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ron obvious

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Watched The Limehouse Golem the other night (OK but ultimately unsatisfying I found), which brought to memory the book it was adapted from, Dan Leno & The Limehouse Golem, which I read many years ago. Ackroyd was, & still is, one of my favourite authors. Along with Iris Murdoch I regard him as a writer of genius; for some bizarre reason the only novels of theirs I possess are their worst (well, before Murdoch got Alzheimer's) i.e. The Flight From The Enchanter & First LIght (written during the brief time Ackroyd left London).

I could never do any sort of justice in attempting to explain the astonishing abilities of these two authors, but, in attempting to recall Ackroyd's Limehouse novel I found this appraisal by a man who can. It's very long but I loved it. One of the joys of the internet for me (&, rather weirdly, appears to be written by a Finn!)

http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/hum/engla/pg/hanninen/leno.html

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I have been slowly reading his biography of William Blake. Fascinating insights into how London looked back in his day. Well researched but one of those books I need to read when I have a long holiday on a beach and can fully concentrate on it.

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I read Hawksmoor decades ago. I enjoyed it up to a point, but as I remember veered a bit too much towards grand guignol for my taste, and haven't read anything else, but I imagine his other novels are not all of a similar style. The biography of Blake sounds worth a look.

On the bedside table at the moment: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova, by Anthony Beevor; Stalingrad, the novel by Vasily Grossman; How To Teach Philosophy To Your Dog, by Anthony McGowan, only just started; and a reread of The Polish Officer, by Alan Furst, whose work has fallen off a cliff and he really should stop, but the first half dozen or so of his WW2 spy novels are superb.

Three of the four centre on WW2, which seems backward-looking, but it was at one and the same time the worst event in the history of civiisation and the most fascinating. Out of which of course sprang the idea of making as certain as possible such a calamity could never happen again by uniting the continent in some politico-economic alliance...

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Read Hawksmoor Herman. It's quite short but contains so much. It's like the best poetry - suggests other worlds, possibilities, points outwards ...

Closing Line: “And then in my dream I looked down at myself and saw in what rags I stood; and I am a child again, begging on the threshold of eternity.”

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Flogging my way through Midnight's Children at the mo. Just started Book 3. It's very long & very dense; I couldn't honestly say I'm enjoying it but it's fascinating as an authentically Indian voice using an allegory of the birth of a child with the birth of an independent India & his subsequent surreal & tragi-comic progress (it actually starts with his doctor grandfather, who falls in love with his grandmother via a sheet with a hole in it :classic_blink:).

Got a couple of Muriel Sparks coming up next. The Driver's Seat was a real gobsmacker. I first came across her as a teenager in a horror anthology (van Thal), a ghost story set in broad daylight I seem to recall. I first encountered quite a few authors in those anthologies: Ray Bradbury, M R James, William Sansom (my favourite oddball author) spring to mind. 

Picked up a book by Johanna Skibsrud as well - never heard of her, so no idea whether I'll like it or not. Only one way to find out ...

 

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I started trying to read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon but couldn't follow what the hell was happening. Anyone managed it?

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2 minutes ago, king canary said:

I started trying to read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon but couldn't follow what the hell was happening. Anyone managed it?

:classic_laugh: :classic_laugh: :classic_ninja:. Read that & V. Pretty much tripe. Almost the definition of pretentiousness dressed up in deliberately mystifying prose, with elements of ponography, paedophilia & sadism thrown in (can't remember which book, possibly both) for good measure. A thoroughly nasty author, judging from what I've read.

 

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1 hour ago, king canary said:

I started trying to read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon but couldn't follow what the hell was happening. Anyone managed it?

No. Gave up after only thirty pages or so.  I seem to remember it starts with a long and tedious accout of a breakfast, and I couldn't face hundreds more pages of such mind-numbing prose, so I was spared any pornography, paedophilia and sadism...

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2 hours ago, ron obvious said:

Flogging my way through Midnight's Children at the mo. Just started Book 3. It's very long & very dense; I couldn't honestly say I'm enjoying it but it's fascinating as an authentically Indian voice using an allegory of the birth of a child with the birth of an independent India & his subsequent surreal & tragi-comic progress (it actually starts with his doctor grandfather, who falls in love with his grandmother via a sheet with a hole in it :classic_blink:).

Got a couple of Muriel Sparks coming up next. The Driver's Seat was a real gobsmacker. I first came across her as a teenager in a horror anthology (van Thal), a ghost story set in broad daylight I seem to recall. I first encountered quite a few authors in those anthologies: Ray Bradbury, M R James, William Sansom (my favourite oddball author) spring to mind. 

