I am not finished with the book yet (but still loving it), but I just discovered that it's the next book (shipping March 1) from my Powell's IndiespenI am not finished with the book yet (but still loving it), but I just discovered that it's the next book (shipping March 1) from my Powell's Indiespensable subscription (signed edition!), so if anyone (in the US) would like the copy I have now, it's yours for the price of a comment saying you want it and an address via pm. ...more
Let's just get this out of the way -- Six Four is not an average thriller, nor is it an average police procedural; there are no kick-ass heroines or sLet's just get this out of the way -- Six Four is not an average thriller, nor is it an average police procedural; there are no kick-ass heroines or scenes of over-the-top violence to be found anywhere in this book. I finished it in one go in a major overnight, insomnia-fueled reading session and my reaction was this: hooray (!) for something new, something delightfully different, and above all, for an intelligent mystery novel that goes well beyond the standard crime fiction fare -- in short, the sort of thing I crave but don't find much in modern mysteries and crime these days.
First, outside of the mysteries at the heart of this novel, Six Four tackles the issue of the relationship between the press and the police, which in my opinion is one of the best parts of this novel. Second, it takes a look at the Japanese police force itself, as Mikami finds himself having to try to navigate through, as author David Peace notes in the interview with Yokoyama at the end of the book (and do yourself a favor and save it for dead last), "their political machinations and rivalries, internal, local and national...", and deals with the naked ambition and the drive for power on the parts of some individuals. And finally, it looks at the human costs of crime from the points of view of both the victims and the police who work the cases.
I've seen so many not-so-positive reviews of this book -- mostly by readers who were disappointed that it was less of a thriller than an insight into everything I've just mentioned above. Well, to each his/her own as I'm fond of saying. People looking for garden-variety thrillers or crime fiction should probably think twice about reading this one -- thrillers are a dime a dozen these days; books like this one are rarities and should be celebrated.
The Bleeding of the Stone is the work of Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni, who has won several awards, among them the Swiss State Award (1995) for this bThe Bleeding of the Stone is the work of Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni, who has won several awards, among them the Swiss State Award (1995) for this book, the Japanese Translation Committee Award for his Gold Dust (1997), and in 2010, the Arab Novel Award. His novel New Waw, Saharan Oasis won him a place on the shortlist for the National Translation Award in 2015, the same year he found himself as a finalist for the Man International Booker Prize.
In general, as noted by Ursula Lindsey at The Nation, al-Koni's entire "oeuvre" "charts the disintegration of the country's nomadic, tribal and mythic culture under the impact of foreign intrusions and then of oil wealth."
The Bleeding of the Stone pulls in the reader not just because of the story, but also because of the lovely blending of mysticism, Sufism, Islam, the Old Testament, and traditional beliefs. Additionally, some of its chapters have epigraphs from such thinkers as Herodotus, Sophocles, and Ovid that set the stage for what's to come within. It can definitely be read as an environmental work, and as a portrait of the desert itself, but it is also a story that pits the traditional world against the worst of modern intrusions, and a novel that speaks to resistance. Finally, it is just flat out beautiful in terms of the writing.
While I will say that it's not going to be for everyone -- it's a very out-of-the-box kind of read that absolutely demands reader participation and lots of think time -- at the same time it is an incredibly powerful novel that I can most heartily recommend.
My real-world book group just read this at the end of January, and it is a book that is perfect for anyone who feels hemmed in and repressed because tMy real-world book group just read this at the end of January, and it is a book that is perfect for anyone who feels hemmed in and repressed because they will not give up being who they are/who they wish to be based on outside pressures to conform.
