I read once, oh, on the internet or somewhere, that laughter, as a behaviour, is an evolution of a snarl. Think of wolves. If there is a weak member oI read once, oh, on the internet or somewhere, that laughter, as a behaviour, is an evolution of a snarl. Think of wolves. If there is a weak member of the pack, an individual who no longer contributes to the whole, the rest will turn on them. They pull back their lips, to reveal their teeth, and make deep resonant sounds. I can see how this is like a laugh.
And laughter can be threatening, especially to the one who receives it.
But somehow, in the course of human evolution, we have come to love our fools. The outsiders, the losers. As much as we ridicule them, and seek to drive them away, we are also pulling for them. Hoping they can turn things around, make things better. We're still waiting to welcome them back to the fold. Mostly.
Hence the comic tragedy. They are the same things really. Like in Shakespeare, or the three stooges. It seems to me Jonathan Coe is pretty good at this sort of thing.
Max is one of life's losers. It's easy to laugh at him, and we do. But we never lose sympathy. There's an earnestness to his attempts at redemption, even when they are clearly doomed to failure, that consistently engages. He's a real human, is our Max.
Personally, I'd be quite happy to take Max down the pub, just for a little encouragement.
..."Tooth brushes you say... Yeah, great idea... To Scotland you say... Sweet..."
Then back slowly away and just hope for the best. Genuinely.
You'll have to read this to see if he makes it back. But for me the slap yourself in the forehead ending works beautifully.
Coe is one of my favourite contemporary writers, but I must admit to being a little underwhelmed with some of his recent outings. Although not quite up to the heights of 'The House of Sleep', this is a clear return to form, and his best book for several years....more
This is a little Murakami book. Really, you could summarise the plot on the back of an envelope. But he can write about anything, and this demonstrateThis is a little Murakami book. Really, you could summarise the plot on the back of an envelope. But he can write about anything, and this demonstrates all his skills.
The characters are beautifully drawn. They're very flawed, at times selfish, yet endowed with a depth and dignity that makes them very easy to empathies with. You understand them, like them, want them to be OK.
He creates his usual sense of atmosphere, with a minute attention to detail. He tells you about what people are wearing, the weather, cigarette ends and cocktail glasses, the music that's playing. (God knows how these people would cope with the smoking ban...)
If you're already a fan you will like it. If you've not read him before there are probably better places to start, but if you want a short sample this could be for you.
He does say in the introduction '...even reading these words might make you angry...'. This was true for the following 200 pageOh this is a bad book.
He does say in the introduction '...even reading these words might make you angry...'. This was true for the following 200 pages. I don't normally finish things I don't like. But as it was short I guess I wanted to get to the end to see if my anger was justified.
I could go on about what's wrong with it, but I'll just describe the formula for each chapter.
1. Make a general statement about a big idea. 2. Expound on it in 'ordinary' language. Miss the point completely. 3. Digress onto something irrelevant. 4. Repeat. 5. Slip in some reference to neo-conservative values like they're fact. (Careful - he's trying to spread his meme's!) 6. Repeat again. This time with the text in a box.
He thinks your stupid.
I think he's an idiot.
This book says nothing of value about the world.
It says 2 things of interest about the author.
1. He made a lot of money with Mico$oft. He thinks they're wonderful. Sure, their successful at spreading the 'Get people to spend a lot of money on something they don't even know they're buying' meme. Not something designed to make you popular. 2. On page 187 he casually refers to the influence of Scientology.... Start backing slowly away.
OK - I know the statement in point 1 is not a meme. But that's the sort of sloppiness this book is full of.
If your interested in Memetics have a poke around the internet. Read The Raw Shark Texts even. Avoid this book.
I've been following Neil Gaiman since since the early days of the Sandman, and the writing here is some of his best. Plot wise it's less ambitious (neI've been following Neil Gaiman since since the early days of the Sandman, and the writing here is some of his best. Plot wise it's less ambitious (necessarily) than his more adult fiction, but it's very tight, disciplined writing. There's an economy to the language that suits his narrative style, pulling out little details or mannerism to animate the text.
It's dark, sure, but there are moments or real humor.
The characterization is great - Neil really cares about his characters, and you can feel that affection throughout. As always, there is a very immersive sense of place and atmosphere, a seductive dream like quality to the language.
A great book by a great writer on top form. ...more
A classic piece of Victorian supernatural fiction. The windy moors, the dark forests, the stiff upper lips that just begin to quiver before - oh the horror. Which is where the narrative stops so you have to fill in the gaps yourself.
Exactly as it should be.
And a damn site more interesting than the Queens speech.
I don’ t hang on to novels these days. I tend to give them away when I’ve finished. To friends, colleges, over the internet. But not this one, I thinkI don’ t hang on to novels these days. I tend to give them away when I’ve finished. To friends, colleges, over the internet. But not this one, I think this is going to a charity shop, mixed in with a bag of old shirts. Really, reading this on the bus, I felt I should hide it in a copy of ‘Hustler’ for discretion.
But for all that I did like. I didn’t enjoy it, but I did like it. They're different things. Sure, it’s full of sexual language, but not much sex. Lots of debauchery though. The odd thing for me is, considering his ‘Metaphysician of Evil’ epithet, it’s actually a very innocent, almost naive book.
