book reviews

Goodreads review: Killing Commendatore

Killing Commendatore.Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Ah, Murakami. My old buddy. Ole pal.

His works are among the first I came to when I began reading weirder literature, and so I feel great affection for him. I loved his strangeness, and then – later – I loved his plainer works, his more natural narratives. And perhaps, above all, his non-fiction titles.

And every time he puts out a new one, I snap it up. Because in each title is the kernel of hope that I’ll be dazzled the way I was when I first grabbed hold of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Kind of akin to how I keep buying albums by bands I idolised in university, in the hope that their albums will spark the joy I’ve been seeking since undergrad days.
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Goodreads review: 100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book I

100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book I.100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book I by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

What would you do if you were cornered by a craggy-looking dude with a briefcase? A briefcase that’s meant for you? A briefcase that contains some papers, a pristine gun and a number of untraceable bullets? With the assurance that anything you did with those items would be completely free from legal consequence?

DON’T FORGET TO SUBSCRIBE, MOTHERFUCKER. 

(I mean aside from whacking your most hated YouTube celebrity repeatedly.)
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Oishinbo: Izakaya

Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 7 - Izakaya: Pub Food.Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 7 – Izakaya: Pub Food by Tetsuya Kariya and Akira Hanasaki.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Well, I guess it’s over.

This is the final volume of translated tales from Oishinbo. And what better way to end than with a beer and an attempt to teach an actor how to drink sake properly?

Foam judgement incoming.

Oh, and some food created by a homeless gourmand? And some headhunting? And a relationship-fracturing food fight? And the choice of educational pathways? And the birth of some children? (more…)

Goodreads review: Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice

Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 6 - The Joy of Rice.Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 6 – The Joy of Rice by Tetsuya Kariya and Akira Hanasaki.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

We’re getting to the pointy end now. This is the penultimate volume of Viz’s collections of extracts from Oishinbo, and so it’s time for something subtle. Something both representative of Japan and its culture, and of hearth and home. Something to get excited about.

Jesus, steady on. It’s rice for fuck’s sake. 

Something like rice.
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Goodreads review: The Elementals

The Elementals.The Elementals by Michael McDowell.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d never read any Michael McDowell before cracking The Elementals. I’d seen some of his other work, unknowingly – he was the scriptwriter for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice – and I’d seen that he was very well regarded by Stephen King, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.


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Goodreads review: Oishinbo: Vegetables

Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 5 - Vegetables.Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 5 – Vegetables by Tetsuya Kariya and Akira Hanasaki.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Five volumes in and I guess we turn to the topic that kids aren’t excited about: veggies. Thankfully for me, broad beans are given a swerve, but there’s some good reps given to eggplant, a purple fiend I’m only sort of friends with.

I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS TURNIP YOU SIMPLETON.

What I’m saying is that I guess it seems hard for readers – and for me – to be as wound-up excited to read a volume about greens when we’ve formerly had some great, in-depth knowledge shot at us from the Oishinbo food cannon. I was prepared for this to be a bit eh.

Thankfully, it’s not.

Pretty sure that guy on the right is related to that enthusiastic sommelier from a previous volume.

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Goodreads review: The Inland Sea

The Inland Sea.The Inland Sea by Donald Richie.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

In terms of travel books written about Japan, this is a classic. It’s a pretty simple work: Ohio-born outsider tools around the Seto Inland Sea and, in the manner of a flâneur, offers his take on the place. Pre-gallery Naoshima. Pre-bridge islands. A world of fishing boats and lazy afternoons.

Let’s put it in perspective from the outset: the area that he’s talking about is glorious. It’s hazy and hypnotic, and completely suited to romantic introspection if you’re a traveller who’s impressed by views. I mean:

Right? Right. It’s somewhere I wanted to learn a lot more about.

The problem is that through this book, you learn a lot more about Donald Richie than you do the area. And what you learn, ultimately, is that he’s pretty much a dickhead.
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Goodreads review: Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi

Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 4: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi.Oishinbo a la carte, Volume 4: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi by Tetsuya Kariya and Akira Hanasaki.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Into the seas and rivers, the lakes and streams! This volume of Oishinbo covers all things fishy – as long as your definition of ‘fishy’ includes life-ending parasites.

HAH HA HA HA!

(For the purposes of this instalment, it does. Also, yuck.) (more…)

Goodreads review: Flying Visits

Flying Visits.Flying Visits by Clive James.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I was younger, I think a bit of my sense of humour was shaped by Clive James. I remember him being on TV, counting down gaffes of the year or offering his own (admittedly self-amusing) takes on world figures. I didn’t quite understand why it was funny that Leonid Brezhnev looked like he was operated by a foot pump, but there was enough stuff I got to make the confusion worthwhile.

Not audible: snark. 

As I grew up (and his TV appearances grew fewer, perhaps) I didn’t pay that much attention to him. Now, he’s back in the news. It’s the end of his life – illness is likely to claim him soon – and I felt a need to catch up on some of his written work. He was, after all, a columnist of renown for quite a while, so it seemed fitting to dive into some of his pieces.
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Goodreads review: Confessions of a Thug

Confessions of a Thug.Confessions of a Thug by Philip Meadows Taylor.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I DIDN’T CHOOSE THE THUG BOOK, THE THUG BOOK CHOSE ME.

(Oh come on, you knew it was coming.)

No, this isn’t any sort of Glock-heavy tell-all. It’s a bit older than that, though it is one of the earliest places where the term is used. So that Tupac tatt kinda began here. Also, it was a blockbuster piece of ethnographic fiction – the main character is a composite of several killers – and it boasted Queen Victoria as a fan. So now you’ve got the image of QV eagerly devouring strangling lit to get out of your brain.

Pictured: regal contemplation of unpleasant death. 


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