Shovelmonkey1's Reviews > Ararat

Ararat by D.M. Thomas
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Jan 11, 12

bookshelves: bookcrossing-books, read-in-2012, travel-books
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: obsessive book buying
Recommended for: Richard, Richard and Ian
Read from January 09 to 11, 2012, read count: 1

This book is not just a book. It is physical proof that I have a compulsive book buying problem. I bought this a few years ago based solely on the title and I did not even pause, stop or blink before I shelled out the small £2 asking price nor did I bother to read the back cover to see what the book was actually about. And there lies the rub.

What was I expecting?
A travel narrative or travel history of an area (Armenia and NE Turkey) with which I am familiar and would like to have spent more time but never got the chance.

What did I get?
A vastly inexplicable yet oddly engaging novel which traversed time periods and geographical locations and generally managed to befuddle and befuse the bejesus out of me.

(And now, because Dan requested it...)This book, for me, was as random as being run over by a joy riding polar bear. It could have only been made to seem comparatively less random if the polar bear had then reversed over me to check I was dead and then ridden off wearing my head as a hat. So there you go.

This book had the word-scent and taste of something written a long time ago but really it was only written in the early 80s. The author may in fact have been Paul Auster before Paul Auster was Paul Auster or even realised what being Paul Auster was all about. Post modernism with a dash of nostalgia. There is a lot of improvised poetry in this book (quatraines dontchaknow) and the book itself is largely a demonstration of the worth of improvisation as a skill to dazzle and entertain, as a literary pursuit and as a way of life. After all, do we not improvise every day? Set in Russia, America and Armenia, it is the mysterious Mount Ararat which provides a linking theme between all three stories, although to be honest I'm still not really sure why. After all this I still don't know enough about Armenia but I do know I still want to go there.

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Reading Progress

01/10/2012 page 30
16.0% "This is not what I expected... er hello... can someone help please."
01/10/2012 page 110
57.0% "weirdly baffling but totally readable at the same time"

Comments (showing 1-50 of 67) (67 new)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways This, for me, was as random as being run over by a joy riding polar bear.

I love you. Will you marry me?


Shovelmonkey1 mwah. I'm yet to find a man who can afford the bride price which must of course be paid in olives. Pistou or anti paste style for preference.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways As it happens, I own an olive orchard....


Shovelmonkey1 Grove, Mr Richard, grove. ;)


message 5: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent You're going to include the phrase "as random as being run over by a joy riding polar bear" in your review, yes?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Grove, Mr Richard, grove. ;)"

PoTAYto, poTAHto....


Shovelmonkey1 Don't change the subject we were talking about olives! And Dan, if you want polar bears in the review then you shall have polar bears in the review!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways All this olive talk made me hungry. I'm making bagna cauda for my lunch.


Shovelmonkey1 It's dinner time here so I've just had grilled halloumi with a tomato cucumber cornichon and green olive salad dressed with green pesto olive oil and lemon
Droooooool.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "It's dinner time here so I've just had grilled halloumi with a tomato cucumber cornichon and green olive salad dressed with green pesto olive oil and lemon
Droooooool."


*wipes slobber off keyboard* What time shall I be there? *goes back to inventing teleportation device*


Shovelmonkey1 If you lived nearby you'd be most welcome. There is even, rather amazingly, some leftover!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I'm swilling down a cheap-and-cheerful Australian Shiraz, or I'd be on my way to JFK and thence to errrmmm whichever northeastern city they fly to from JFK (Manchester, I think...no northwestern cities have direct flights that I know of).

Hop to on that review! Sounds like a good'un in the brewing.


Shovelmonkey1 Review complete and still with added polar bears.


message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Outstanding review and a terrific comment thread. Can I play too?


Shovelmonkey1 Play away. Mine and Richard's conversations normally seem to revolve around food for some strange reason - I think we end up communicating around our respective lunch/dinner times!


message 16: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I think we need Mike Sullivan to read this book and explain it. LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!! Ok I'm intrigued I'm going to have to read this book. Great Review.


Shovelmonkey1 Richard wrote: "All this olive talk made me hungry. I'm making bagna cauda for my lunch."

I looked up Bagna Cauda as well and it sounds nice but i'd have to omit the anchovies. It sounds like a nice vat of cheesy soup.


Shovelmonkey1 Jeffrey wrote: "I think we need Mike Sullivan to read this book and explain it. LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!! Ok I'm intrigued I'm going to have to read this book. Great Review."

I think mike was one of the people I recommended this to, I send recommendations to about 7 people. Ian and Richard V also received them because I think they'll like the cleverness of the improvised rhymes and puns. It'll give Ian a whole shed load of new material no doubt. This makes me wonder why i am so willing to arm him!?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Omitting the anchovies?! That's like having cafe au lait, only black!

Well, I enjoyed mine, and had you not mentioned grilled halloumi I wouldn't have been inspired. Thanks!

Have moved on from Shiraz to martinis. Olives, don'tcha know.


