Reading: 2013

Total Items: 110

War Slut — Carlton Mellick III
All the countries of the Earth have united and created the world’s best Army; everyone is in the Army, drafted at birth … but what does an Army do when there is no enemy? How about Draft-Dodgers, real or imagined? Oh, a War Slut is a specially engineered life-form (or android?) which can morph into whatever form most pleases a lonely soldier looking for love. It is also the Army’s answer to the sexual abuse problem in the ranks: give them something to fuck and they’ll leave each other alone.

Bucket of Gross — Carlton Mellick III
A friendly little story of the new school lunch program.

Earwig Flesh Factory — Carlton Mellick III
How to survive the end of the world?

Christmas On Crack — Carlton Mellick III, ed.
A collection of Bizarro short stories centered around Christmas but a Christmas that will warp your brain cells.

Dublinesque — Enrique Vila-Matas

White Teeth — Zadie Smith (+)
I tried to read this one several years ago and threw it away. This time I not only finished but I found the thematic content and structure well done and anything but frivolous. There’s a lot to say about White Teeth. Recommended highly.

The Opposing Shore — Julien Gracq (+)

Maigret at the Crossroads — Georges Simenon

One Deadly Summer — Sébastien Japrisot
I always enjoy this author.

Herzog — Saul Bellow (+)

The Return — Håkan Nesser
An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery. I watched The Maltese Falcon on television last night. This is a mystery (police procedural) from Sweden. Connection? Perhaps I should to read other Swedish mysteries.

The Scarlet Plague — Jack London
Like most dystopian literature, this short work has fallen into the dusty past where only academicians will study it for an historical perspective or stylistic analysis. In 2012, when the sky was filled with speeding dirigibles , a plague all but wiped out humankind. Now, sixty years later, wolves roam on the beaches of San Francisco and younger men retain only the vestiges of vocabulary, two notches above grunts. An old man remembers the Scarlet Plague but the boys only know Red. But like most of Jack London, expect the socialist messages blended in with the fiction.

Native Son — Richard Wright (+)
I have heard criticism that the third part of this novel devolves into Communist propaganda and ruins the fast action and suspense of the earlier two parts. Really? I read a compassionate legal defense which showed an understanding of the causes that lead to violence: poverty and lack of power. That being said by a Communist does not make it untrue. Max is rational, sympathetic, and exposes the real reasons behind Bigger’s decent into violence. On the other side, the State’s attorney clearly represented all the faults of a society that promulgates poverty and violence. Do you have to be a Communist to believe in the dignity of every man? Native Son is as relevant today as when it was first written, no matter what the Supreme Court believes.

Neuromancer — William Gibson
Futuristic speculative fiction. Fast moving, a little dark, somewhat entertaining. The key to this type of fiction is to stay in the world of the fiction, even when it is difficult to correlate what the author was imagining with what the reader knows.

While the Women Are Sleeping — Javier Marías
Excellent collection of stories collected over the career of the writer.

Money — Martin Amis
After reading the Melrose series by Edward St. Aubyn, this novel just seems silly. Even Bukowski was more interesting.

Crab Town — Carlton Mellick III
Carlton throws in a few digs at the current political situation in this country .. and some awesome sewer crabs.

Carmilla — J. Sheridan Le Fanu
An early vampire story, pre-dating Dracula. Le Fanu is an author that should be read simply because he is historically important and his stories are often sensational and fun; unfortunately he cannot be classed in the first rank of authors but he does fit the mold for English Literature … he is Irish.

Unearthed — Gina Ranalli
Great holes open in the earth and creatures out of H.G. Wells begin to take over the neighborhood. Simple, short, fun … Bizarro.

What I Know So Far — Gordon Lish
An intriguing selection of short stories from one of the hardest working men in literature. Do you gravitate toward Minimalism?

The Flemish Shop — Georges Simenon
Since Maigret is out of his jurisdiction, he quietly uses his methods to suss out the truth. The conclusion might be considered surprising, but not if you know Maigret.

