I guess if one was looking for a literary bummer with which to pass the time, Klotsvog would fit the bill. It’s a story, written by a Ukraine-born Muscovite, about an indefatigably solipsistic woman who sheds partners and children like Kleenex.
“You, Mayechka, are made from a different dough. Like matzo. Unleavened and hard.”
There’s more to it than that – her awfulness, her awareness of social standing and her denial of her Jewish roots are clear commentaries on Stalinist purges and on the difficulty of life both during and after the second world war. But foremost is the portrait of Maya Abramovna Klotsvog: a woman who believes she is smarter and better than everyone else, but who also, apparently, doesn’t give a fuck who she irritates in the pursuit of her desires. (more…)
So, I could be a bit dim. I mean, I didn’t pursue philosophy at university beyond first year, so Shi Tiesheng’s 156-chapter stream-of-consciousness journey through life, the universe and everything – by painstakingly recounted way of Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape – might be just be something that’s rocketing over my head, satellite style, shooting across the heavens leaving a trail of profundity that I’ll never grasp, dullard that I am.
So let’s take it from the start. It’s the 24th century, and things aren’t, for the Earth, going well.
Because global warming has, of course, managed to eliminate a whole lot of the planet’s population. (What’s a few billion between friends?) Between increasing heat and rising sea levels, a whole load of the planet is now uninhabitable, and what’s left of humanity keeps a brave face on while moving towards the poles, in the hope that the areas of declining iciness might provide a place to live, at least for a time. (more…)
I must admit that prior to reading this book, I’d only known Stefan Zweig’s work through its influence on The Grand Budapest Hotel – which is a fairly enormous watering-down of his importance on my part.
Turns out Zweig’s writing is much more than just the inspiration for some lovely cinema. Journeys is a collection of the writer’s work, translated by Will Stone, spanning four decades, all of which specifically relate to travel. (more…)
When I was a small boy I remember my father having a bookshelf full of hardbacks. And the one I remember most clearly, for some reason, is Shōgun, James Clavell’s 1100-page whopper. I can still recall the smell of it.
I had always been mystified by the book. I remember it being on Dad’s nightstand, with a golf-club bookmark through it. I remember its cover as the first place I ever saw the handle of a Japanese sword. And when I was older, I remember finding endless copies of it at op-shops, usually for somewhere around the two-buck mark. (more…)
You know how sometimes you can leave a book on the to-read pile for a little too long?
How the excitement you had about reading the thing – the “Ooh! Can’t wait to get to that one!” anticipation – somehow becomes bigger than you’d intended, thus creating an expectation that the book can’t possibly surpass?
It’s time for ghetto arsekickers, Italian-descent mobsters, the neon of gambling, the prick of the needle and the luck of the draw. It’s time for losers who think they’re winners, and winners who’ve got fuck-all. And it’s time for a briefcase of untraceable bullets.
Oh yeah. And cock-suckin’ birds.
Guess it’s time for another load of 100 Bullets then.
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. (more…)