The Uralic Languages
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Manel (Audible version)
Sure, it’s another post-apocalyptic virus-has-killed-99%-of-Eath’s-population thing. Sure, it’s got more coincidences than a Dickens novel (deliberately, I might add). This is just a nicely-written cosy catastophe. Not lyrically beautiful, but simple, neat. And the title refers to an eponymous fictional comic, which is sort of a good thing in my head. Don’t read it it if you’re after new or edgy - it’s more of a pleasant stroll in the park than a Foo Fighters concert.
I enjoyed Station Eleven. It’s more a character piece with an apocalyptic background, but a really well done one.
Back to Jerusalem. I was on the “Joyce” chapter a few months ago, and had to stop reading it – it’s very challenging, and I had too much stuff going on in my life at the time to focus on it. I found I was reading a page, having no idea what I had just read, and reading the same page again the next night.
Now I’ve picked it up again, it’s going much better. It’s still hard to read, but you can get into a rhythm where it all makes sense (or at least you think it does) even when the individual words are meaningless. It’s very clever writing.
So hopefully I’ll power through this chapter in a few days and finally finish the book.
I found that a really hard chapter to get through. In the end I just forced myself to push through it and try and pick up the meaning as and when I could. I’m not convinced I got the best out of it, and I probably missed a lot of what it was trying to convey, but I couldn’t find any other way to get beyond it.
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. I wouldn’t call it masterpiece novel. I think it misses being a great novel in two reasons: Scott’s reliance on wordiness that diminishes the novel’s power and very slow pacing. Ofcourse, when it gets to the matter it does. But it takes quite a build up. For instance, the opening pages. While there is great introduction to medieval England history (I presume 12th century), but aforementioned excession to words nearly kills it. And there are long paragraphs about someone’s apparel, which if I see I skip. And actually, there is the third reason. It gets incredulous at times. Namely, characters appear throughout in disguise, but Scott manages in such way that someone may just put different contact lenses and one will recognize him (ok I exaggarate here, but you get the idea)
Still, it’s very engaging and satisfying story, it gives some interesting insight in 12th century England, knight, crusaders, Jews… Oh and Robin Hood appears to. I think Ivanhoe is great for young boys.
And when I think about it, these medieval Saxonians remind me on my people a lot.
You and I have very different conceptions of edgy
Currently negotiating my way through the 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories anthology. Some really amazing writing in here, and the stories are printed chronologically so you get a sense of how styles and subject matter changed from 1915 (Edna Ferber, “The Gay Old Dog”) up to 2015 (Nathan Englander, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”). Currently nestled somewhere around 1995. Big book (some 785 pages) but worth the time.
Did that several times in school, which led to a lot of short-story reading on my own time. You probably read it/them, Jerry, but I have most fond memories of Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison. Some magnificent anthologies out there.
Most anthologies I’ve read are themed (horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc); what’s nice about 100 Years… is you never know what to expect.
I think I read the sequel (Again, Dangerous Visions) but not the original. One of these days I’ll have to dig out my copies of the Ellison short story collections.
IIRC it has a tale called “My Time in the Lafayette Espadrille” and others that really bent the corners of the genre - especially at the time. One of those anthologies I went back and re-read a couple times as I got a little smarter.
Joe Lycett - Parsnips Buttered, which has just come out in paperback and is ridiculously cheap on Amazon at the moment (£3.85).
Lycett’s a stand-up comedian. Not one of my favourites, but solidly entertaining. His style translates pretty well into this, which is mostly focused around him getting into odd correspondence with businesses, usually stemming from complaints. Some of these are incredibly funny, but some of them are a bit of a waste of time, where he’s sent an email, had no response, but included it anyway, seemingly out of need to fill the book and I don’t know. The conceit doesn’t quite work when it’s just snarky and/or absurdist letters with no reply. The fun is in the reaction and escalation.
It’s also a really breezey read. I’m about 100 pages into it in seemingly no time and so forced myself to stop for today so I don’t finish it too quickly. For about £3 that’s not a huge problem, but if I’d paid more I’d be leaning towards feeling a bit ripped off (so far at least).
For perspective, that’s equivalent to about 15 minutes of reading comics
True. But I find comics much more rereadable than prose. I hardly ever reread prose.
I actually bailed on the Lycett book. 2/3 in I just got a bit bored of it and skimmed the rest. There’s only really two or three instances where he actually gets a reply to his emails. One is him contesting a parking fine, which is quite funny. Except, I’ve seen him do that bit on TV and somehow in more detail there than in the book, and it’s hard to be on his side when he’s such a entitled dick about parking illegally. He’s not some put-down everyman crusading against a corrupt system, he’s a guy who fully admits that he broke the law and doesn’t feel he should have to pay for it.
It feels like the whole book was commissioned off the back of that story (as seen on TV) and Lycett really had nothing else of the same calibre to fill the book, so just went with every stupid email he’s sent, padded out with some fairly decent prose and lots of stupid illustrations. There’s a chapter about him posting snarky comments on people’s inspirational Instagram and Facebook posts and yes, those are dross, but he comes off worst from that than the simpletons trying to be inspirational, not least because they never engage with him. He’s just another snarky git on the internet, who happens to have a book deal.
I actually decided to try for a return on Amazon. I’m gentle with books, so it doesn’t look read and you have 14 days without needing a reason anyway. The downside is that return postage would wipe out at least half the refund, but I figured I’d do it anyway, claw a bit back. But Amazon accepted the return, immediately refunded me and told me not to bother sending the book back. And all without needing to send any snarky emails.
There are 72 characters in Stephen and Owen King’s new book including a fox. I like the fox. There is also a very pretty peacock hidden under the cover. The end-papers are illustrated with moths. I did not expect the quote from Brendan Behan in a King book. AND there is a beautiful white Bengal tiger on the back of the book. This pleases me.
Also, greetings from the future. I thought it was Monday today. Apparently not.
My new favourite game is playing spot which King is which. What witchery is this? I can practically hear them bouncing dialogue off each other (in matching Red Sox caps, naturally). Owen King is funny.
Yesterday I started reading Tana French’s latest book about the Dublin Murder Squad, The Trespasser. I’ve loved her books since In the Woods, and the cover blurb indicates that the current book was chosen as a best book of the year by the NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian (London), the Washington Post and other sources.
So why is it that when I mention Ms. French and her books to other people, they’ve never heard of her? Including relations in Ireland!
I received Ann Leckie’s newest novel Providence from my digital library but am currently only halfway through my current book!
Writing for Radio by Shaun MacLoughlin. (From that you can guess what advice this old git got from the London Screenwriters’ Festival the weekend before last.)
There are a few decent pointers to bear in mind mentioned, most of them fairly obvious. The main problem here is the lack of scope; MacLoughlin only uses plays that he was involved in, or types of play he likes as examples. For instance, when talking about openings and grabbing the listener’s attention, he focusses only on plays where the announcer (BBC Radio 4) interacts with the play’s narrator. Well, if everyone does that… Also, he openly mentions, with examples, a play with faults that he, as producer, should have made suggestions on. He immediately moves on without saying what, in retrospect, he would have suggested. 2.5/5.