Noir — Robert Coover
The author’s try at writing good old hard-boiled detective fiction. Passable; fun; and just a little “Coover” in there to remind you it isn’t Dasheill Hammett.

The Master and Margarita — Mikhail Bulgakov (+)

The Sportswriter — Richard Ford
I am immediately reminded of Updike but the writing is not as good. Note that although it all focuses around New Jersey, it’s still fiction.

Karnak Café — Naguib Mahfouz

The 42nd Parallel — John Dos Passos (+)

Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets — Georges Simenon

Woman In the Dark — Dasheill Hammett
Very much Hammett but Robert Parker’s introduction suggests this novel, written late in the author’s career, was an example of the difficulty Hammett may have had when trying to portray emotions like love. The hard-core style might have been the problem or maybe Hammett just wasn’t up to writing anything like a romance. Interestingly, I find I read this novel about fifteen years ago and truly have no recollection of it: why does a genre piece, even one written by a master craftsman like Dasheill Hammett, fade from memory in only a few years while some books I read back in High School have stayed with me for fifty years or more? There is something to be said for reading good literature, I guess.

A Daughter of Eve — Honoré de Balzac
I see the value in Balzac but don’t consider him that great, unless the quantity of writing in the only criteria.

20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth — Xiaolu Guo
An interesting new author from China with several intriguing titles already published. Good insight both into the Modern situation in China and also into the personal relationships of the Chinese. I will read more of Xiaolu Guo.

A Christmas Story — Jean Shepherd (+)
All those nights of listening to Jean Shepherd on WOR. The stories! They made a movie out of these stories called appropriately, A Christmas Story, narrated by Shepherd himself, but just reading his prose you can’t help but hear his voice. The stories that became the movie are from several sources and are collected in this volume for all of us to enjoy. From the story of the Bumpus clan which moves in next door you can see the origin of the sequel to A Christmas Story. Note: many of the broadcast recordings from Jean Shepherd are available on the internet … have fun.

Sausagey Santa — Carlton Mellick III
A bored but immortal Santa tries to off himself in the meat grinder but the elves put him back together by making sausages: kind of like making balloon animals, I guess. Otherwise, not too special.

Wall of Kiss — Gina Ranalli

Hideous Kinky — Esther Freud
A light story but with an exotic twist (and don’t you love to be reminded of old hippies who never gave up?).

You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe — J. G. Ballard
Interesting story as might have been presented in The Atrocity Exhibition.

Falconer — John Cheever

Germinal — Émile Zola (+)
Coal miners in France striking against deplorable conditions and wage slavery. Zola is not only a great writer but he is meticulous in his research so that his novels are full of the real life of the 19th century. This novel is especially pertinent to the current state of the world (and especially the USA) since it gives a good picture of the plight of labor against capital or as we say nowadays, the ninety-nine percent against the one percent that is controlling the country and still is feeding its greed wanting more and more.

The Ghost Road – Pat Barker
The conclusion to the Regeneration trilogy. Barker writes well and here narratives are compelling. It was interesting to see known figures floating in and out of the story: Siegried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen,  Charles Dodgson. An observant and poignant homage to the shell-shocked, the homosexuals, and the generation that was lost in the horror that was The Great War.

Fantastic Orgy — Carlton Mellick III
A nice collection of Bizarro short stories. Highly imaginative and evocative.

Maigret Stonewalled — Georges Simenon
Only the third Maigret but the Chief Inspector is becoming quite familiar. I notice in the earlier novels Maigret does a lot of his own leg-work and hasn’t developed his cadre of well-known assistants.

Epitaph For a Tramp — David Markson
Markson is surprising good at this flip detective story genre (unlike Thomas Pynchon who sucks).

Stones For Ibarra — Harriet Doerr
Fun read. Like The Egg and I and many other novels, this one has a central plot and characters but the text is a series of stories concerning the characters and events going on around the central characters. Maybe a little too “book club” but I still enjoyed it.

