As far as I know he’s steadfastly refused to label it satire.
I think he’s said something about the word being overtly associated with performers or entertainers. That it can detract from the inherent tragedy and sadness. It’s too reductive a term in this instance.
I now know where that article isn’t @SimonJones I do remember there were some Trump caricatures inside. That should narrow it down.
I’m more than happy to be corrected. It was a pretty great read whatever you want to label it as.
Oh no. Sorry. I wasn’t correcting you. I was more responding to the young duke of earldom. And I’m only saying what I think I recall Beatty saying just by way of joining in the conversation so you can probably correct ME on that later.
Spoilers for American Gods…
I started Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut last night. The Kindle says I’m 25% of the way through and I’m still not entirely sure what the book is actually about (didn’t bother reading the blurb, just went in cold). I am enjoying it though as I’m interested by the event unravelling and the pretty simple writing style.
I think that I found the article…Maybe not the article, but an article that covers the same stuff.
Do you think of yourself as a writer of satire?
No, not at all. In my head it would limit what I could do, how I could write about something. I’m just writing. Some of it’s funny. I’m surprised that everybody keeps calling this a comic novel. I mean, I get it. But it’s an easy way not to talk about anything else. I would better understand it if they talked about it in a hyphenated way, to talk about it as a tragicomic novel, even. There’s comedy in the book, but there’s a bunch of other stuff in there, too. It’s easy just to hide behind the humor, and then you don’t have to talk about anything else. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a satirist. I mean, what is satire? Do you remember that New Yorker cover that everyone was saying was satire? Barack and Michelle fist-bumping? That’s not satire to me. It was just a commentary. Just poking fun at somebody doesn’t make something satire. It’s a word everyone throws around a lot. I’m not sure how I define it.
To my mind the praise ended up being kind of condescending, because it downplayed everything the book was actually about, reducing it to “21st century Mark Twain.” Today Mark Twain means something students are forced to read in a classroom. He’s lost all cultural relevance. The Sellout was calculated to blow up every preconception about black relations in 21st century America. Instead all the praise has just sort of patted it on the head and said, “How adorable.” It was a way for critics to identify with struggles they are in no way prepared to confront. But at least they made the book’s existence harder to ignore, which will put it into hands better prepared to absorb it, use it, and maybe help us move past the conditions that made it necessary.
I read the Paris Review a lot. There’s some great stuff to be found there. I haven’t found the article yet. It was in a periodical that has more of a political slant. I’ll probably come across it when I’m looking for something else. Good luck with writing your review. I’ve been trying to come up with something but I’m not sure how to parse it into words. It’s funny and angry and sad and essential to read.
I’m now reading Ciarán McMenamin’s Skintown. Really good so far. He has a great McDonagh-style ear for dialogue. The humour is very Irish. Not a book for the faint-hearted. He doesn’t shy away from anything. “We’re in the back of a car belonging to the men our mothers told us to never get in the back of a car of. I close my eyes and wonder how many girls will come to my funeral.”
I’ve just read a paragraph where a father reacts to the news or rather lack of coverage and it’s Spotlight devastating. But the same scene has 2 English fishermen called Birdseye and Pugwash.
I met him a couple of years ago. Nice bloke.
He seems nice but then most Fermanagh people are nice.
I remember reading a review about The Sellout back then. Seems like this should go onto The List.
Me, I read Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, an airport purchase (didn’t take much to see on the idea that Matt Ruff had written a Lovecraft novel). It looks at Lovecraft (and pulp horror themes in general) from an interesting perspective, as it’s set in the 50s and the protagonists are all black. Part of the setup is that two of the main characters are writer for what’s called the Safe Negro Travel Guide, which is a fascinating concept and of course real (the real one was called the Negro Motorist Green Book) - there is nothing that brings home the realities of being black in Jim Crow country like the fact that you needed a guidebook to tell you where you were safe to get served, use the toilet or book a room.
The fact that Lovecraft was a horrible racist is of course part of the irony of the whole setup. It’s a fun Lovecraftian novel (or series of novellas, actually) with an extra punch.
I loved Lovecraft Country. The use of real historical elements really worked well and added to the juxtaposition of supernatural horror and the horror of the African American experience. Since you liked it you should check out The Ballad of Black Tom. It does something similar but with a specific Lovecraft Short story (the Horror at Red Hook).
I’ve been meaning to check out Lovecraft Country. My local library got it in, so I’ll pick it up this week.
I think Ruff mentioned that one in the further reading section of Lovecraft Country, too, didn’t he? Cheers, I’ll check it out.
I’m not sure. I read the digital version so I don’t think there was a further reading section in my copy. I’m a big fan of Victor LaValle though. I thought The Devil in Silver was one of the best modern novels I’ve read in a long time. If you like Black Tom then that’s worth checking out too.
If you like Black Tom (and Devil In Silver) LaValle also has a comic coming out that sounds pretty great too.
Given the positive buzz around Ken Liu, I’ve a copy of The Grace of Kings on the way.
I just hope he can avoid the Curse of Fantasy Writers, whereby they do a stunning debut, follow it up with an excellent sequel and then take forever to finish their trilogy.
I finally pulled one of three copies of The Catcher in the Rye from my bookshelf to read again. When I first read it in high school, my only goal was to complete my assignment; I read it again for pleasure in my 20s but apparently missed a lot of important points. So reading it now was a revelation of sorts.
As for the three copies, they aren’t all mine; apparently each of my two kids purchased a copy at one time or another, and left them behind when they moved out. I bought the third one in a used-book store in Philadelphia because it had the iconic cover:
I tried to read it once ( I still have it on my bookshelf at home). I know that it is cited as one of those books that you need to read at a particular point in your life. I don’t know how true that is.
Let me know what you make of it.
What have been reading over the last while.
I Partridge: We need to Talk about Alan by Alan Partridge - I enjoyed it. I imagine that it would be hilarious as an audiobook. It is quite episodic (being based on episodes of various TV shows), and was a bit samey.
Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey - I have had this for a long time and am only getting around to reading it now (I have a few other books in the series on my shelf ready to go). I am big fan of The Expanse, which is based on these books. What I really liked, and didn’t know going into reading it, is that the show is not a carbon copy of the books. Things unfold differently and for different reasons. I liked that. I liked not knowing exactly where the story was going. It was really good and I’m looking forward to the next one.
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh - This feels a lot like a harder edged PG Wodehouse story. It follows Paul Pennyfeather as he gets kicked out of Oxford, for reasons totally beyond his control, and gets a job at as a teacher at a rather odd private school. I have a feeling that a lot of the humour was lost on me and that it might have depended on knowing more about the time and the culture.
The Reapers by John Connolly - I’ve always liked the novels of John Connolly, running the midpoint between Stephen King and Ross MacDonald. They are dark and violent, but not without compassion and empathy. This one puts two of Connolly’s side characters - Louis and Angel - centre stage, and casts his usual main character (Charley Parker) in the supporting part. The book finds the consummate assassin (Louis) and his partner, trapped and surrounded by killers with a grudge. It was a good quick read.
Chalk by Paul Cornell - I am in the middle of this one at the moment. It is a pretty dark ride.