Author: CaptainFez

Curmudgeon.

Book review: His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project.His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

It seems that this is the kind of book that people either love or fucking hate, at least judging by the reviews floating around online.

I’d had it on my to-read list for quite some time – I remember being interested when it was published, but wanted to give the fanfare a bit of time to die down – and I’m glad I did, as I went in with no real expectations.
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Book review: Paranoia Star

Paranoia StarParanoia Star by Suehiro Maruo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ero-guro or Edgelord: The Manga? YOU DECIDE!

That, in essence, covers the realm in which Suehiro Maruo works. His stock-in-trade is beautiful violence and sexualised despair, presented in a manner that borrows from older German and Japanese art.

I mean, not this bit.


He presents abhorrent content in a lovingly-rendered format that would, in the hands of a lesser-skilled artist, be probably considered little more than pornography. (more…)

Book review: Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

It’s strange. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this book, because it seems to be stating what should really be perceived as common sense. I’m aware that, as someone who has worked my adult life in print media, I’m probably more likely to have encountered some of the things mentioned in here, but even with that background I was heartily bummed by the text.

(This is a good thing. I mean, it’s bad news but the way it’s presented and explained is superb.)
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Book review: Always Unreliable

Always Unreliable.Always Unreliable by Clive James.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

After Clive James died, I figured it was time for me to read his autobiographical sometimes-fiction Unreliable Memoirs collection. Here, there’s three books under one title, which is bad news for my Goodreads challenge numbers but pretty good in terms of entertaining stories per book.

It can safely be assumed that any writer who gives you a record of his own life is nuts about himself.

It’s a little strange to refer to these works as autobiographical when almost all of James’s work features a certain level of autobiography. His travel writing, his television reviewing, his poetry – all these things feature a level of personal revelation and engagement, because in all his work James presents places and experiences through the lens of himself. (more…)

Book review: Malefice

Malefice.Malefice by Leslie Wilson.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

There’s a lot to be said for a book that lets the reader know – from the outset – that its major character ends up dead, hung as a witch.

That’s how Malefice begins: with Alice Slade dead at 50, her body washed by one of her neglected daughters. But the journey of how we get to this post-rope cleansing is a little more involved.
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Book review: The Cipher

The Cipher.The Cipher by Kathe Koja.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So it’s only taken me about thirty years to read any Koja, and Current Me is somewhat annoyed at Past Me. I’ve no idea how I missed this novel on its first publication, as it certainly scratches the itch for the bizarre that Past Me would have been Well Into, what with all the human transformation and grimy locale and vaguely religious groupings shrouded in pisstaking and gore.

“When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.” Well, life had given me shit, and I was making a compost heap. Or more succinctly, life had given me a Funhole, and I was making a grave.

Past Me is an idiot, plainly, especially given the number of awards The Cipher has won. (The Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Horror Novel seem to be a fairly good indicator of quality, let’s face it.)
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Book review: Universal Harvester

Universal Harvester.Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, there’s a lot to be said for the pre-Internet era. You know, the time before streaming services, when people had to rent videotapes, and what was known was limited by hard-copy research, or – more often than not – relied on hearsay and rumour, at least as far as local history was concerned.

John Darnielle’s second novel is a little bit of a love story to the period, while also managing to be a ghost story, a thriller, a tribute to the boredom and joy of a life lived small, as well as a meditation on movement by spirit. It’s a consideration of how history is made, and how those same records can be viewed differently in the light of a little information.
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Book review: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I hadn’t really expected to be reading a book about disconnecting myself in the middle of a global pandemic, but here we are.

I’d had a copy of Jenny Odell’s polemic against the attention economy – broadly speaking, the society which inculcates in us the idea that our time, metered, is worth money and is wasted unless it is being used “productively” – for a while, but it took a moment of enforced quietude to make me read it.

I’m glad I did. (more…)

Book review: How Proust Can Change Your Life

How Proust Can Change Your Life.How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I’ve decided to read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time this year, because it’s been sitting on my shelf for too long, and I figured if I was ever going to take a stab at it, it should be now.

Whatever the merits of Proust’s work, even a fervent admirer would be hard pressed to deny one of its awkward features: length.

The problem is that such a work requires a bit of a running start. I mean, there’s multiple volumes, and indeed, not much goes on between the covers, albeit in beautifully rendered sentences. The whole collection of tomes could probably be considered unnecessary for modern life, but still it persists: something people aspire to read because, like a genteel Everest, it’s there. (more…)

Book review: Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters

Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters.Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

So hey, here’s an idea for a book: a history of artists from a certain place, and a certain time. Let’s call them London Painters and bung them together, even though there’s little to link them stylistically, or even philosophically.

Sounds like a hiding to nowhere, right?
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