Category: Books


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“Bands are like psychotic families” – Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (A Girl In A Band)

M TRAIN by Patti Smith (Bloomsbury , 2015)
smith

If you have lived in a cave for the past four decades or spent too much time listening exclusively to crappy chart pop you wouldn’t know that Patti Smith is a Rock’n’Roll star.

You wouldn’t necessarily be any the wiser from reading her second autobiographical work either since there are practically no references to music making.

What you do learn from this collection of short loosely connected essays is that she is addicted to coffee, hates housework, loves visiting the graves of dead poets, likes taking black and white photos with a Polaroid camera and spends a good chunk of her free time binge-viewing TV shows (The Killing is a particular favourite). Continue reading

WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING by Haruki Murakami (Vintage Books, 2009)

3031024When I first read this memoir about five years ago I was a casual jogger.

Picking it up again as I train for my first marathon, I see it now as a valuable mini-manual to get into the right physical and mental state.

You don’t have to be an amateur athlete or an aspiring writer to appreciate Murakami’s down to earth words of wisdom but it helps.

As a celebrated novelist, frequently tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and a prolific marathon finisher, the Japanese writer and runner shares his experiences in a style that goes beyond the standard textbooks on both pursuits. Continue reading

INFINITE JEST by David Foster Wallace (First published 1996)

infinite_notesInfinite Jest was written over two decades ago but is still remarkably topical in an age where the line between entertainment and ‘real life’ is increasingly blurred.

It is, by any standards, a big novel and a daunting proposition to all but the most dedicated reader. It stretches to 981 pages with a further 96 pages of footnotes to push it beyond the 1000 mark.

Footnote is probably a misnomer since many are more than just clarifications or references. One runs to 17 pages. This is not a novel you’d pick up lightly or cast aside easily (unless you wanted to do someone harm!). Continue reading

A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh (First published, 1934)

dustIn his chosen career as a novelist Evelyn Waugh has to write about human beings but you get the strong feeling from this cynical and morally vacuous novel that he didn’t like people much. He became a committed Catholic soon afterwards and presumably he took comfort from an organized religion that takes it for granted that we are all born sinners.

Its title comes from a line in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – an allusion to death given that someday all of us return to dust.

Like a vindictive deity or grim reaper, Waugh moves his sad characters around like someone idly engaged in a game of chess with himself. None of them are presented in a flattering light and their actions are mainly driven by apathy, ennui or spitefulness. They are well off, comfortably placed and bored out of their skins.

Continue reading

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