The Maples Stories — John Updike
Connected short stories on the same characters and themes. Nice. Does Updike have as easy a time writing as we have reading his prose? Finest-kind.

After Dark — Haruki Murakami
A reread for a group.

Lemon Knives ‘n’ Cockroaches — Carlton Mellick III (+)
A short but highly distilled Bizarro fiction. Disgusting, brutal, fascinating.

Veronika Decides to Die — Paulo Coelho
A very short treatment but highly evocative. Recommended.

Cannonball — Joseph McElroy
One of Americans best authors takes on the Iraq war.

The Origin of the Brunists — Robert Coover (+)
A new religion rises from a coal mine disaster … parallels? This is Coover’s first novel he is ready to publish a huge sequel, effectively bracketing his writing life. I’m ready! Coover is not the easiest writer to read but I find all of his books fascinating and well worth the effort. This one is no exception and, in fact, possibly deserves even more praise than the others.

Spring Snow — Yukio Mishima (+)
The first volume of Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Excellent so far.

Apeshit — Carlton Mellick III
The author admits he really enjoys those low-budget horror movies where a group of unsuspecting young people head out for the cabin in the woods and meat up with a forgotten community of inbred mutants trying to earn extra money sharpening their machetes. Carlton, of course, sees the bizarro aspects of this tried and true narrative. Will we  see Apeshit 2, 3, and Return of Apeshit?

The Strange Case of Peter the Lett (Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett) — Georges Simenon
The very first Maigret novel! I believe there are 75 novels and lots of stories centered around Maigret and many non-Maigret novels and stories. Simenon was rather prolific.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth — Reza Aslan (+)
Solidly written history of the time of Jesus and the known or extracted events surrounding the life of the man called Jesus of Nazareth. Two things: the arguments are sound and those who descry this book should read it themselves to see how even a hint of the Good News expressed by Jesus shows them to be charlatans and about as anti-christian as can be found in history or in the Bible. If Jesus was around today he would have a whole new den of thieves to contend with.

The Water Thief — Nicholas Lamar Soutter (+)
Corporations have taken over the world. Governments are a thing of the past, as are individual freedom, societal concerns, and basic human nature … unless it’s profitable and then anything goes. Good satire even if often rather obvious.

The Ballad of Dingus McGee — David Markson
Markson, best known for his boxes of minute facts and his not-novels, started out writing a few flip and fun works of fiction like Dingus McGee. Read this author but don’t forget to enjoy his entertainments.

The Cannibals of Candyland — Carlton Mellick III
From the father of Bizarro. You’ve seen those stories where vampires are a parallel species to plain old humans but take it a pit further and imagine candy people from Candyland who feed on tasty young children … straight out of Hansel & Gretel but with strawberry flavored cotton-candy hair.

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse — Victor Gischler
Bizarro literature or just a fun look at a possible post-apocalyptic world? Enjoyable and well written in a certain fluffy way.

The End of the Affair — Graham Greene (+)
Exquisite. Poignant. Wonderfully written. A must.

The Adventures of Augie March — Saul Bellow (+)

Plus — Joseph McElroy (+)
One of the most interesting books you will ever read. The human brain is placed in the central core of an unmanned space platform and the brain begins to connect his new world with his previous life and starts to gain self-awareness and independent thinking. The narrator is the brain. Pay close attention and prepare yourself for something completely different … and exciting.

Red Dog — Louis De Bernières
Collection of stories about a famous Australian dog with a wind problem.Probably considered a juvenile book but flatulence is not often found in Dick and Jane.

The Fifty Year Sword — Mark Z. Danielewski
I liked it and the presentation was very nice. I would like to have seen it performed with the alternating voices. Reading the novel, however, I recommend ignoring the multi-colored quotation marks and just read for the enjoyment of it all.

Red Sorghum — Mo Yan (+)

The House of the Sleeping Beauties — Yasunari Kawabata

Sebastian — Mary Caponegro
A complex yet fascinating short novel by an excellent writer of short fiction.

