Goodreads reviews

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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Book review: Tokyo Ueno Station

Tokyo Ueno Station.Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (tr. Morgan Giles).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I first went to Tokyo, I made a habit of walking through a large park in Shinjuku. It was just down from the Tokyo Park Hyatt (as featured in Lost in Translation) and the park was exceptionally groomed – in the same way much of Tokyo was.

Unlike a lot of the other places I’d seen, though, it featured a lot of homeless people. It was ordered and quiet and a little hidden away: visible, but visibly ignored by most others walking through the space on their commute.
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Book review: A Maggot

A Maggot.A Maggot by John Fowles.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’m a bit of a fan of Fowles because of the creepy perfection of his first novel, The Collector, and the madness of The Magus, a book spent a couple of years pushing on people at any opportunity.

I wasn’t quite so taken with A Maggot the first time I read it, a dozen or so years ago. But as I’ve aged, I think I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more, as this reread was supremely enjoyable. I guess the fact that the author has taken a kitchen-sink approach to the work – it’s variously a mystery, historical record, SF exploration, class critique and theological query – ensures that there really is something for everyone here. (more…)

Book review: Beauty and Chaos

Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life.Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life by Michael Pronko.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’m a bit of a fan of Japan. I’ve learned some [terrible] Japanese, and have travelled there several times, for holidays and for music competitions. I like the contradictions of the place, and am always looking for an excuse to journey back. This, Michael Pronko’s first collection of essays on Tokyo, offers a pretty good trip.

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