The original, intended title of this novel was A Solitary Soul, which once you've read the book, actually makes a lot of sense. Both titles work well, though, since main character, Edna Pontellier, is both "awakened" to her passions and to her own mind, and afterwards sets out to try live the life she wants, defying the social conventions of her class, of nature, gender, and of her time. It's a lovely book and the story itself is quite short -- this particular edition has a lot of commentary and critical contemporary reviews which bumps up the page count, but the story itself ran to only 109 pages. It's to her credit that the author was able to express so much in such a brief space and come up with a work that is so powerful that it still resonates more than one hundred years later.
Reading over several readers' comments on this book, a LOT of people were unhappy with Edna, and I'd be lying if I said I would have given her an award for mother of the year. On one hand, it's possible to see the book focusing on someone who refused to give up on freeing herself from outside constraints that bind her as an individual; on the other, some people have seen The Awakening as a cautionary tale about "the danger of elevating passion over love,"or a reminder of the consequences of people "especially women" stepping "outside those unforgiving boundaries."
The only possible negative (and not for me since I read quite widely in books of this period) is that the prose style can be a bit tedious, but once you've figured it out, the story just pops right out at you and you're hooked. I can very highly recommend this book -- considering how long ago it was written, it is still quite pertinent today.
This one is probably like a 3.5 or so -- not quite good enough to round to a 4, but still fun.
This may be a first for me -- a book completely composeThis one is probably like a 3.5 or so -- not quite good enough to round to a 4, but still fun.
This may be a first for me -- a book completely composed of a number of the author's dreams, then put into written form "to get them out of his system." Not all translate very well from the mind to the page, but for the most part, The Stuff of Dreams is a fun, compact collection of ten tales and two poems; it's a nice blending of the supernatural with a bit of the old, adventure-type pulp that I just love. Ghosts, ghouls, and sorcerers (among other things) all make an appearance here, and it's not by chance that the word "weird" happens to be in the title.
While I enjoyed reading this book, there is one big reader-beware thing I need to point out. There is enough racial stereotyping and ethnic slurring going on here to make sensitive readers uncomfortable in our current times, but on the other hand, considering that White died in 1934, it's not at all surprising.
Overall, it's a fun little volume and it's always a good day when I read work by an author of whom I've been previously unaware. While it's not perfect, I do love the mix of strange/pulpy and strange/supernatural, and it certainly meets my need for discovering the obscure. Recommended with the caveat mentioned above.
Just a heads up: despite what Goodreads says, Arthur Conan Doyle is NOT the editor of this book. The real editor, Tim Prasil, has spent what I'd say wJust a heads up: despite what Goodreads says, Arthur Conan Doyle is NOT the editor of this book. The real editor, Tim Prasil, has spent what I'd say were likely countless hours "digging through nineteenth- and early twentieth-century supernatural literature" to find these tales and the ones that appeared earlier in his lovely collection Giving Up the Ghosts: Short-lived Occult Detective Stories. In the introduction he reveals what he means by a "true ghost hunter," saying that it is
"that brave soul who learns of a haunting across town or in a wing of a castle they're visiting, and who then very purposely investigates it." (10)
And that is most certainly the case with the stories in this volume, where the ghost hunters are either brave souls motivated by "curiosity" or "skepticism," or those who've been hired to investigate; there are also, of course, tales of brave men and women who spend the night in a haunted location on a bet.
The date range here is from 1823 to 1928, and the list of authors ranges from a few anonymous writers along with those who are much more well known among regular readers of old ghostly tales. Just as a tiny sampler, Edward Bulwer-Lytton has an entry here from 1859, Henry James makes an appearance with "The Ghostly Rental" from 1876 (excellent story, by the way), and Prasil has included Ambrose Bierce's "A Fruitless Appearance" from 1888. And anyone who's read Coachwhip's Shadows Gothic and Grotesque will recognize the name of Ralph Adams Cram, whose wonderful "No. 252 Rue M. Le Prince" (1895) also is included here.
