Reading: 2015

Total Items: 98

Fata Morgana — William Kotzwinkle

The Physics of Sorrow — Georgi Gospodinov

Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque — Joyce Carol Oates
Short story collection generally on a theme.

Dinner — César Aira
If there are Zombies, does this make us the dinner?

The Strange Library — Haruki Murakami
Short. Strange.

Zeina — Nawal el Saadawi
The revelations of the differences between the practice of life in a Moslem work vs. the edicts of the faith as in the Qu’ran and the comparisons between the three books (Torah, Bible, Qu’ran) were most interesting.

After the Circus — Patrick Modiano

Numero Zero — Umberto Eco (+)

Submission — Michel Houellebecq (+)
In the near future French elections bring theMuslim Brotherhood to power and although Sharia takes over, the results are surprising. Does the author suggest this is more utopia than dystopia?

American Taliban — Pearl Abraham
A soul-surfer gets spiritual and ends up a new recruit in the Taliban just as Rumsfeld unleashes the military power of the United States on Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks. A tad juvenile.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery
Lots of interesting stuff in this one: good for further thinking.

Tinsel — Manoj (Vaz) Ramchandran
Can you judge the skill of the author by the number of clichés in the work? This pedestrian novel does give an interesting view of life in Bombay.

A Clue To the Exit — Edward St. Aubyn
Still the freshest writer working today … “like a streak of cortisone in the psoriasis of development.”

Thérèse Raquin — Emile Zola
Zola is always an engaging read. It’s interesting to contemplate the scandal this novel created when it was first published. A tad melodramatic.

On a Red Station, Drifting — Aliette de Bodard
A tight little novel with all the stock science fiction memes and still has time for good character development and thematic conflict. Well written.

The Artist of Disappearance — Anita Desai
Three novellas. Exquisitely written.

The Great American Novel — Philip RothBaseball. Newark, New Jersey. You gotta love Philip Roth.

The Dirty Parts of the Bible: A Novel — Sam Torode
Breezy, fun. No. it’s not a compendium of all the naughty bits in the Bible but rather the story of a preacher’s son who is afraid the Second Coming will arrive and he will still be a virgin.

The Ragazzi — Pier Paolo Pasolini
The life of street urchins in post-war Rome. Highly cinematic..  but consider the author.

The Fencing Master — Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Arrow of God — Chinua Achebe
A very detailed overview of life among the Igbo natives but it might be the Two Years Before the Mast of Africa. Compare to Le Clezio’s novel, Onitsha.

The Blue Guitar — John Banville
Read the poem and then decide what Banville was up to.

Lucky Jim — Kingsley Amis

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl – Barry Lyga
A juvenile but well written and demonstrates the difficulties of growing up (not to mention the art of graphic novels).

Time Out of Joint — Philip K. Dick
A small town with a secret.

The Place of Dead Roads — William S. Burroughs
Second volume of the trilogy. Fun, fun, fun. Think of it as a western gangster outer space story with a lot of fast gun action and guy-on-guy sex. Nothing too weird in this one and very enjoyable.

The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction — Michael D. Coogan
For such a short introduction and little book, this one gives a fascinating overview of the Old Testament which, although never actually denying the efficacy of religion, piles up a lot of historical and textual analysis which should make anyone with half a brain stop to think for themselves.

Afloat — Guy de Maupassant

Villain: A Novel — Shuichi Yoshida
Detailed; exacting; complex; boring.

Skullcrack City — Jeremy Robert Johnson
Another one of those weird novels suggesting our future world would be dangerous and ruled by drugs (Bizarro). Uneven but often very entertaining.

Why Darwin Matters — Michael Shermer (+)
Possibly the best book I’ve read that both supports the science of Evolution and also demonstrates how Evolution can not only work with religion but in fact helps to explain many of the elements of religion and society without resorting to magic or miracles.

Runaway Horses — Yukio Mishima
The second book of The Sea of Fertility. Excellent.

Hocus Pocus — Kurt Vonnegut

Epitaph For a Deadbeat — David Markson
Markson plays with the traditional hard-boiled detective genre. Lotsa fun.

