Goodreads reviews

Book review: The Wanderer

The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

It took me a while to read The Wanderer and I’m not entirely sure why. It might’ve been this cursed year – hell, let’s blame that. But I certainly found that as much as I was entranced whenever I perused the book, I wasn’t quick to come back to it.

Curiously, this isn’t the bad thing that I had expected. It meant that each time I returned, I was surprised anew at how bizarre the thing is.

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Book review: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I came to this book as many did, I suspect, because it featured on that list of David Bowie’s 100 favourite books which circulated a couple of years ago. (The list also is explored in a podcast, if you’re interested.)

It makes sense that Bowie would be a fan of this work, given that it’s an enthusiastic, bitchy exploration of early rock. After all, the work is titled for Little Richard’s protean good-time yawp from ‘Tutti Fruitti’, the song that made Bowie “see God”.

And a lot of cocaine, I guess.

After a couple of years of looking, I found a copy replete with terrifying cover. It was written in 1968 and revised in 1972. Kit Lambert, erstwhile manager of The Who introduces the work and sets things rolling: the text covers a brief period in music, but one of supreme importance for everything rock-related that came afterwards. All that’s covered is the period from Bill Haley’s initial popularity until 1966 – that’s it.

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Book review: Imperium

Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas by Christian Kracht
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

First things first: this book is great and you should read it. I found it deeply enjoyable and odd in a a manner reminiscent of Fitzcarraldo: a story of absolutely genius/idiotic zeal.

Second things second: if you don’t read this review, at least read the Wikipedia description of the book because if it doesn’t make you want to read it, I just don’t know what to say to you.

Imperium is a 2012 satiric novel by the Swiss writer Christian Kracht. It recounts the story of August Engelhardt, a German who in the early 20th century founded a religious order in German New Guinea based on nudism and a diet consisting solely of coconuts. The fictionalized narrative is an ironic pastiche.

See?

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Book review: I Am God

I Am God by Giacomo Sartori
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I was a kid, I remember a lot was made of what-ifs. What if you could be invisible? What would you do? Where would you go? Where would you sneak to, in order to see things you weren’t supposed to.

Honestly, I don’t like to watch some things human beings do. But as you can imagine there’s no roof nor wall nor duck blind nor sheet nor wile that stands in the way of a god; unfortunately I must put up with all of it.

Take that idea, add an alpha and omega and you’ve got I Am God, a novel which features a God who, when He’s not reminding the reader of how powerful he is, spends his time observing a pigtailed atheist microbiologist who somehow has attracted His notice, despite Himself.

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Book review: Down the Hume

Down the Hume by Peter Polites
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

This is not a fun read. The novel, I mean. This review may be a fun read depending on how low your humour threshold is, but the novel definitely isn’t, in much the same way that Christos Tsiolkas’ The Jesus Man isn’t. That book sent me into a weeks-long depression after reading it, because I’d spent so much time in the company of thoroughly unlikeable characters. Same thing here.

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Book review: The Physics of Sorrow

The Physics of Sorrow.The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov (tr. Angela Rodel).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Until now, I’d never read a Bulgarian novel. I mean, knowingly. I’ve a couple of Canetti on my shelf, awaiting cracking, but until I checked out Wikipedia’s list of Bulgarian writers, I didn’t even know he was Bulgarian.

Nothing against Bulgaria, mind. It just hadn’t occurred to me. I know, I’m probably missing out on a lot.
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Book review: In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove

In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove.In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Slowly, slowly. That’s how things go when you’re two books deep in Proust. Soporific, even – though given that a lot of the action in the second volume occurs beachside, where sex and surf combine.

Well, it’s not all thoughts of boning and brine.
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Book review: In Search of Lost Time Volume I: Swann’s Way

In Search of Lost Time Volume I: Swann's Way.In Search of Lost Time Volume I: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So with a pandemic raging and the world basically on fire, I figured it was as good a time as any to tackle what’s considered one of the world’s longest novels, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

I’m a fancy boy. 

It is, demonstrably, an indulgent fugue written by a mama’s boy with a fixation on minutiae and madeleines. But it’s also kind of perfect reading – escapism – for when you need a break from what’s going on outside. (more…)

Book review: How Proust Can Change Your Life

How Proust Can Change Your Life.How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I’ve decided to read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time this year, because it’s been sitting on my shelf for too long, and I figured if I was ever going to take a stab at it, it should be now.

Whatever the merits of Proust’s work, even a fervent admirer would be hard pressed to deny one of its awkward features: length.

The problem is that such a work requires a bit of a running start. I mean, there’s multiple volumes, and indeed, not much goes on between the covers, albeit in beautifully rendered sentences. The whole collection of tomes could probably be considered unnecessary for modern life, but still it persists: something people aspire to read because, like a genteel Everest, it’s there. (more…)

Book review: Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters

Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters.Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

So hey, here’s an idea for a book: a history of artists from a certain place, and a certain time. Let’s call them London Painters and bung them together, even though there’s little to link them stylistically, or even philosophically.

Sounds like a hiding to nowhere, right?
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