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steveri

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#2000 Re: Books...
September 02, 2023, 02:27:51 pm
But a very reasonable £2.70 for postage.

seankenny

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#2001 Re: Books...
September 02, 2023, 04:17:54 pm
Recently read:
They, by Kay Dick. Dick, in a snub to normative determinism, was a lesbian publisher and writer in the 60s and 70s, but her weird, deeply English dystopian novel They went out of print and was only rediscovered recently. In a series of short, almost interlocked stories a nameless narrator describes life in Sussex as a mysterious band of philistines known only as ďtheyĒ harass and attack artists. A bit rough and almost unfinished feeling, but also creepy and disturbing.


I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron. A series of essays by the writer of When Harry Met Sally. Covers New York life, cookbooks, disappearing bakeries (of New York), purses, apartments (in New York), falling out of love with Bill Clinton, and so on. My partner bought it for me ďbecause itís about womenís thingsĒ and it is, but itís also very much a love letter to a city and for the duration of the book I could definitely see myself living comfortably in Manhattan. This effect may have been exaggerated by watching Moonstruck the week before, because I normally have no desire to live in New York.

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#2002 Re: Books...
September 08, 2023, 01:55:48 pm
Prophet by Helen Macdonald and Sin Blachť is huge fun -- yes the same Helen MacDonald who wrote H Is For Hawk, yes they took time off from nature writing to co-write a sci-fi techno-thriller horror romance espionage surreal mash-up about a secret military programme to weaponize nostalgia.

If anyone's familiar with Tim Powers' Declare, the authors have mentioned that as an influence, along with Annihilation and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And also internet fanfic. Which is quite an intersection to be playing with. Anyway, it's a blast.

It has things to say about nostalgia and populism and memory and loss and yearning, but also the writers decided they were going to have fun and write everything they enjoyed reading because it was lockdown and fuck it, so it's laced with snark and thriller shenanigans.

M. John Harrison gave them a blurb:  "Proper science fiction Ė self-aware, funny, ruthlessly propulsive, full of invention Ö I loved it."

Free sample: https://lithub.com/prophet/

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#2003 Re: Books...
September 10, 2023, 03:01:47 pm
Itís hot and Iím indoors so thought Iíd drop a few notes on some books Iíve enjoyed over the last couple of years that others might like too.

Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These.   A brilliant short novella set in 1985 in Ireland that revolves around Bill Furlough, a family man who runs a small coal and fuel delivery business.  He grew up adopted, has three young children of his own and the book takes place on the run up to Christmas.  Bill delivers logs to the convent which is also a Magdalene Laundry for Ďtroubledí teenage girls where he encounters the cruelty of the sisters first-hand.  I wonít give any more away as I donít want to reveal the plot. I found it absolutely gripping and itís so beautifully written.

Patrick Barkham, The Swimmer: The Wild Life of Roger Deakin.  I loved Waterlog when it came out in the 90ís, and later Wild Wood and Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, both of which were published posthumously.  Barkham has tackled Deakinís biography by using Deakinís own copious journal notebooks and interviews with those who new him closely.  From life in London as an ad-man, second hand-furniture salesmen and then buying the farm in Suffolk with the moat that inspired Waterlog.  He must have been both a joy and awful to live with.  Warm, eccentric, moody and brilliant. Just like this book.

M John Harrison, Wish I was Here.  MJHís anti-memoire.  An autobiography of writing, living, climbing and memory itself.  Iíve used the words Ďflint-sharpí to describe his writing before and I canít think of any better so theyíll do.  The sections about climbing and Ďthe lifeí are superbly evocative.  The writer, writing about writing parts are very writerly, but I like writerly, so this reader, reading about a writer writing about writing thoroughly enjoyed himself.

David Keenan, Monument Maker.  I read this last Summer but itís just been published in paperback.  Itís more of a dream or waking vision than conventional novel.  A summer in France. The siege of Khartoum. Fascist cryptozoologists.  A rock band on the moon.  Not everyoneís cup of tea by any means but I loved it.