Meatspace — Nikesh Shukla

Sunset Park — Paul Auster

The Ambassadors — Henry James (+)

Venus on the Half-Shell — Kilgore Trout [Philip José Farmer]

The Interrogation — J. M. G. Le Clézio

Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man — Le Marquis de Sade
Short but really packs a punch. Who needs a god, right?

Punkzilla — Adam Rapp
A juvenile coming of age road trip novel with plenty of honest observations on society and life in general. Is this also a picaresque?

House of Meetings — Martin Amis

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — Uval Noah Harari
A very different accounting of the rise and continuing existence of Homo Sapiens. Lots to digest here and some of Harari’s insights might gobslap you into a new understanding of life.

A Brief History of Portable Literature — Enrique Vila-Matas

Rum Punch (Jackie Brown) — Elmore Leonard

The Saint-Fiacre Affair — Georges Simenon
Maigret goes home.

Tijuana Book of the Dead — Luis Alberto Urrea
An impressive collection of poems.Reminded me of the poems Bolaño discusses in bookssuch as The Savage Detectives. I think I’ll dig out Bolaños collection, The Romantic Dogs, for a reread.

Modern Romance — Aziz Ansari
Dating in the digital age. Interesting. Sometimes worth a grin.

City of Night — John Rechy
Probably the first openly gay novel of our generation. A must read! Rechy writes a vivid and detailed description of the seedier parts of the towns and the more interesting people involved in the street life. Some may find his writing toodescriptive; others may wallow in the description. It’s all good.

Gasa-Gasa Girl — Naomi Hirahara
Mas travels to New York City at the request of his daughter. Entertaining who-done-it.

Laughter in the Dark — Vladimir Nabokov

Whose Body? — Dorothy L. Sayers
The first Lord Peter Whimsey mystery novel. I read it for the early development but realize that the later novels are far better written.

Fear — Stephan Zweig
A story with a twist that O’Henry would have been proud of.

Mona Lisa Overdrive — William Gibson

Count Zero — William Gibson
Not sure Gibson is my thing but this is the second book of a trilogy and I already started the third book so I am committed.

Castle To Castle — Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Céline darker than usual. What is real and what is fiction?

Tours of the Black Clock — Steve Erickson

Two Girls, Fat and Thin — Mary Gaitskill

Amok — Stephan Zweig
One of those wonderful old stories where the narrator meets a stranger and then listens to the fantastic narrative the stranger confesses to him. A short novel or long story, this one is good reading.

She — H. Rider Haggard
The precursor of so many “Lost Civilization” narratives. Good adventure but King Solomon’s Mines is still my favorite.

Concrete Underground — Moxie Mezcal
At first I was aghast at the level of writing school prose represented by this novel … and since I understand Mescal writes straight to the internet made it even worse. However, the story in intriguing and the writing skill is acceptable. Actually, my advice to the author would be to NOT write so much and let the reader fill in the blanks (explains too much and points out clues so the reader won’t miss any of the author’s skillful narrative).

Funny Girl — Nick Hornby
Entertaining, but not as some have suggested, anything approaching an uber-fiction or meta-novel. The fact that actors are often conflated with their popular on-screen persona is a cliché and not a critical insight.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter — Mario Vargas Llosa

Martereau — Nathalie Sarraute
Deep observation, excellent writing, no action. Reminded me more of Proust or Woolf than of the Nouveau Roman.

Rubicon Beach — Steve Erickson
I can appreciate the author’s ability to write and in places his novel was interesting, but in the final analysis, it didn’t hold together. True, modern fiction is not going to be traditionally structured, but it still must maintain some structure other than random. (Note: Erickson uses what I like to call the Wallace structure where seemingly unrelated stories begin to come together, although in this case there is also some reordering of time sequences. None of this is new, fresh, or exciting). 

Outline — Rachel Cusk

Such — Christine Brooke-Rose

The Trial — Franz Kafka (+)
Referenced in a recent book I read, I felt it was time to once again visit this classic transgressive novel. Seems to get better and better.

The Buried Giant — Katsuo Ishiguro
Rich, entertaining, imaginative. Do you think it was allegorical? However, in the end it wasn’t too successful.

The Obstacles: A Novel — Eloy Urroz
This is one that demands close reading since the narrative of the writer is shuffled together with the narrative he is writing … and there is another writer … so the characters all seem to move effortlessly from one narrative to another, from one dream to another manuscript. Keeps you on your toes!