Thing is - it’s just a story. No one really gets killed. Bataille is aware of this, and seems to blithely assumes everyone else sees it the same way. He even goes some way to explain it’s origins in the appendices. As a young man he looked after his father, who was blind and incontinent. At such a formative age this seems to have resulted in a fetishisation of the white ovoid (eye) and micturation. Oh yeah, and general degradation as well.
What he does is hold these things up for examination, creates fictional characters to bestow them upon, and imagines what would happen to them in an unreal, fictional world, freed from the constraints of consequence. Thoughtful stuff, and done with quite good writing. I also found it’s one of those books that wheedles it’s way into your subconscious, and every so often crops up an makes you feel a bit queasy. I will be a while before I can look an egg sandwich in the, er, eye again.
So anyway, go on, give it a go. Just don’t say it was me that recommended it....more
Ok, this is quite well written. The language is quite beautiful, and the historical elements work well.
Where it falls down is on the characters. HartOk, this is quite well written. The language is quite beautiful, and the historical elements work well.
Where it falls down is on the characters. Hartman is just annoying and self indulgent. Anne is nicer, but the plucky working class element comes across a bit condescending. Considering class plays such a big part in their story they are both far too stereotyped.
Johnson was writing at a time when much of the literati were bemoaning the death of the novel. The introductionThis book is very interesting indeed.
Johnson was writing at a time when much of the literati were bemoaning the death of the novel. The introduction tells us that Johnson, in many ways, agreed. If all you wanted to do was tell a story then film or television was a better medium. The saving grace of the novel was it's ability to delve into internal states. All very true.
Yet here's a book that's packed with plot. It fizzes along, casually throwing around some very big ideas, neat po-mo tricks, snappy dialog and even some made up (?) words.
Very funny and very dark this is an intense by highly enjoyable ride. ...more
I am a Scarlett Thomas fan. I read this as something showing the emergence of a very good writer, rather than entirelOk, this is a qualified 4 stars.
I am a Scarlett Thomas fan. I read this as something showing the emergence of a very good writer, rather than entirely on it's own merits, and to that extent it's quite fun. There are odd glimpses here and there that foreshadow things to come.
Viewed totally on it's own, it's an interesting enough crime thriller, with a few clever asides. 2 or 3 stars only I'm afraid.
If you a big fan it's probably worth you time if you find it in a second hand shop.
‘Every time we say “ love you”, we’re speaking a quote’, says Jeanette Winterson early on in this book, and then proceeds to fill every page with quot‘Every time we say “ love you”, we’re speaking a quote’, says Jeanette Winterson early on in this book, and then proceeds to fill every page with quotable contemplations about that very thing. But the love she talks about is a very internal thing, which is in many ways it’s own downfall. She lionises the physicality of the other, with intensely sensual language. There’s hardly any dialogue, but pages and pages of intimate description, most of it introspective. It’s a contemplation of the effects of love and desire on the self. It’s this focus, in my opinion, that leads the narrator to make a god-awful mistake half way through. Sure it adds dramatic tension, but I spent long sections of the book thinking what an idiot they were.
So - for me, in the end, it’s more of a chronicle of obsession than a treatise on being in love. But if you enjoy a good dose of introspection with prose as purple as a fresh bruise, give it a go. ...more
607 pages. That's quite a lot. And the font's pretty small too. It's a commitment. Especially when you work a lot, and I do. But that's OK, I like my607 pages. That's quite a lot. And the font's pretty small too. It's a commitment. Especially when you work a lot, and I do. But that's OK, I like my job, and it (more or less) pays the rent. That's not always been the case though. Sometimes I've been miserable as sin. But still, bills need paying, so I carried on.
Toru Okada didn't like like his job. So he quit. He needed time to think. It didn't seem to matter, those bills got paid anyway. Lucky Okada.
So what does he do? Not a lot. Other people come and go, each with their story to tell. They seem to find Okada. He's just there, not doing much. He has time to listen, since he quit his job. Some of these people are full of life, some defeated, some rich and some poor, some have faces and some don't. They're real and not real at the same time.
So is it worth the commitment? I don't know. I need time to think. I might climb into the well in my garden. But I don't have a well. Or a garden. I could gaze interminably into my navel, I suppose. Same thing really. I think. Except I can't, because I have to get up for work.
So I guess I should drag one concrete statement out of my befuddled brain and say - yes, 4 stars. ...more
Sally Vicker's Jungian background really shows through in this book, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. It's dripping with art, mythologSally Vicker's Jungian background really shows through in this book, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. It's dripping with art, mythology, archetypal imagery and even a bit of physics, yet she balances all the intellectualising with the telling of of a touching human story very well indeed.
The characters of the story within the story are far more real than the narrator and the people in his life, but I don't think this is necessarily a flaw. It brings into sharp focus what is the real heart of the book.
If I have a criticism, it's that it can be a bit dry in places, and she does occasionally throw in a good idea without really exploring it as deeply as she could.
Still, a very good read, and I shall look into some more of her work. ...more
This is a lovely little book. It's two short stories, that tell tales of love, loss, death, destiny - oh lots of things. The language is sparse -YoshiThis is a lovely little book. It's two short stories, that tell tales of love, loss, death, destiny - oh lots of things. The language is sparse -Yoshimoto observes and reacts. She doesn't waste time on delving, when a metaphor will do. It's full in incisive one liners and quotable quotes. Sweet, funny, sad, but always hopeful.
I look forward to reading more of her work....more