Goodreads Review

Book review: Infinite Ground

Infinite Ground.Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So what’d happen if you were in a restaurant, right? And then you got up from the table, went to the bathroom and then never came back.

Would you be missed? Would people know where to look? More importantly, would people know how to look?

This is, in a fashion, the thrust of Martin MacInnes’ first novel, Infinite Ground. It’s a detective story – more or less – but that’s a bit like saying that Gravity’s Rainbow is a war story. There’s a bit more to it.
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Book review: Q

Q.Q by Luther Blissett.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Q is a book I’ve had on my to-read list for quite a while. I can’t remember where I first heard of it but I’m willing to lay money on the fact that it was in my pretentious “I only read LITERATURE!” stage, fairly recently after graduation. (Which, as we all know is bullshit, because airport lit absolutely slaps in the right circumstances.)

Where was I? Pretension. Right. Well, I’m assuming that Younger Me was driven by that rather than an earnest interest into the religious and political machinations of middle Europe in the 16th century. (Unlike Me Of Today who is All About That Shit.) So I have to assume that the main reason I wanted to read it was that the author, Luther Blissett, doesn’t exist.

Pictured: the author, but also not the author.

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Book review: Morbid Magic

Morbid Magic.Morbid Magic by Tomás Prower.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Death is something that most of us don’t like to talk about, or is something – if we mention it all – approached with humour. Yet it’s really the only thing, other than birth, that all humans have in common. In this book, Tomás Prower provides a tour of the world’s interpretation of the end of life.

Just hangin’.

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Book review: Pathworking the Tarot

Pathworking the Tarot: Spiritual Guidance & Practical Advice from the Cards.Pathworking the Tarot: Spiritual Guidance & Practical Advice from the Cards by Leeza Robertson.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

I’ve read cards for a couple of decades now, though am very much an anti-woo stalwart. I like the narratives a reading can create, and about seeking meaning from the chance juxtaposition of some printed designs.

But, like most readers, I still feel there’s more I could be getting from the decks. I mean, I’m not a Papus or a Waite, and certainly not a Pollack. And so when the option came up to read a book on pathworking, I took it.

The secret ingredient of any reading is tea. 

It’s a shame I came away a bit bummed. (more…)

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…)

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: The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die

The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die.The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die by Roger Moore.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Roger Moore was my first James Bond.

That’s not quite right. Ian Fleming was, as I had heard of James Bond and decided it was worth checking out some of his books from the library when I was woefully under the target age for them. But I remember discovering a whole series of movies through my parents (and a troop of babysitters). And being the ‘80s at this point, Moore was the go-to.

Of Moore’s tenure, two films still are sentimental favourites with me: The Spy Who Loved Me (which the actor considered his favourite outing), and Live and Let Die, his first time in the double-digits. (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: Death: A Graveside Companion

Death: A Graveside Companion.Death: A Graveside Companion edited by Joanna Ebenstein.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

You know, there’s nothing like a graphic investigation into the imagery of death to provide a kind of mortal “oh, is that the time?” feeling in the reader. This is, undoubtedly, the role of the Ebenstein-edited tome on funerary fetishism and the culture of the crypt: to examine how humanity has dealt with its ceaseless tramp towards death through creativity. It’s certainly the way I felt while flicking through its Grim Reaper-filled pages: tempus fugit. Death is coming, but hell, people have made some strange stuff to herald its coming. (Little trees of hair, anyone?)

SPADE THAT MOTHERFUCKER, BONESY.

Aside from this, the book reiterated that skulls are cool.
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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…)