Edge — Koji Suzuki 
Mysterious disappearances, spooky visions, lots of science knowledge worked in for verisimilitude, and not a Godzilla in sight.

The House of Jasmine — Ibrahim Abdel Meguid
Excellent story of political unrest in 1970s Egypt. But only shows the surface of the country (certainly no Naguib Mahfouz).

Mercier et Camier — Samuel Beckett (+)
A less bleak treatment that was distilled into the great Waiting For Godot. Mercer and Camier are not Vladimir and Estrogen but then they are not Bouvard and Pécuchet either.

Despair – Vladimir Nabokov
The theme is “Doubles” and all the fun things you can do when a friend/acquaintance/brother/delusion who can misrepresent you is offered to the world in your place. Nabokov is a good for simply reading how well he writes (and how much fun) as he is for the imaginative twists in his narrative.

Nervous Conditions — Tsiti Dangarembga
Although a traditional serial narrative, this novel is full of insights into the lives of Africans in Rhodesia in the 1960s. Reads very much like a memoir … but it’s still all fiction, right?

I Have Always Lived In the Castle — Shirley Jackson
Just enough weird to satisfy but not so much that we need to suspend our disbelief.

Fossiloctopus — Forrest Aguirre
A small collection of stories and vignettes by a pretty imaginative author.

Wormwood — Poppy Z. Brite
A tight collection of gory, spooky, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night stories. A worthy successor to Zacherle’s Midnight Snacks.

California — Edan Lepucki
A breezy tale of the fall of civilization that could very well happen in this century. Too much writing-school and not enough sordidness … but a good candidate for the movie-of-the-week.

The Transmogrification of Wamba’s Revenge — H. L. Gold
Short but fun. Taking from a Galaxy Magazine back in the sixties.

The Wasp Factory — Iain Banks

Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation — Bill Nye
Simple, clear, personable … but the luddites will still contend that Evolution is a hoax.

The Room — Hubert Selby Jr
A man in prison fills in the blankness of his cell (room) with mental recreations of his life and fantasies of alternate versions of his life. Not hard to keep track of what is real and what is fantasy or revery, but fairly well done (not as good as Gide, for sure).

The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare — C. K. Chesterton
If Quentin Tarantino wrote this novel he would have titled it: The Man Who Was Mr. Pink.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time — Yasutaka Tsutsui
A quick juvenile with a twist.

Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga — Hunter S. Thompson
I was a young man in Southern California during the time of this essay. As usual, it is most fascinating to see the discrepancy between the real Hell’s Angeles and the government or press reporting on the Angels. An interesting question: how much do you think The Wild One influenced future motorcycle gangs rather than the other way around.

Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland — Carlton Mellick III
In a dystopian future in a land called McDonaldland, the men are growing extra appendages and the women are highly sexed but sex turns them gradually into wolves. Tossed out of the protection afforded by Ronald McDonald and forced to eat berries and nuts when Big Macs are not longer available, conflicts arise that even the Fry Boys cannot control.

A Bad Man — Stanley Elkin
A merchant trained in all the Snake Oil sales techniques eventually owns a successful department store but eventually turns to nefarious acts in order to assuage his greed. This lands him in a very unusual prison. Will he survive the year?

The Dalkey Archive — Flann O’Brien

Black Boy — Richard Wright
Ostensibly the autobiography of the author; but we know better … it’s all fiction.

Gagapocalypse — Moxie Mezcal
Three imaginative short stories.

Amnesty — Octavia Butler
Short science fiction novel. Interesting ideas.

Salamander — Thomas Wharton
Clockwork castles, infinite books, and pirates: what more could a reader ask for. Fun and quite imaginative.

Where You Once Belonged — Kent Haruf
As exciting as Cream of Wheat.

G. — John Berger
Interesting.

The Artificial Princess — Ronald Firbank

The Great God Pan — Arthur Machen
A precursor to much of what we consider horror fiction. Look especially at its influence on Lovecraft.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman — John Fowles
A long sprawling novel that is probably less interesting for the 19th century story it tells than for the persistent authorial intervention.

 

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