt. I would strongly recommend it. I first read the book in print after it won the 1990 Booker prize, and I loved all of it until the end, which I thought was disappointing, but I enjoyed what led up to it so much that I bought it recently as an audiobook. (I don’t usually find Booker winners much to my taste, or even readable.) I’m very glad I did, because it’s very well read and, as I usually do, I got far more out of it listening to it than I did reading it in print. I find listening to a book that I see the structure of it much more clearly, and because it’s impossible to “skip”, as I always do when I read print, I notice things, sometimes quite significant things, that I missed in print.

That was particularly true with Possession because of its nature. AS Byatt is Margaret Drabble’s sister; my wife loves Margaret Drabble but I’ve not read anything of hers – possibly because of her terribly dull-sounding surname. AS Byatt has written many novels, and I’ve read a couple of others, but I think Possession is far and away the best. It’s a kind of literary thriller/detective story, and it’s set in the world of 1986 (when it was written), but with the addition of an extremely eminent and much-researched fictitious Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash. AS Byatt obviously knows intimately the world of literary and academic scholarship, and she describes very convincingly the kind of “Ash industry” that has grown up around the fictitious life and work of this great and very prolific poet. The two principal characters are Roland Michel, a minor Ash critic and researcher, and Maud Bailey, who is a critic and researcher of another fictitious Victorian poet, Christabel LaMotte, who is little known and not highly regarded, but whose cause has been taken up by feminists, who believe that she is much under-rated as a result of Victorian and subsequent sexism. The story begins with Roland discovering two hitherto unknown different drafts of a hitherto unknown letter from Ash to an unnamed woman, whom he subsequently discovers to be Christabel LaMotte. It had not been known that the two of them ever met, but the discovery leads him to Maud Bailey, the LaMotte specialist, and the two of them set about trying to find out what happened next.

The book is reasonably long, and it contains numerous and lengthy “quotations” from the letters and poems of LaMotte and Ash and sometimes others, and gradually unfolds the story of their relationship. It’s a highly ambitious novel; not many authors would presume to write lengthy extracts from the poems of a Victorian poet acknowledged by all to be one of the true greats, but she does it brilliantly. At the same time she tells two highly-compelling tales, one of two dead Victorian poets and the other of two contemporary literary critics and researchers. The reason why I so much enjoyed it as an audiobook is that when I read in print the long passages of poetry written by these two fictitious Victorians, I skipped even more than usual (although I did still read quite a lot of it), but in audiobook form I “read” every word of every poem and appreciated them properly for the first time, both as poetry and for their illumination of the story that was being discovered. The ending, which previously I had not much liked, now seems to me to be wholly satisfying.

Very well worth a read, or preferably a listen. It’s available on Audible.


#941

I enjoyed Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot” but many wouldn’t. The skeletal plot is incidental to her main game, the figurative autopsy of an intensely frustrating platonic relationship. She makes plentiful use of her Turkish heritage and wings her quirky group of young Harvard freshmen around the US and Europe of the nineties in search of meaning and a good time. Batuman’s style is spare, descriptive and very readable, as befits a journo, and she has a droll touch which at times reminded me of the late comedian Mitch Hedberg’s deapan irony. It made the short list for last year’s Pulitzer.