Reviews

Music, art, book and other lit reviews

Bird by Bird

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Bird by Bird is a book about writing, for writers. You will know if this is you. Anne Lamott isn’t telling you much you haven’t heard before. You’ve read it all in writer interviews and blog posts and pep talks, in irritating articles that tell you not to use adverbs, in other writing books you’ve […]

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Decay is a favourite artistic theme of mine. The melancholy of nostalgia is another. A Visit from the Goon Squad, roaming back and forth across time, has both in spades. The question has been raised whether it is a novel or a set of short stories; I’d come down on the side of “novel”, personally. […]

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We lost Richard Adams in the last week of 2016, so it seemed appropriate to talk about how one of his books, Watership Down, was a touchstone throughout my childhood. The opening scene is one of those “classic English countryside” images, something timeless. “The primroses were over.” I don’t know why that first line has […]

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I have Difficulty with Jane Austen. I found Pride and Prejudice a moreish read; I attribute this characteristic to its sexual tension. Romantic tension… ? No; throw Mr Darcy in with modern readers, and sexual tension it is. It was not “good” and yet it was a satisfying read. The prose was pleasant, yet the […]

Nineteen Eighty-Four

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I was unsure whether I wanted to write about Nineteen Eighty-Four. I don’t feel like I’m really “qualified” for it. It’s one of those books that tends to be studied, and I read it… Well, I was going to say “for pleasure”, but really I chose to read it because it is a Modern Classic […]

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Junky takes a while to get into. No, that’s not right… It’s more that it takes a while to orient oneself within it. At any rate, once you have your bearings, it is magnificent. There’s a strange claustrophobia to the prose. The reader lives mostly in Lee’s head, locked away with his thoughts. Lee is […]

Satantango

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Look at you. Sitting there with your beach novels. Blissfully, ignorantly happy with your paragraphs. You don’t know what I’ve seen. What I’ve suffered.   This is a book that was made into a movie filmed in black and white. This movie is seven hours long. The first shot lasts ten minutes. It is of […]

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When people ask me my favourite book, I usually reply with a list. There will be disclaimers: “I like all the Discworld books but this is my favourite so it stands in for the whole” (Nightwatch); “This was my favourite book as a child and I’ve read it a million times so it gets a […]

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Bonjour Tristesse first grabbed my attention with its title. It had caught my eye when I was working in a bookshop a few years ago; one of a set of well-priced, slim books that came with their own cardboard shelf unit. I ummed and ahhed about it, on the basis that a fondness of French […]

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I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking. I shouldn’t be, because it is November, and I am very far behind in writing my NaNoWriMo novel (or NaNovel, if you will). But it’s good, and I couldn’t help myself, and it has set me thinking.   I like the way Amanda writes. We have […]