David Keenan, Industry of Magic and Light.  A sort-of prequel to This Is Memorial Device.  A caravan in Airdrie, inhabited during the late sixties by a hippy becomes a treasure trove of found objects, each then forming the basis for the chapters of the book which tells the story of Ď60ís Airdrie (and further afield including Afghanistan) via the creators of the light show that gives the novel its title.  Again, if youíve read and enjoyed This is Memorial Device, Xstabeth and For the Good Times, youíll love it. 

Barbara Kingsolver, Demon Copperhead.  Is Dickensí David Copperfield retold in contemporary, opioid ridden, rust-belt Virginia.   Damian (Demon) has a bad start in life and it gets worse. You fall in love him from the get-go.  It made me cry at times on the sun lounger this Summer and won the Pulitzer prise for fiction this year.  Well deserved.

Tanya Shedrick, The Cure for Sleep.  Shedrickís ferocious and tender memoir of motherhood, early life, relationship and a late-blooming creativity.  Brutally honest and fascinating.  A great read.

John Moriarty, (Several books). A hut at the edge of the village, Dreamtime, Turtle was gone a long time (A trilogy of three volumes), What the curlew said, Nostos.  Once Iíd read the opening chapters of ĎA Hutí, a compendium of Moriartyís writing I was hooked and went on a streak over the last couple of years.  Iíd never heard of him until Martin Shaw (the storyteller) and Mark Rylance both talked glowingly of him on a podcast during lockdown. 

From the Guardian obituary.. ďMany recognise John as a major writer, comparable to Yeats, Joyce and Beckett.  A large, rough-hewn man with bright, deep set eyes beneath a leonine mass of curls, John had a rich and melodious Kerry voice that changed from a gentle softness to a bellowing ebullience that erupted into a laughter that shattered all pomposity. His pain at our blindness to the riches of our created world and the God who made us resonates through all his writing. A mystic and prophet in the Old Testament meaning of the word, his was an inspiring vision of a world and a culture that is truly healing.

His writing could be dense and difficult, requiring a knowledge of myth and religion similar to his own, but there are so many passages of such intense and vibrant beauty, one can forgive such heavy going.Ē

Dreamtime was (literally) a revelation.  Thereís a lovely short on YouTube with Tommy Tiernan (comedian) and Moriarty speaking at his home in Connemara. If you like what he has to say, start with ĎA Hutí and go from there.  Remarkable and genius.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  A stunningly beautiful read similar in style and form to Thoreauís Walden.  Often bracketed in the nature-writing category, a label that Dillard resisted, Tinker Creek is one of a kind.  It also won a Pulitzer for non-fiction in 1975.

Wendy Erskine, Dance Move.  Character driven short stories from one of Northern Irelandís best writers.  Superb.

Jay Griffiths, Nemesis My Friend.  Griffiths lives in mid-Wales and this lovely quiet, deep book reflects the landscape in which she wrote it.  The book tracks the light of the year from Winter through the seasons.  Nemesis as the archetype of limitation.

Ian Penman, Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors.  I love Ian Penmanís style and Fassbinderís films, so this great long-form essay, part biography was right up my Strasse.

Iíve run out of steam now and fancy a walk.

Duma

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#2004 Re: Books...
September 10, 2023, 07:24:44 pm
Some of those look lovely, thanks FD. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek made a huge impression on me as a teenager when I pulled it from my parents shelves, thanks for the reminder.

andy popp

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#2005 Re: Books...
September 10, 2023, 07:59:52 pm
Superb post Ben, thanks.

chris05

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#2006 Re: Books...
September 11, 2023, 08:10:21 am
Great list FD, thanks for posting. Have added them to the list.

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#2007 Re: Books...
September 21, 2023, 01:53:24 pm
The Hare with Amber Eyes: Edmund de Waal
I was highly recommended this, and spoken to others who have liked it; I thought it was interesting but lacked enough narrative drive to make it in any way compelling for me. In my opinion, it's okay but not great.
Snow country: Sebastian Falks
I really liked this, on the other hand; some of the cover blurb on it says that it's a love story, but this doesn't do it justice; it is, in a sense, but along with history and stuff about psychoanalysis. Recommended.

slab_happy

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#2008 Re: Books...
September 25, 2023, 03:12:08 pm
Relevant to this thread's interests -- M. John Harrison in conversation with Helen Mort about "Wish I Was Here", 21st Oct in Sheffield:

https://offtheshelf.org.uk/event/wish-i-was-here/

Will Hunt

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#2009 Re: Books...
October 03, 2023, 12:30:08 am
David Keenan, Monument Maker ...Not everyoneís cup of tea by any means but I loved it.