The War — Marguerite Duras (+)
A compilation of Duras’ writing from the end of the war. Mostly memoir with a few fiction pieces at the end. Very powerful.

Thérèse Desqueyroux – François Mauriac

The Whispering Muse — Sjón
A fascinating, many-layer narrative that could have come straight out of the Arabian Knights but is more akin to Greek pre-history.

At Last— Edward St. Aubyn

Boogie-Woogie – Danny Moynihan

From the Mouth of the Whale — Sjón
Beastiaries, myth, history, fantasy, and a new retelling of the story of Jonah and the Big Fish.

The Raw Shark Texts — Steven Hall

The Blue Fox — Sjón (+)

My Kind of Girl — Buddhadeva Bose
Four travelers stranded in the train station tell stories of love and relationships. Trite structure but well executed.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd — Agatha Christie
The butler’s name is Parker. Did he do it?

The Buddha in the Attic — Julie Otsuka

World’s End — T. C. Boyle (+)

The Flame Alphabet — Ben Marcus
Language, spoken or written, has turned toxic and is wiping out the population. But the children seem to be immune. The idea is interesting and the treatment thorough, if a little tedious. I believe there was a movie with a similar killer … and then there’s always the monster from the ID.

Netsuke — Rikki Ducornet

Toward You — Jim Krusoe
I have read the trilogy (St. Nils?) and although they were enjoyable with some imaginative twists around reality, at best I think they were entertainments but underneath it all, there are some interesting questions to think about.

Prehistoric Times — Éric Cheviallard

The Treasure of Sierra Madre — B. Traven
Excellent movie; better book.

Mother’s Milk — Edward St. Aubyn
St. Aubyn writes so well and he seldom resorts to a cliché, often surprising the reader with new and memorable metaphors and description that lend a decided “Wow” factor to his fiction. This novel also was memorable for two things: first, it is actually narrated by one of Patrick Melrose’s boys, and second, the observations of a cultured European on holiday in America are spot on and not too flattering.

V. — Thomas Pynchon (+)
Fascinating. Somewhat confusing. Deserves a reread.

Portrait of an Artist with Twenty-six Horses — William Eastlake

Mercy of a Rude Stream: From Bondage — Henry Roth
The third volume of Roth’s great work.

Some Hope — Edward St. Aubyn
Sort of an in-between piece with Patrick looking back to his past and forward to a possible future. Not to mention a grand party with PM.

Housekeeping: A Novel — Marilynne Robonson

The Post-Office Girl — Stefan Zweig (+)
The war is over and much of Europe is devastated, economically and spiritually. The fate of the girl who runs an obscure little post office makes for a fascinating study of the effects of wealth and status on the lives of desperate people who are only trying to survive. Highly recommended.

Play It As It Lays — Joan Didion
A well-crafted novel, fast paced, but seriously dated in style and content. Worth reading but not my go-to type of novel.

We — Yevgeny Zamyatin (+)
Science Fiction? Dystopean? An allegory of the Communist regime in Russia. Excellent novel covering all those bases and not too difficult to see the later influences in fiction and films.

The Death of Artemio Cruz — Carlos Fuentes (+)
The best thing I’ve read in a while.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret — Judy Blume
A juvenile but good to read.

The Bronc People — William Eastlake
Book 2 of the Bowman Family Saga or as it is now known, the Lyric of the Circle Heart. Fascinating and unforgettable.

Ubik — Philip K. Dick
Dick is a good writer. Most science fiction bores me. I’m not sure if this novel is considered great because it is quality science fiction or if it is anti-communist propaganda. Since I’ve seen the man behind the curtain of the red scare, I vote for top notch science fiction. Then again, as the world reverts it does sound like a Republican nirvana.