Picked up a book by Johanna Skibsrud as well - never heard of her, so no idea whether I'll like it or not. Only one way to find out ...

 

I think the Rushdie is worth persevering with, although I am not a fan of magic realism. Spark's The Girls of Slender Means is a brisk elegant novella, done very well decades ago by (I think) the BBC but seemingly not available as a DVD.

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I'm currently reading Romesh Ranganathan's autobiography, which is very entertaining.

Next up it's the latest instalment in Philip Pullman's The Book Of Dust series, which I'm very much looking forward to.

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I seem to remember enjoying Pullman's books, though I think the trilogy lost its way a bit.

Made Gormenghast pop into my head. First two books were amazing! He was an artist, & his description of the castle at the beginning of Titus Groan is spellbinding.

Unfortunately he'd gone insane by the time of Titus Alone. He's the third writer I've seen mentally deteriorate during the course of their career: him, Iris Murdoch & Bulgakov, during the course of The The Master & Margarita, which was brilliant for the first few chapters & gradually became more incoherent & totally uncontrollably mad by the end. A great shame.

If you want a book by a socialist writer I'd recommend Independent People by Halldor Laxness. Once you get past the Njorl's Saga type intro it becomes a wonderfully humane study of a curmudgeonly, stubborn, frustrating man & his pitiable family subsisting in a harsh but beautiful landscape. And sheep. Lots of sheep.

 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Feedthewolf said:

I'm currently reading Romesh Ranganathan's autobiography, which is very entertaining.

Next up it's the latest instalment in Philip Pullman's The Book Of Dust series, which I'm very much looking forward to.

I've still got the new Pullman to get through, I'm looking forward to it, just can't find motivation to start at the moment. La Belle Sauvage was superb though so I'm sure this will be just as good.

On a similar note, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is due to air on BBC soon and that was an incredible set of books I read about the same time I read HDM trilogy. Really looking forward to the TV adaptation as it looks stellar. Sidenote - She wrote the books as a social commentary on the time around the Stephen Lawrence murder, it was the murder that prompted her to start writing about race.

Got tickets to see Romesh in May 🙂

Can highly recommend Trevor Noah's autobiography "Born a crime" which details his life growing up as a mixed race kid in Apartheid South Africa. It's really a stunning rags to riches story. He narrates the audiobook himself which is also excellent. It's a really entertaining read as a book too though.

Other recommendations from me:

Street-cat named Bob

The Beach (Seminal piece of reading that epitomises Generation X - totally different to the Di Caprio film version that was based on it)

Catch me if you can (About 7 million times better than the Di Caprio film - it's a really interesting story)

Helter Skelter (A forensic deep dive into the Manson Family and the murders - written by Vincent Bugliosi - the lead prosecutor in the murders so you know it's real content and not embellished - Absolutely crazy story - this account is incredibly detailed - the audiobook version runs to about 26 hours!!!)

The Bone Collector 

Dublin Murder squad series - The first two were the basis for recent BBC drama "The Dublin murders"

Blood River - Former BBC Africa correspondent Tim Butcher followed the footsteps of British explorer Henry Morton Stanley (who is also the guy who found Livingstone and uttered the infamous line "Dr Livingstone, I presume?") around the Congo river basin, specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo. Butcher manages to merge his experience doing this (during the height of the vicious civil war that's been raging since 1996), with the geo-political situation and also the historic legacy of Belgian colonialism. This book actually inspired my dissertation and I contacted Tim through his agent, and he could not have been more accomodating - he emailed me personally within 24 hours with his phone number and granted me extraordinary amounts of time to discuss the country. It's a really well put together book though that gives a wealth of knowledge about the DRC.

Edited by kick it off

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A second attempt at the Good German by Joseph Kanon. Too many distractions/nodding off that I lost track of the characters and what the hell was going on so put it aside. My eyesight going a bit pear shaped didn't help and made reading a chore rather than a pleasure.

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Just read a couple of Muriel Sparks. Dry & wry. Entertaining but something missing.

Then I read J. G.Ballard's High Rise, & it hit me what it was .

No love. No concept of love. It's brilliantly written, with a painterly eye (almost like Mervyn Peake) cleverly constructed & well paced, but I think his experiences at the hands of the Japanese (Empire of the Sun) must have profoundly affected him, possibly more than he could have realised.

Just listened to Ravel's Ma mere l'Oye, which is a wonderful antidote.

 

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