Shovelmonkey1 any vehicle for olives is a nice drive!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "Outstanding review and a terrific comment thread. Can I play too?"

Let's see...where you are it's barely past lunch time...so what'd you have? Extra points for olive-y goodness, and no Olive Garden doesn't count.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "any vehicle for olives is a nice drive!"

Have you ever had a muffaletta? (No, it's not Italian slang for crumpet.) A muffaletta is the single most olive-y sandwich in all known space. It is also divinely delicious. Recipe linked to is my personal favorite among the thousands online.


message 23: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "any vehicle for olives is a nice drive!"

Have you ever had a muffaletta? (No, it's not Italian slang for crumpet.) A muffaletta is the single most olive-y sandwich in all kno..."


I just emailed that recipe to my chef(Wife). Sounds delicious.


message 24: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Omitting the anchovies?! That's like having cafe au lait, only black!

Well, I enjoyed mine, and had you not mentioned grilled halloumi I wouldn't have been inspired. Thanks!

Have moved on from Sh..."


Miss Martini and I have had a long passionate love affair. YUM!


Shovelmonkey1 Richard wrote: "Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "any vehicle for olives is a nice drive!"

Have you ever had a muffaletta? (No, it's not Italian slang for crumpet.) A muffaletta is the single most olive-y sandwich in all kno..."


Sounds great but I'm a vegetarian. We do have Muffaletta at the deli here, my friend jon chomps a lot of them. I might think up a meat free equivalent though!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Jeffrey wrote: "Miss Martini and I have had a long passionate love affair. YUM!"

I know she is of easy virtue, Miss M, so I can't resent your share of her affections. Drink on!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "We do have Muffaletta at the deli here, my friend jon chomps a lot of them. I might think up a meat free equivalent though!"

I have a vegetarian daughter, so I already thought one up: Double provolone and a grilled portobello mushroom cap. Even I, the carnivore's carnivore, like it. I make my grilled portobellos by marinating in balsamic vinegar and Tabaso for ~20min. Then slather with olive oil and grill until it starts to sweat. Any longer and it tends towards slipperiness, not a desirable sandwich quality.


Shovelmonkey1 sounds good i am all over it. beats bananas any day!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Bananas...*delicate shiver* Unless I am ill, the banana graceth not my tongue.


Shovelmonkey1 Indeed and only mine if heavily disguised under a mound of cereal. I attribute this to the fact that I was incredibly prone to tonsilitis as a child and the medicine I was forced to take was banana flavoured and looked like mucus. Also i was mildly allergic to it so occasionally I got to taste it twice in quick succession. Deelightfool!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways The Danes have banana-flavored toothpaste. UGH Can you even imagine?! Cleaning my teeth with banana flavor would have been a surefire way to make me retch every morning.


message 32: by L.M. (new) - added it

L.M. Ironside Weirdly, you made me want to read this book. I think it was the imagery of the polar bear wearing your head as a hat that did it. Or maybe the repeated references to a proto-Paul Auster.


Shovelmonkey1 Richard wrote: "The Danes have banana-flavored toothpaste. UGH Can you even imagine?! Cleaning my teeth with banana flavor would have been a surefire way to make me retch every morning."

Yes Richard, that is truly vom-worthy.


Shovelmonkey1 Lavender wrote: "Weirdly, you made me want to read this book. I think it was the imagery of the polar bear wearing your head as a hat that did it. Or maybe the repeated references to a proto-Paul Auster."

Hello Lavender, if you do read it please write a review. I'm quietly waiting for someone to explain this one to me. But it does definitely have Austerisms so if you like Auster then this may be an interesting side step for you.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I've been leery of Denmark since learning of that...too bad, too, since I really want to go there to see their bog mummies. I have nightmares about waking up in my hotel, a hefty blonde chambermaid dragging me out of bed and forcibly cleaning my teeth with the stuff.

I imagine you have the same nightmare, don't you?


Shovelmonkey1 This would make me think twice. My main travel fear always related to when I was in Syria and I lived in fear of being served mensaf which is a sort of boiled sheeps head dish. Face meat is wrongness!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways You would never survive the American South. We eat snoots as a preferred barbecue item.


message 38: by Richard (last edited Jan 11, 2012 04:20PM) (new) - added it

Richard Jeffrey wrote: "LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!!"

And hopefully it will have a positive result, like in the classic commercial: "He likes it! Hey Mikey!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34wJt3...


message 39: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!!"

And hopefully it will have a positive result, like in the classic commercial: "He likes it! Hey Mikey!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34wJt3..."


Ahhh what a great commercial and let's hope that our Mikey will indeed give us a great review.


message 40: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Richard wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!!"

He likes it! Hey Mikey!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34wJt3..."


Sullivan, here. Is this a gauntlet I see before me? As a flag in the dust, would I pick it up. Onward, ever onward! This pasture land is rutted and hilly. The split rails are high. Onward! Onward! To that clump of trees ahead! The wall is not too high! Follow me boys! Damn the enfilading fire! One more fence. Over! Over! Double time, double time! Don't stand. Don't stall. For your wives, your sweethearts, your sisters! Onward, Virginians! Damn this pomade is getting in my eyes...