Cain — José Saramago
This somewhat flip retelling of the events of the Old Testament does ask a very interesting question:  if hundreds of years went by for the three or four people inhabiting the planet, it must have been colossally boring. Actually, very early on the author introduces the many other “creations” or “paradises” around the world which then asked the question of why the Adam and Eve story was considered special. Sometimes Saramago is presenting real conundrums for us to think about but much of the time I was reminded of that silly Jack Black movie, Year One.

The Eye At the Door — Pat Barker
The second volume of the Regeneration trilogy but a very different novel from the first. Yes there is war and there are consciencious objectors but there are also sodomites (so much harsher to consider than today’s term:  Gays).

The Thirty-Nine Steps — John Buchan
Although the Hitchcock adaptation is excellent, it is amazing how different the film is compared to the book. Underneath it all, however, the plot is fundamentally the same. Comparing the original books to the movie adaptations—The Birds, Vertigo, The Thirty-Nine Steps, etc.—you can see how Hitchcock remade the novel in his own vision (and probably much more engaging, cinematically, than the original.

Runaway — Alice Munro
A collection of chained stories, related by content but not necessarily by theme. I do not find stories that imitate life very interesting: anecdotally they may offer a view of everyday life to contemplate, but they do not extend the genre.

The Garden of Eden — Ernest Hemingway
This is one of the texts that were “completed” after Hemingway offed himself and it might have made good material for the lustier venues of the time but nowadays, how unusual is a three-way?

Chess Story — Stefan Zweig (+)

Maurice — E. M. Forster
It seems quaint nowadays but homosexuality was once viewed as a capital crime. Unlike some of the recent books, this one has a two-sided relationship where both individuals recognize their homosexuality and mutual attraction. One interesting thought here:  since the young men were going against god, they were forced to become atheists. There’s an interesting circular argument in there.

Misterioso — Gilbert Sorrentino (+)
The third novel in the sequence titled Pack of Lies. I didn’t really see how this needed to be considered a trilogy but I find Sorrentino’s writing so good that they could have called it a Pride of Lions and I would have been happy.

The Planetarium — Nathalie Sarraute
The perfect novel where nothing happens but the writing and structure of the text are fascinating. Sarraute actually predates Robbe-Grillet in terms of the nouveau roman.

Confusion — Stefan Zweig
Love vs. learning and a little perverted for the time it was written. Reminded me of other German literature, especially The Confusion of Young Törless. Also gives a perspective on Catholic priests as we are reading about in Los Angeles.

Mercy of a Rude stream: Diving Rock on the Hudson — Henry Roth (+)
Ira is back in High School and beginning to hustle for his earnings. He also discovers sex. Roth’s technique of having the old man Ira in one stream-of-consciousness narrative and the young Ira in the narrative proper is quite effective.

In a German Pension — Katherine Mansfield (+)
A collection of short stories, each with a significant subtext. Mansfield is a master of this type of short fiction.

The Emigrants — W. G. Sebald (+)
Sebald blends fiction and the real world in such a way that the reader can accept each part of the narrative as either real or fictional. Makes you wonder if there is any difference between the two.

Bad News — Edward St. Aubyn (+)
Continuing the Patrick Melrose story. A British peer whose forefathers were on the winning side of the Norman invasion in 1066 is hooked on heroin?

The Evil Guest — J. Sheridan Le Fanu
A passable thriller (full of narrative holes, though). Typical Le Fanu.

2 thoughts on “Reading: 2013

  1. Jonathan I am going to have to delete any videos you post on my site. First, they have no context or relation to reading or my own views on life and politics about which anyone is encouraged to comment; and second, they take up space that should be devoted to better subjects than loud music.

    The place for this kind of thing is your own website. Get imaginative and build up the content on your site so it will attract visitors. From now on, reasonable comments on the subject being discussed are fine but tedious screeds representing the same nihilistic clap-trap that has been going around the edges of society since Kit Marlowe was a boy is no longer welcome.

    I will again emphasize that one’s own website is the place to do or say anything you want. You have your website. This one is mine.


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