Yeah, ok, you gave fair warning! I got a chapter in and ran a mile  :lol:


Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These.   A brilliant short novella set in 1985 in Ireland that revolves around Bill Furlough, a family man who runs a small coal and fuel delivery business.  He grew up adopted, has three young children of his own and the book takes place on the run up to Christmas.  Bill delivers logs to the convent which is also a Magdalene Laundry for Ďtroubledí teenage girls where he encounters the cruelty of the sisters first-hand.  I wonít give any more away as I donít want to reveal the plot. I found it absolutely gripping and itís so beautifully written.

Loved this. Incredible to be able to write something so short but to have it all so well formed. Needed it badly after finishing Beastings by Benjamin Myers which has a similar theme but which makes Cormac McCarthy look like Willy Wonka.

spidermonkey09

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#2010 Re: Books...
October 03, 2023, 07:29:28 am
Beastings is awesome but fuck me that's a bit of a kick in the teeth in the last few pages!

andy popp

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#2011 Re: Books...
October 03, 2023, 07:44:58 am
I've been delving into some Americana. First, A Cool Million by Nathanael West - a broad and vicious satire on American rags-to-riches, bootstrapping boosterism (West wrote the much better known Hollywood satire Day of the Locust, in which the name Homer Simpson makes its first appearance).

Next up, two short John Steinbeck novellas, perhaps the first time I've read him in nearly 40 years: The Pearl and The Red Pony. I enjoyed both but the latter, four interconnected stories about a boy growing up on a remote farm in Northern California, is particularly good: beautiful, simple, brutal. This too reminded me of Cormac McCarthy, only much better (I think McCarthy is massively overrated).

Finally, I'm currently reading Norman Mailer's Miami and the Siege of Chicago, non-fiction reportage of the Republican and Democratic party conventions of 1968, the latter descending into mass street violence. Again I haven't read Mailer in decades, and have never read very much anyway. It is incredibly sexist and no woman escapes appraisal of her sexual attractiveness to Mailer but there is some absolutely bravura writing and penetrating, scathing analyses of the competing politicians, Nixon in particular (so far I've only got to the Republican convention in Miami).

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#2012 Re: Books...
October 06, 2023, 08:23:52 pm
Thanks Andy, great post & they all sound great, especially the Mailer.

Has anyone read any Jon Fosse? Iíve never heard of him until yesterday.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/oct/05/where-to-start-with-jon-fosse

andy popp

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#2013 Re: Books...
October 07, 2023, 07:32:00 am
Thanks Ben. I haven't finished it yet but the Mailer is really very good - a bit of revelation (and the influence on HST is very clear).

As to Fosse, no, I'd heard the name vaguely but knew nothing. I

jwi

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#2014 Re: Books...
October 10, 2023, 09:30:37 am
Thanks Andy, great post & they all sound great, especially the Mailer.

Has anyone read any Jon Fosse? Iíve never heard of him until yesterday.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/oct/05/where-to-start-with-jon-fosse

For many years I amused myself with publishing my guess who would get the Literature Prize the day before it was awarded (I guessed correctly three years in a row, if I might brag). I stopped in disgust after an american pop artist got the prize. But, as such I scanned books by favourites (since they ask about 4000 institutions for a list of authors, an approximate shortlist is close to general knowledge). Fosse has been a top ten favourite for some ten years now. I quickly scanned some of his works and wasn't too impressed at the time.

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#2015 Re: Books...
October 14, 2023, 11:17:40 pm
David Keenan, Monument Maker ...Not everyoneís cup of tea by any means but I loved it.