There are too many stories that I loved in this book to cull out a single favorite -- I'm such a sucker for this sort of thing, especially those ghostly yarns that take place in an old house or in a reputedly-haunted castle that I was very happy with all of them. And while one might think that an entire volume of tales that take place in various haunted locations would soon enough become same-old same-old, that doesn't happen here at all. To his credit, Mr. Prasil has chosen a wide variety of stories in terms of place, hauntings, and the ghost hunters themselves; there are a also number of tales here with surprise endings that I never saw coming.
I can't wait to see what's coming from Coachwhip next -- every time I pick up one of this publisher's books I'm off into my own little world and loving every second of being there. Ghost- and haunted-house story aficionados do NOT want to miss this one at all.
Tough call on a star rating here -- I'll opt for like a 3.7 and round up to four stars -- it's a fun story that turned out to be a good mystery with aTough call on a star rating here -- I'll opt for like a 3.7 and round up to four stars -- it's a fun story that turned out to be a good mystery with a number of red herrings and many possible suspects.
This book begins with four undergraduate girls who are currently attending Persephone College, Oxford, holding a secret meeting on the roof of a nearby boathouse. They've decided to form their own secret society, the Lode League, the purpose of which is to curse the bursar, the not-much liked Miss Denning. Just as the group rings are being passed out, along comes what looks to be an empty canoe. The girls rush to bring it to shore and discover that the canoe is not only not empty, but that it's carrying the body of the very person they formed their League to curse. Evidently she'd drowned, but as one of the girls, Sally, asks
"How can anyone drown in a canoe?"
Very good question, actually, and one that brings in Scotland Yard to investigate. In the meantime, though, Miss Cordell, Principal of Persephone College, just dreads the publicity that this death is going to bring to the school, one reason why later, the main character Sally (one of the undergrads) realizes that "There'll be an awful tamasha about this," and decides that she and her friends should do all they can to "help try to clear up the mystery, " so as to "find it out so that Persephone doesn't look silly." That's not the only reason that the girls decide to get involved -- their fellow student Draga, a "Yugo-Slav," had already made her feelings about Miss Denning known after the bursar had, as Draga puts it, insulted her. The girls are keen to "cover her tracks," since outsiders evidently won't understand her Yugo-slav temperament. It's a fun little mystery story, and while my choice of suspect turned out to be the killer, it still took me a while to figure it out since there are a variety of people with motives to knock off Miss Denning.
Careful readers will note a wide strand of misogyny running throughout this mystery novel. At one point, for example, a few of the guy pals of our female amateur sleuths are talking, with the main question being that of why "most women get murdered." The answer for one of them is that "Some wretched man gets involved with too many of them and has to remove one or two." Hmmm. Then, of course, there's one suspect whose family has a long, long history of hating women, and as just one final example (although there are many), is that we are told in no uncertain terms that Cambridge in the 1930s has yet to offer real degrees for women students. There's also the anti-foreigner vibe going on a bit here, but thankfully, not too much.
It's a good read, very easy to get through, and I had a much better time with this book than I did with the author's first novel, Murder Underground. Unlike that one, about the only spot where Death on the Cherwell starts to get boggy is while the Inspector takes his time to try to pinpoint alibis for all and sundry, but otherwise it flows very nicely. There are even a few comedic spots that brought out a chuckle or two, my favorite centering on the girls' secret late-night surveillance of a property belonging to one of the suspects. But there's some serious stuff here as well, starting as the book comes down to the big reveal. Nancy Drew it is definitely NOT.
Do not miss Stephen Booth's excellent introduction which puts a nice perspective on Hay's work and that of Dorothy Sayer, whose Gaudy Night was also placed in an academic setting. While Hay's book isn't quite up to the Gaudy Night level of excellence (my personal favorite of Sayers' Lord Peter books), it's still quite fun and a great way to pass a quiet day. People into vintage crime, those who are following the British Library Crime Classics series, or those who are exploring the work of interwar women mystery writers will definitely find a good book here; it may also work well for cozy readers. Plus, I love the cover art -- just love it!!