books

Book review: Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen

Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen.Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d known who Adam Cullen was from the papers rather than his art, at least initially. He was the eminently quotable prick who had issues with his mum, and was a bit of a lair, given to creating sculptures out of random shit, and artwork that was distinguished from that of a truculent kid by dint of the violence bubbling underneath it.

Actor, artist and arsehole.

I’d seen his Archibald winners (and non-starters), but hearing him constantly referred to as an enfant terrible or similar made me a bit leery of learning more. And then he died, and at least some of the obits made me think there might be a bit more to the story. (more…)

Book review: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn.The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d been meaning to read a bit more Soviet-era fiction, particularly science fiction. And any exploration of that area is likely to involve the brothers Strugatsky: writers known for some excellently grim work with a coating of political commentary. (Roadside Picnic, filmed as Stalker is a supreme bummer, for starters.)

So it’s a bit of a surprise that my first Strugatsky novel turned out to be a detective story, free – mostly – of politicking, which features a collection of oddballs and a super-sentient dog.
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Book review: Shinto: The Kami Way

Shinto: The Kami Way.Shinto: The Kami Way by Sokyo Ono.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

If you’re interested in Japan, you’re probably aware of Shinto imagery. Even if you’ve never been, even if you’re not really that interested in religion, you’ll know some of its signifiers. Red gates, either in profusion or alone in the sea. Trees tied with paper. Clean temples and guardian animals.

You just don’t know it yet.

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Book review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

There’s nothing like the romance of mountaineering to get me reading. Especially if the romance of exploring wild peaks in the hope of attaining another rank in sports mastery is overshadowed by a bunch of horrible subzero deaths by forces unknown.

Luckily, this book is about the Dyatlov Pass incident and not Tenzing Norgay, or that bloke who had to cut his own arm off. (more…)

Book review: A Terrace in Rome

A Terrace in Rome.A Terrace in Rome by Pascal Quignard.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

This is a strangely compelling little book. It’s about disfigurement, love, lust, pornography and the finer points of mezzotint and etching. It’s a slim collection of fragments describing a leathery life, which eventually chokes to death far from its origin.

There’s also a lot of dicks described within.
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Book review: The Return

The Return.The Return by Walter de la Mare.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Until this point, I’d only been familiar with de la Mare’s name, and not with his works. The Return has rectified that, but I’m left with some confusion about whether I actually liked the novel… and about whether I actually knew what was going on throughout.

So that’s a reasonable start, I guess: if both of those thorns haven’t put me off other authors, they shouldn’t put me off ol’ Walter, right? Right. (more…)

Book review: The Walking Dead Compendium 1

The Walking Dead Compendium 1.The Walking Dead Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

After last year’s surprise conclusion, I figured it was probably time to check out The Walking Dead. I mean, it’s the source material for the TV show of the same name (which seems to be no closer to ending than ever), and a bunch of video games.

A tale as old as time.

Luckily, the series’ publisher has released a number of compendiums – four in total – which collected huge chunks of the narrative in sequence, in 1100-page whoppers, echoing the Cerebus books in knee-breaking size.

Good job I’m reading on a tablet, then. (more…)

Book review: Seven Days In The Art World

Seven Days In The Art World.Seven Days In The Art World by Sarah Thornton.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

First things first. This book is presented almost as a travelogue – a kind of Contiki holiday through the upper-end of the art world. It takes the reader on a trip behind the velvet rope to check out several aspects of the art life – an auction; a crit session; an art fair; a magazine; a studio visit and a Biennale. It could, were I uncharitable, seem a bit on the nose – a bit of an obvious structure. I mean, it’s a pretty blatant conceit.

If you’ve gotta pick a schtick, make it a GREAT one.

But it’s about the art world. Isn’t that the point? 
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Book review: The Rich Man’s House

The Rich Man's House.The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Andrew McGahan is dead. And this is his last work. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work from Praise onwards – thanks to the excellent movie adaptation first, text later – and have appreciated the descriptive examination of the personal throughout his texts. The way he looked at lives that might be considered a failure by any measure, and shone tiny lights of relief on their struggles.

So naturally, his final book is a thriller, set on the edge of the world, in which degenerate wealth and animist revenge combine to paint a portrait of how fucked capitalism is, and how we’ve basically rooted the earth, to the point that it might smack us down for it.

Wait, what? (more…)

Planning the pages: 2020 edition

OK, let’s do this thing before the month gets away from me.

At least the floor’s cleaner this year.

Here’s a list of books. This will be the third year I’ve tried to plan out what I’d like to read in the coming months. Naturally, I never really get through the whole list – or even half of it. That’s kind of the point, though: this is a selection of works that I use to spur me onwards: to remind me that there’s great things out there that I want to read. (more…)