Yeah, ok, you gave fair warning! I got a chapter in and ran a mile  :lol:


Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These.   A brilliant short novella set in 1985 in Ireland that revolves around Bill Furlough, a family man who runs a small coal and fuel delivery business.  He grew up adopted, has three young children of his own and the book takes place on the run up to Christmas.  Bill delivers logs to the convent which is also a Magdalene Laundry for Ďtroubledí teenage girls where he encounters the cruelty of the sisters first-hand.  I wonít give any more away as I donít want to reveal the plot. I found it absolutely gripping and itís so beautifully written.

Loved this. Incredible to be able to write something so short but to have it all so well formed. Needed it badly after finishing Beastings by Benjamin Myers which has a similar theme but which makes Cormac McCarthy look like Willy Wonka.

Sorry Will I just saw this and didnít realise youíd had a crack.  Yeah the Keegan is brilliant, so brilliant. Glad you enjoyed it.  If youíve still got the stomach then Iíd stick with Monument Maker as itís like six novels in one but also give it up if itís not your bag. Though I do think This is Memorial Device and For The Good Times are easier ways into Keenanís world.

I loved Beastings though. Like you say, itís brutal and Ben is great writer. If you want something exquisitely written and much, much gentler then I can really recommend The Offing. A coming of age novel set around Robin Hoods Bay. I read it in a single sitting and was utterly beglamoured by it.

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#2016 Re: Books...
October 20, 2023, 05:09:20 pm
The great Olivia Laing interviewing MJH in Granta.

https://granta.com/olivia-laing-m-john-harrison/

Thereís a short passage on the commodification of climbing thatís less swivel eyed than one I read just recently.

Johnny Brown

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#2017 Re: Books...
October 21, 2023, 12:16:55 pm
Nice one Ben. MJH is talking in Sheffield tonight coincidentally, tickets still available.

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#2018 Re: Books...
October 21, 2023, 12:37:14 pm
With Helen Mort right? Itíll be good.

Duma

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#2019 Re: Books...
October 22, 2023, 04:16:32 pm
Currently reading The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again, and literally the page after I picked it up for the first time since seeing that Granta piece was a line almost word for word the same as his description of getting his mother to button his coat.

andy popp

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#2020 Re: Books...
December 02, 2023, 10:00:40 am
I've just finished a book I think a lot of people here might enjoy (indeed, might have read already). In 1950s Togo, a young boy has a nearly deadly encounter with a snake, recovering he reads a book about Greenland and becomes obsessed with travelling there. In 1958, aged 16, he ran away from home and spent the next eight years working his way through Africa and Europe before eventually reaching Greenland in 1964. In Michel the Giant: An African in Greenland Tťtť-Michel Kpomassie tells the remarkable (true) story of that journey and, in particular, the eighteen months he spent living among the inidigenous Greenlanders, by whom he seems to have been welcomed without question. It is a rich, vivid, and humane portrayal both of the author as a young man and of a culture even then coming under immense pressure (Denmark does not come out of this particularly well). A highly unusual and very worthwhile piece of travel writing. First published in English in 1981, Penguin reissued it last year.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2023, 10:15:35 am by andy popp »

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#2021 Re: Books...
December 02, 2023, 07:26:45 pm
Sounds very interesting, thanks Andy! A quick google seems to indicate that it is a travelogue of legendary status in Africa and France, with many editions and re-editions.

Downloaded.

andy popp

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#2022 Re: Books...
December 03, 2023, 02:48:40 pm
A quick google seems to indicate that it is a travelogue of legendary status in Africa and France, with many editions and re-editions.

The edition I read has a very interesting, long afterword that recounts what happened when he returned home, how he came to write the book, and the opportunities it led to across his life (he's still alive). Yes, renowned I think across Africa and France.

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#2023 Re: Books...
December 03, 2023, 10:10:29 pm
Just started this yesterday on your recommendation.
Fascinating, thanks.

Wellsy

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#2024 Re: Books...
December 04, 2023, 09:18:19 am
Same, looks great

As for a recommendation, it is a known classic but Donna Tartt's The Secret History is bloody brilliant. 100% worth a read. Made me get off my arse and organise starting French Lessons next year as well

 

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