16 Following

so many books, so little time

Currently reading

Anna Kavan
Wittgenstein's Nephew
David McLintock, Thomas Bernhard

The Third Man & The Fallen Idol (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)

The Third Man & The Fallen Idol (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) - Graham Greene Yes, the novella was written specifically as a preliminary for the screenplay and even Greene notes that the movie is better. But even sketchily written Greene can be damn good and it is here.

Apart from the themes of the ruin of illusions and loyalty in post-war Vienna, the subplot involving the confusion between the two Dexters is a droll and funny commentary on the relationship between author and reader. (See Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read for a great take on the Dexter scene.)

Missing Person

Missing Person - Patrick Modiano One of those novels that takes place between the lines as well as in the spare prose.

Dragonflight (Pern: Dragonriders of Pern, #1)

Dragonflight (Pern: Dragonriders of Pern, #1) - Anne McCaffrey This is a review of the error-ridden digital epub format and a caution to think twice before you buy it. (The book is rated 3 stars as the book.)

I'm reading this as a digital edition checked out through Overdrive from my public library. (The cover on Overdrive matches the August 2002 DelRay edition.) As a 1968 book being republished digitally, this suffers from a lot of problems, the main one being that no one could be bothered to proof what came out of the OCR (optical character recognition) before charging libraries or individuals money for it. Or even run it through spell-check.

Scannos abound such as "spedal" for "special" "dose" for "close" and r,m,n confusion turning up as alphabet soup. Then there's the punctuation problem. Virtually every sentence that ends with the letter "t" is missing a period which leads to re-reading for sense. There's no way the book went through all those physical printings since 1968 with these typos.

The kinds of typos inherent in transcribing to digital are well-known. Crikey, if publishers and the clearing houses libraries use are going to charge money for digital editions, they can at least invest 4-5 hours in making sure the edition is readable. There's no excuse for this sloppiness.

Full disclosure: I'm a volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders where people proofread old public domain texts for free and make them available for free. We take more care than this.

/old woman yelling at cloud

Countdown City

Countdown City - Ben H. Winters How can I not relate to a detective who faced with the anxieties and chaos of a soon to be dying world (hello asteroid!) says "holy moly" a lot?

What Hank Palace also says or reflects is that:
… civilization is just a bunch of promises, that's all it is. A mortgage, a wedding vow, a promise to obey the law, a pledge to enforce it. And now the world is falling apart, the whole rickety world, and every broken promise is a small rock tossed at the wooden side of its tumbling form.

Hank's dogged decency isn't particularly showy, but it does make him a big damn hero.

Duplex: A Novel

Duplex: A Novel - Kathryn Davis
At some point everyone who had ever known you, including much younger people, would forget you and die without ever having told people even younger than themselves about you--and then you would really be gone.

She tried to remember how long ago it had been that she'd felt the fluttering in her pocket that she'd thought was a common garden fairy but turned out to be nothing more than her heart. It was so easy to get the two of them mixed up.

Beautifully odd and oddly beautiful short novel that touches on the fearful and extraordinary inhabiting a mundane world of sycamore trees and love and disappointments.


Fingersmith - Sarah Waters My first Sarah Waters's novel was the unimpressive The Night Watch which felt a bit like a B-movie with creaky dialogue. By comparison Fingersmith rises far above what could have been a mere pastiche of 19th century sensation novels. Instead influences from Defoe to the Brontes to Le Fanu to Wilkie Collins are organically absorbed into a story about identity, theft, trust and madness, and oh yeah, the place of women in a society that constrains them. (In a madhouse, a woman's hair is not only braided but then sewn to her head.)

Literate and a thumping good read.

Foundation (Foundation, #1)

Foundation (Foundation, #1) - Isaac Asimov Philistine alert.

Vol. 1 of an influential space opera that strikes me as being terribly sketchy with flat characters being plopped down in assorted situations. Hard going overall.

