Three Short Reads

 

I slowed down my reading during January, trying to get more depth of engagement with what I read, relishing it more. This includes books of less than 150 pages that I would typically zip through. Recently I read three short books from Penguin, all of them full of big ideas. It took longer than I expected, and I found strong links between the three, so I’m reviewing them together.

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On the Narrow Road to the Deep North

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Read 21/01/2018-31/01/2018

Rating: 5 stars

My 300th post! How good that it should be a five star review of a book that celebrates the 300th anniversary of something.

After the bleakness of The Secret River, I felt in need of something calming, and what could be more calming than an account of a pilgrimage undertaken on the 300th anniversary of Basho’s 1689 journey to the Tōhoku and Yamagata regions of Japan? Continue reading

The Secret River

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Read 09/01/2018-21/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve had The Secret River on my library wishlist since the Olympics Reading Challenge on the Reader’s Room in 2016. Weezelle reminded me of it when she mentioned that she’d received it as a gift recently. That spurred me on to reserve it at the library.

Kate Grenville has written just the sort of book I love. Think Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, or Shirley Barrett’s Rush Oh!, or even Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. It’s historical fiction that records the painful lives of the poor in all its sorrowing detail, but which manages to also capture the indomitable spirit and resourcefulness of some when faced with adversity. More than that, it examines how humans judge each other by the colour of their skin, and how brutally the British treated the indigenous people of Australia. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to The Mill on the Floss

 

I’m sitting in a freezing cold departure area (I can’t dignify it by calling it a lounge) at Dublin Airport, waiting for my connecting flight home. The café, which is more of a hot beverage kiosk, is closed. There is a pillar that invites travellers to use three smiley face buttons to express your satisfaction with the facilities. I might warm myself up by hammering on the red sad face button later.

Meanwhile, to pass the time, I thought I’d do this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. Continue reading

Brad Pitt’s Dog

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Read 16/01/2018

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve had the occasion to travel to New York for work, to meet a man who collects the ephemera of counter culture. We’re hoping to acquire the collection of another man, a British man who also collects the ephemera of counter culture in order to comment on it. He’s a man I like very much. I can’t name names yet, because the acquisition isn’t secure.

The man I’m meeting in New York is Johan Kugelberg. He created the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, as well as Punk archives at Yale and Cornell. He has documented The Velvet Underground. He’s a collector, an academic, an archivist, a curator.

I thought I ought to read something of his work before we met.

Brad Pitt’s Dog is a collection of essays written between 2001 and 2011 in which Kugelberg reflects on the meaning of celebrity and the death of celebrity, and what makes a counter culture. Continue reading

City of the Lost

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Read 04/01/2018-09/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Strong female lead? Check.
Passes the Bechdel Test? Check.
Positive representation of People of Colour? Check.
Passes the Wallander Test*? Check

City of the Lost was one of two books chosen for me by my SantaThing Secret Santa this Xmas just gone. I hadn’t heard of Kelley Armstrong before, so I was curious to find out what her style is like.

City of the Lost is a crime thriller in the hard boiled mode. Detective Casey Duncan is a brilliant heroine. She’s sassy, determined and focused, in control of her life, but a dark incident from her past is about to catch up with her. Continue reading