book review

Goodreads review: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on EarthJimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chris Ware’s almost-autobiographical tale of a meek man and his familial foundering has been on my to-read list since it started winning a bunch of awards in 2001. I’m kind of glad I’m reading it now, because I’m not sure I would’ve had the emotional fortitude to survive it back then.

It’s cold in here.

(more…)

Goodreads review: Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys

Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary BoysCured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys by Lol Tolhurst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book for Cure fans.

No, really. That’s who’s going to read it. I am not excepted from this number. I had watched the Story of Lol from afar, from his being jettisoned after Disintegration to his surprising (and a bit tearjerking) reappearance with the band for their Reflections gigs at the Sydney Opera House. I knew, more or less, the story of the band, but obviously the focus is generally on Robert Smith rather than ol’ Lol.

People outside the Cure’s fanbase most likely don’t know who Lol Tolhurst is, and are probably wondering why he’s got an abbreviation for a first name. (more…)

Goodreads review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The little free library by my local train station had this novel just sitting there when I went past on a regular stroll so I thought why not? and brought it home. I hoovered it up in a couple of hours and it’ll be going back tomorrow or the day after.

You see, I’d like to keep it, but I’m certain with the tottering pile of books I’ve yet to even start, I probably won’t come around to it again very quickly. And when I want to read it again, I’ll buy it again and not feel bad about it. And you know, in the space between here and there, this one copy could provide an intro to Vonnegut to a bunch of others. (more…)

Goodreads review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and TomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by M. Barnard Eldershaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t say that I’ve ever been too aware of Australian sci-fi, which is more my failing than that of the genre. But I’d heard Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow spoken of in reverential tones, a kind of feminist, socialist meditation on war, peace and politics, conveyed through an historical novel told within a science-fiction framework. And I must admit, I was intrigued.

Then I read that Patrick White thought the book was pretty good, and that made me even more interested, as I couldn’t really recall stories of him liking anything, so I figured it must be good.

And it is, with caveats. (more…)

Goodreads review: Pu Pu Hot Pot

Pu Pu Hot PotPu Pu Hot Pot by Ben Brusey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Given the length of this book, this’ll be a short review. There’s a real chance that if I rabbit on to my usual length, I’ll end up with something wiht a higher word-count than the thing I’m reviewing.

(Though it’d also probably be more enjoyable. BOOM!) (more…)

Goodreads review: Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan

Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern JapanDogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan by Alex Kerr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second of Alex Kerr’s books on Japan that I’ve read, and it certainly doesn’t hold back. It’s critical – rightly so, in many cases – of the ornate, backhander-rich culture that permeates government and industry, of the blinkered educational aims of the country, of the done-with-mirrors, waiting-for-collapse economic system, the addiction to government works and needless halls that bankrupt cities and swell construction coffers, the lack of regulation and the wholesale disregard for culture, simplicity and the landscape which outsiders associate with Japan.

The man’s distaste and fear couldn’t be better conveyed if each chapter were entitled SHIT’S FUCKED in 72-point type, followed by pages of onomatopoeic screams.

And yet part of me – as a big ole gaijin myself – wonders how much of the writing is the result of the foreign lens being brought to bear, with the baggage that brings. (more…)

Goodreads review: Preacher, Volume 3: Proud Americans

Preacher, Volume 3: Proud AmericansPreacher, Volume 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Preacher re-read rolls on. Proud Americans gathers issues 18 to 26 of the series and while it contains just as much blow-shit-up-while-making-knob-jokes stuff as the previous trades, it’s also one which deepens character and explores history, too. Spoilers ahead, most likely.

We begin as Jesse is en route to Paris, where he encounters Space, a Vietnam vet who has stories to share of John Custer. The previous collection’s story of Angelville told of the meeting of Jesse’s mother and father, but this one offers some insight into what sort of a man he was – traits which have rubbed off onto the son, in an exchange begun by an anti-Commie lighter. (more…)

Goodreads review: My Life As A Fake

My Life As A FakeMy Life As A Fake by Peter Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Take a 1940s literary hoax, Frankenstein, Rilke, Ezra Pound, literary journal editorship and the memsahib culture of Malaysia in the middle of last century and whip it all up with ulcerated legs and modish, society-shocking femmes fatales and you’ve pretty much got this entry in Carey’s oeuvre. My Life as a Fake is shorter than a lot of his other work – I think it’s probably on par with something like The Tax Inspector for length – but it packs a pretty hefty punch. (more…)

Goodreads review: Strange Weather in Tokyo

Strange Weather in Tokyo Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hiromi Kawakami has, in Strange Weather in Tokyo, written a fairly plot-free novel that charts the deepening friendship between Tsukiko, a late-30s woman, and Sensei, her teacher from years ago. They meet in a local bar – food and drink is key to the novel, bonding agents made of sake and mushrooms – and what follows is the story of pendulums going in and out of sync. (more…)

Goodreads review: Aunts Up the Cross

Aunts Up the CrossAunts Up the Cross by Robin Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This slim work is a collection of reminiscences of Robin Dalton’s childhood in a now-vanished Kings Cross. It’s brief, but reads entertainingly well, a collision of multiculturalism and religion with crime, the theatre and a distinct feeling of familial uniqueness. There’s spinster aunts, simple neighbours and a passing parade in a house which feels more like a cabaret than a homestead – but it’s never stuck in a self-congratulatory gear.

It seems fairly standard with reviews of this work to mention that it’s singular in its opening. The vehicular death of a great aunt is the subject, and while this in itself is a reasonably dramatic thing to start with, it’s also worth quoting in its entirety as it highlights Dalton’s precise prose.

My great-Aunt Juliet was knocked over and killed by a bus when she was eighty-five. The bus was travelling very slowly in the right direction and could hardly have been missed by anyone except Aunt Juliet, who must have been travelling fairly fast in the wrong direction.

(more…)