Sadly or not, I've been spoiled by more fully-fleshed sci-fi written since. Robinson's Mars Trilogy took forever to read but was immensely satisfying in scope. Iain M. Banks's Culture novels? There is a way to write about the social, political, intellectual, and technological issues that create a world and convincingly people it too.

The Judges of the Secret Court

The Judges of the Secret Court - David Stacton Solid and capable historical novel about John Wilkes Booth and the aftermath of the assassination of Lincoln. The novel begins with elder brother Edwin Booth reflecting on what the cost of his brother's actions have been for his own family. There are also keen portraits of Stanton who's more interested in making a show of strength than carrying out justice and Mrs. Surratt who finds herself caught up in a perfect storm of suspicion and misfortune. The there's the man with the gun, the delusional and petty JWB, the prototype for too many killers who will follow.

Very fast read, adding to the sense of events set in train that can't be stopped.

P.S. This one might be in the public domain as it's available in full view at the Hatha Trust website.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury Time for a Halloween read. And also to keep me busy until AHS: Freak Show begins.

Amok and Other Stories (Pushkin Collection)

Amok and Other Stories (Pushkin Collection) - Stefan Zweig, Anthea Bell Read the novella length Amok as published by itself in a tattered English edition from 1931. (Hooray for university libraries!)

The colonialism and attendant racism age this book but nonetheless underscore what was and wasn't done during a very specific time and place. Also, Zweig hits the notion of "running amok" very heavily and none too subtly. But as the story of a man out of control this still has a certain draw as obsessive passion leads to the downfall of a German doctor serving in Malaysia.

If I didn't tend to be a ratings hardass, this would be 4 stars.

Like Life

Like Life - Lorrie Moore 2015: Rating deleted. I can't in good conscience keep ratings for books by any of the 204 writers who signed the letter protesting the award for courage PEN gave to Charlie Hebdo. Such willful obtuseness by writers, of all people, toward freedom of expression is very troubling and sad.

2014: As Buffy Summers once noted: The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.

Beautiful rueful stories about unsettled and sometimes unsettling people who struggle to hold out for that little bit of life that can mean something to them.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
...In asking petulantly whether Thursday was my fault, I have had to go backward, to deconstruct. It is possible that I am asking the wrong question. In any event, by thrashing between exoneration and excoriation, I have only tired myself out. I don't know.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi - Geoff Dyer Rating deleted. I can't in good conscience keep ratings for books by any of the 204 writers who signed the letter protesting the award for courage PEN gave to Charlie Hebdo. Such willful obtuseness by writers, of all people, toward freedom of expression is very troubling.

This makes me want to go back and reread Death in Venice very soon, one of many Great Books I've Read But Lost To Cognitive Disfunction.

Dyer seems to have a knack for chatting along and then off-handedly saying something important. Both characters in the Venice/Varanasi portions have little epiphanies that can seem so trite they become something deeper and universal, or do they? Jeff even notes at one point that he's reminding himself of Tom Hanks Gump/Cast Away character.

In India the narrator who is probably the same Jeff from Venice, reflects that there must be a desire to give up desiring. The art world is all about desire and excess. In it's own way Varanasi is about the excesses of the spirit, and that desire. Not making much sense here, but I'm going to continue to be thinking about this one.

I'm Gone

I'm Gone - Jean Echenoz A wee bit disappointing as my first Echenoz. As a satire, the story seemed as if too much fluffy merengue overwhelmed the bite and zest of the lemon.

The Third Victim

The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner Probably the wrong sort of crime novel to read only days after a 9 year old accidentally killed a shooting instructor with an Uzi. To borrow a turn of phrase: It's the guns, stupid.

The Conversations

The Conversations - César Aira, Katherine Silver My first Aira novella, but not my last. Playful and serious, the 88 page recounting of a conversation between old friends of a strange adventure movie that was on tv the night before, offers an everyday memory relived, analyzed, expanded, amended, deepened.

Short novels usually have a sense of compression; this one expands and ... floats, if you will.

What is attractive about conversations is right there: in the other being truly an other, and in his thoughts unfathomable to his interlocutor.