A bit steep

28 10 2007

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks


Far from his best but not at all bad. Kind of a twist at the end is not too much of a surprise. A bit difficult to get over-excited about the possible takeover of a family run games business by a big American rival but Banks manages to invest matters with sufficient interest to keep things moving along and the protagonist, Alban, is likable enough as the rebel who turned his back on the family to pursue a slightly alternative lifestyle. The rant he delivers to a member of the takeover team, blaming Bush and the US for all of the world’s ills is pretty crass and self-indulgent though – it reads like an out-take DJ polemic from the last book, Dead Air.

So, worth a go and it is pretty entertaining and far from unintelligent stuff.

3 star

Damning stuff

26 10 2007

The Damned United by David Peace


Compelling stuff, gets inside the mind of Clough brilliantly but just utterly dispiriting at the end. Frighteningly believable descriptions of life at Elland Road during the mad 44 days of Clough’s tenure combined with flashbacks to days at Hartlepools [sic], Derby and Brighton leave you with the impression that football in the 1970s was overwhelmingly corrupt and organised in an utterly amateurish way. So, bit of a weepy really.

3 star

Someone else who hasn’t read the book

24 10 2007

Follow-up to Books you haven’t read

A slightly longer piece on not reading from the New York Mag.

open books

Obviously I’d claim that this person pinched my clever idea about not reading the book but then (a) s/he wouldn’t have read my post in the first place and (b) s/he read the book after all. Sell out!

Let them sing

18 10 2007

A wonderful site where you type in the lyrics

Singing nun

And it sings it back to you. Marvelous.

So, let them sing.

Books you haven’t read

13 10 2007

How to talk about books you haven’t read by Pierre Bayard


In the spirit intended by the author, I’ve not actually read this book so have to copy the synopsis from Amazon:

In this disarmingly mischievous and provocative book, already a runaway bestseller in France, Pierre Bayard contends that in this age of infinite publication, the truly cultivated person is not the one who has read a book, but the one who understands the book’s place in our culture. Drawing on examples from works by Graham Greene, Umberto Eco, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne (who couldn’t remember books he himself had written), and many others, he examines the many kinds of ‘non-reading’ (forgotten books, unknown books, books discussed by others, books we’ve skimmed briefly) and the many potentially nightmarish situations in which we are called upon to discuss our reading with others (with our loved ones, with the book’s author, etc.).At heart, this is a book that will challenge everyone who’s ever felt guilty about missing some of the Great Books to consider what reading means, how we absorb books as part of ourselves, and how and why we spend so much time talking about what we have, or haven’t, read.

Which is all wonderfully reminiscent of the great parlour game ‘Humiliation’ in Changing Places by David Lodge in which players compete to admit to the most shocking unread classic.

The real Burgess?

8 10 2007

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess by Andrew Biswell

Much more than just A Clockwork Orange

Burgess was the most fascinating of individuals and a wonderful and generally under-rated author. But he was also the creator of his own fictional lives and telling the same story more than once would have been a bit unchallenging. So, there was therefore a need for an authoritative biography and this as close to his real life as we are likely to get. Unfortunately, some of the real bits where they are interesting sound a bit dull and some of the exciting made up bits, when the facts are presented, sound exceptionally dull. Still, subject matter like this is difficult to obscure and there is much here which is entertaining. Full marks for the research effort though.

Real Burgess

(Of course if you are Burgess in hospital and you know Roger Bannister is a doctor there you are going to make something up about him running down the street after you trying to provide a diagnosis.)

See also the first line from Earthly Powers – just one of the best lines from one of the best books ever.

3 star

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