They have turned us. Turned us. Damn this field, this war. What price honor, what path to glory? Why me? Why do I survive?

"General, assemble your division."

"Division? I have no division."

Behind me, I think of those who fell. Turning, I see the bodies scattered, in twos, threes, six or more. No lilies of the field, these, but carrion for the crows. And still that damned flag flies, mocking me, the living, the dead, the old fool on that white horse. Man of marble.

"It's my fault," he says. To whom does he speak it? Me, the living, the dead, himself?"

Sullivan, stooping to pick up the dusty glove. Takes a sip of Gentleman Jack and blows a smoke ring toward the slowly turning ceiling fan. The ring turns to merest wisps and vanish.

The past is never dead, he thinks, it is not even past.

The ice cubes clink against the side of the glass. The corn mash liquor warms him against the chill of a raw, dark night.

He crushes the butt of the unfiltered Camel into the ashtray.

The wind whistles out of the North. Do it? Yes, I'll do it. Did you hear me? I'll read your damned book! AND I WILL LIKE IT! Because I AM MIKEY!

Whistling "Gimme a pig's foot and a bottle of beer," Sullivan has left the building in search of, "What the Hell was the name of that damned book? Oh, yeah. "Ararat." Ararat, Shmararat.

Snoots???? Snoots. Harrumph...flipping through Granny's recipes for chitlins and cracklin bread. Waste not, want not. Aim small, miss small.

Keep calm and carry on. Not to worry, I'm in charge here. Oh, sorry, General Haig. No offense intended.

I been Barry Sadlered, Lou Adlered, and Beatled till I'm blind! I have outwalked the furthest city street. I have been one acquainted with the night.

Tripping over an apple picking ladder. And I thought I was done with apple picking time.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

They come and go talking of Muffaletas and the Misses Ems. I have measured out my life in olive jars and pickled onions.

Mr. Kurz, he dead.

Ishkabibble! I shall listen to a radio, reminiscing of my crazy college days and an eatery in Philadelphia.

Frankly, I'd rather be here than there.

It rained. And I walked in it. All the way home.

And it was good.


message 41: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Richard wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "LET'S GET MIKEY TO DO IT!!"

He likes it! Hey Mikey!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34wJt3..."

Sullivan, here. Is this a gauntlet I see before me? As a flag i..."


Ahhh Sir Michael excellent as always, turns a phrase, turns a pretty girl's head. I salute you sir. Lieutenant Keeten reporting for duty...*click of heels*...SIR.


message 42: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Jeffrey wrote: " I salute you sir. Lieutenant Keeten reporting for duty...*click of heels*...SIR. "

Wrong war! "Hay-foot, Straw-foot. Hay-foot, Straw-foot."


message 43: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: " I salute you sir. Lieutenant Keeten reporting for duty...*click of heels*...SIR. "

Wrong war! "Hay-foot, Straw-foot. Hay-foot, Straw-foot.""


I could make the case there is no such thing as a right war...sir.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I see I have strayed into the Firesign Theater parallel universe. Most entertaining.


message 45: by Nandakishore (new)

Nandakishore Varma Terrific review. Impressionistic criticism at its best.


message 46: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Richard wrote:

I have a vegetarian daughter, so I already though..."


I do say, Richard, you and I must exchange recipes. I once made old fashioned banana pudding for a shindig called "Men Who Cook." Eight Hundred Servings. Old fashioned custard, just so, each 9X13 covered by a perfect meringue.

As the line for the public opened, one lady walked up, looked at the exhibition dish, sniffed, and said,"Someone's wife made that. Absolutely no man can make a meringue that pretty."

She was unaware I had heard her comment until I walked around the table, wrapped my arm around her shoulder, and said, "Oh, Honeeeeey,Shugah, yes, he can. This one can." She turned the most lovely shade of scarlet.

Welcome to the Firesign Theatre of the Night. It's a veritable circus.

And, Lt. Keeten, I commend you for your astute observation of the correctness of war. I hate war. My little dog Fala hates war. But at times it is necessary to shed blood, sweat and tears, and say never, never, never give up! When you are going through Hell, keep going.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16LsAh...


message 47: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Paganus Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Grove, Mr Richard, grove. ;)"

A grove would make him a groveller.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Ian wrote: "Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Grove, Mr Richard, grove. ;)"

A grove would make him a groveller."


Ah. Ian's in the house. *searches for the exit* Pun night!!


message 49: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard I don't really like olives much. So you can have olive mine.


message 50: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Paganus Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "It'll give Ian a whole shed load of new material no doubt. This makes me wonder why i am so willing to arm him!?"

Warehouse, Ms Monkey, warehouse ;)

I read The White Hotel when it first came out and quite enjoyed it. Since then, he's had an allure that I've never acted on.

Being the shy, studious type, I might flirt with my prey, but I'm bad at the follow up.


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