fiction

Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia.Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Ever since I’d first heard of its existence, I’ve wanted to read Salvation on Sand Mountain. This is, of course, largely because Younger Me was pretty obsessed with the outré nature of its subject – churches whose adherents practised snake handling – which I admit is a pretty rubbernecking approach to something.

Yeah, no reason why I’d be like HOLY SHIT, CHECK THIS OUT at all. (Picture: Jim Neel.)

I finally – some 20-something years later – managed to read the book and discovered that while there was plenty of snaketacular narrative to go around, the book is more rewarding that my youthful self, labelling of it as churchy hicks with scales could ever have imagined. (more…)

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Book review: The Acolyte

The Acolyte.The Acolyte by Thea Astley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Shockingly, I’d never read any Thea Astley until I read The Acolyte. I felt guilty about having not done so, sure, but it wasn’t until I was at a loose end and needed a book quickly that a hasty grab from a bag of books rescued from the last-days sale of a cavernous bookstore brought it to my attention.

And boy, am I glad that chance brought me in contact with the story of Paul Vesper, the titular acolyte of blind (and fictional) composer and pianist Jack Holberg. Because it makes me feel a lot better about my own creative inertia, frankly. (more…)

Book review: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (tr. Oliver Ready).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I first read Crime and Punishment in my late teens, I was surprised at how accessible I found the text. I’d been led to believe that Russian literature was, to a word, turgid and overblown – not to mention depressing. Imagine my surprise when I found that the straitened world of Raskolnikov was intriguing and compelling. It was a revelation, and opened me up to a lot of literature I’d not previously considered.

This time around, I was surprised at how much more lively the text appears when viewed through the lens of a more recent translation. And how much deeper the book appears – and how differently I viewed parts of it – after an extra 20 years of life. (more…)

Book review: Klotsvog

Klotsvog.Klotsvog by Margarita Khemlin (tr. Lisa Hayden).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

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…)

Book review: My Travels In Ding Yi

My Travels In Ding Yi.My Travels In Ding Yi by Shi Tiesheng (tr. Alex Woodend).
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

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.

The film had fewer dumplings, though.

Could be. (more…)

Book review: The Warming

The Warming.The Warming by Craig Ensor.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

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.
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Book 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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