Posts tagged with “reviews”
k-punk's political incarnation wrote one of the few decidedly Marxist books that has acquired bestselling status and is widely known - even to the degree that "capitalist realism" now most often means what Mark says it means in this book. And a good book it is, admirably short and precise. It attacks our neoliberal shithole head on - but also, and as importantly, has issues with the whole post-something and identity politics and what not. Call me an Alt-Marxist if you want: I shall not complain.
A nice read with a twist: a police officer that is a dropout from an Oxbridge institution, drinks a wee bit too much, drives an old and eccentric car, and has troubles with the old love life: not Morse, but a woman. And a story that also twists and turns and does manage a plausible but still surprising hard left at the very end.
Part of a trilogy of Yorkshire Noir, and dark they are indeed. Not a nice place in any way, Yorkshire, in the year 1974. We are left to somewhat root for a young investigating journo, but even he is an absolute dick in many ways. The rest of the cast are hardly much better. But books such as these show that a political thriller does not have to heavy handed nor does it need to wear rosy, tinted glasses.
The South, it is hot and humid and 2 girls - years apart - disappear. The trick is that the book is almost entirely told backwards which gives the whole unreliable narrator thing (and that is also present) an interesting spin. Nice read, but once you get beyond the awesomeness of the narratological trick, exactly how interesting are the left overs?
So, another book about a missing girl. Except not like any other, quite. As we follow the ebb and flow of life in a valley in the North of England through 13 years, a lot happens and a lot does not. Any moment we expect something to happen, Rebecca to be found, but instead we see and hear and smell life in the village as seasons come and go, years come and go, people grow up, fall in love and fall out of love, get sick, die, start over, and the badgers and the foxes do their thing in the woods, year after year. The memory of the girl is always there, in the back, but not more prominent than the fact that somebody burned burn a shed, the school got a new heating system, the snow fell in the next valley, and the village lost the annual cricket match, yet again. The prose is glorious throughout, but you need to pay attention, slow down, and let the life in the village flow past you.
Some books read
10 years in the works, apparently, and a whole lot of meticulous research. An amazing debut that immediately brings Pynchon to mind. Except it it nothing like Pynchon after all, except for some of the pyrotechnics involved. Basically, and what you realize at the very end, a family saga and a saga of remembrance and redemption and forgiveness. It is stretched out across troubled times - Chicago 1968, the Trump era, and points in-between.- There are a lot of poignant stabs at cultural and political phenomena, but in the final conclusion this hardly matters: for this is an unusual story that breaks out of the postmodern mold is seemed to be in. See, this is it: for most of the characters the end is a happy or at least hopeful one. The world might be going down the drains, but they are capable of saving and savoring some resemblances of happiness. Oh, and by the way: highly recommended.
I don't think this novel is available in English. I read a Danish translation. It is a very likable World War I caper about three young men stumbling into an adventure that includes smuggles, ballet dancers, revolutionaries, and so on so forth. It is enjoyable, but lacks the final oomph – in the end we readers, just like the main protagonist and narrator, look back at something that could have been really wild and crazy as something decidedly muted and distant that one can look back upon with some nostalgia.
John Le Carré: A legacy of spies The final (or maybe not?) tome in the saga of one George Smiley and his entourage. We revisit the era of the spy that came in from the cold, see things from a different angle and through different eyes. As always, a book with a lot of human insight and accumulated wisdom. As Le Carré has gotten older, there is less cloaks-and-daggers and more human condition.
Peter May: The Lewis trilogy The three books, set in remote Lewis of the Outer Hebrides are nominally crime stories, but as we know, the better crime stories are actually much more than that. And so it is with these. Over the three volumes, recurring themes of loss and grief, identity and identity loss, and family and love and friendship appear and are exercised and bent and reshaped. The main, recurring characters are strongly drawn and shown with their warts and all. A great, accidental find.
Basically a police procedural with an investigating judge, his muscle, his secretary, a beautiful damsel in distress, a nefarious conspiracy, and much more. But it unfolds in 16th century Aragon, the damsel happens to be a feminine sodomite, the secretary probably a Muslim, and the inquisition lurks in the background. If you stripped of the colorful garments, it might just another run-on-old-mill such story, but the meticulous research and great knowledge from the author makes it worthwhile. I picked up quite a bit I did not know about Spain and Aragon and so on at this time.
Some books I read
I read some books recently, and for once I took notes. The gist of it is here.
Fredrik Backman: A Man Called Ove is a wonderful book. Ove just wants to die as there is no-one left that need him, but he finds that there are legion. Told as a light comedy, but some darker tones underneath -- Sonja's infirmity, the childlessness, and so on. Ove is closed and silent, but he has principles. In some other story he might have been a Sweden Democrat-member, but in this one he is a fine and just man, who has a big heart.
Christopher Brookmyre is a reasonably lauded writer, and perhaps seen as the heir to the throne of Tartan Noir. I, however, fail to see this. I read the first book in his series, and the first 30 pages of the second -- and left. The first one plods along, but you give it a chance, what with the stereotypes and such. The second one starts with 30 pages of political soliloquy (what happened to showing, not telling?) Ian Rankin it ain't.
Bill Bryson: The Road to Little Dribbling is a funny and well-written sequel to Notes from a Small Island. Older and grumpier, but really not that different. Fewer personal anecdotes, perhaps, and more general tourist information -- which is not a good swap.
Robert Harris: Fatherland is brilliant -- both as alternative, tongue-in-cheek alternative history, as detective story, and as sort of a romance. Solid research and solid story telling Phillip Kerr's Gunther-series continues in this vein, except perhaps for the alternative part.
Andrew Michael Hurley: The Loney is a contemporary Gothic novel. And he pulls it off. It is very well written, with some resemblance to Patrick McGrath and his often unreliable narrators. Hurley creates a great of uncanniness without ever being explicit. We never learn what happened in the basement under Thessaly, not really.
I thought that Sarah Perry: The Essex Serpent was something like The Loney - Gothic etc. - but it is not. Not really. There is a real or imagined danger lurking. And is it no coincidence that we are by-and-large in the era of Sigmund Freud and a lurking serpent could well mean something else? We do meet, however, Eleanor Marx, and the book has interesting, if not outright strong, female characters. It is a pleasant, but somewhat meandering story, beautifully told. The ending is unfulfilled and unfulfilling, though.
And as a pleasant ending, another Rebus-installment: Rather Be the Devil. Vintage stuff. Rebus is old, frail, and he may have cancer -- but he soldiers on. Less booze and no cigs, but Cafferty makes a come-back. Perhaps this means that we have more to come? Not the best in the series, and perhaps mostly for those who are already hooked and need a fix.
John Wiliams: Stoner
What can I say about Stoner? The book — and the author — appeared from nowhere a while ago, and suddenly became de rigueur. Color me skeptical: there is a reason authors and books are forgotten and never talked about again. Except not in this case.
W. G. Sebald: The Rings of Saturn
I had of course been aware of Sebald for a while, but only as a name I recognized and I had no idea what he might be like as a writer. So only just now did I pick up this book, started reading, and realized what I had missed – but also what I can still look forward to.
I have a pretty good time reading Barbara Ehrenreichs Bright-Sided at the moment. She stands in that great, American tradition of non-fiction writing where the anecdotal is but a starting point and each page expands upon the merely personal and creates something general. Moving from the concrete to the abstract, if you will, even though Ehrenreichs theoretical and ideological underpinnings are perhaps not all that clear and perhaps this is to make the book easier to swallow for the public – or perhaps that is also the limits of her own insights.