In Cold Blood

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Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading

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Rabbit, Run

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Read 05/08/2017 to 11/08/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

Rabbit, Run is the first novel in John Updike’s series about Rabbit Angstrom, an unlikeable man in his mid-twenties who is suffering an existential crisis. He lurches from selfish act to selfish act, abandoning his pregnant wife and two year old son, taking up with an escort, playing golf with the local minister, and all the while bemoaning the fact that he hasn’t achieved anything since his high school basketball team. He has no self-awareness, no interest in other people, and is almost a parody embodiment of the male condition.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a number of years. I bought it because I’d never read any Updike, and he’s a Pulitzer prize winner twice over, so there must be something about him. Recently, though, I’ve read a few reviews and comments on social media written by women excoriating him for his misogyny. Passages that have been quoted show a man who lacks the desire to see women as anything other than objects in the lives of his male protagonists, objects that are a source of irritation and a receptacle for loathing.

As I took in these opinions and comments, I knew that I had Rabbit, Run coming up as one of my Road Trip Challenge reads. I don’t like to knee-jerk to others’ opinions, even when I respect the people giving those opinions, but part of me felt I shouldn’t read the book, knowing that I was approaching it with an expectation that bordered on prejudice against Updike, and that it would likely raise my hackles. Another part of me felt that this wasn’t giving me the chance to experience Updike on my own terms, that I should put the opinions of others to one side and approach the book without preconceived ideas. Continue reading

The Quiet American

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Read 28/06/2017-02/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is somber look at the war between France and the Vietminh through the eyes of a British journalist. Fowler has made a life for himself in Saigon, with a girlfriend, a routine, and all the distance he needs from his regular life in England. Into his settled existence comes Pyle, a young and idealistic American working on a clandestine mission under cover of the medical corps. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Read 17/05/2017-18/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is a very funny book, chaotically and terrifyingly so. I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. You already know what it’s about.

I’ve had my copy for about ten years. It was given to me by a chaotic and terrifying writer that I once knew. I think he was attempting to channel Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you live in darkest South Wales.

I’ve been saving it up for a moment such as the one that hit me this week. I’m calling it existential nihilism, even though that gives more weight to my ‘so what?’ than it deserves. Continue reading

There but for the

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Read 11/05/2017-14/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

There but for the is the second book by Ali Smith that I’ve read, and it’s confirmed her as a new favourite author for me.

The book is quite surreal. Miles Garth has locked himself in a spare room belonging to a middle class couple he doesn’t know who live in Greenwich. Continue reading

How Late It Was, How Late

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Read 20/02/2017-26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I decided to buy this after Weezelle mentioned it in her review of Walking The Lights. I put it onto my TBR selection for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, and this week it came up.

I loved it from the first page. My brother in law is from just outside Glasgow. He’s not as broad as Sammy, the main character in Kelman’s cautionary tale of life on the blag in Glasgow, but the rhythms of his speech are similar, so I felt at home with the narrative style. The book is a single chapter, a stream of consciousness chronicling of Sammy’s fall one weekend from being a regular petty criminal to becoming a blind petty criminal. Continue reading

Thousand Cranes

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Read 12/01/2017-14/01/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

It isn’t often that I read a book and don’t want to review it for fear of shattering its beauty. Thousand Cranes is such a book. I can talk about what I love about it. I can boil the plot down to mundanities. Or I can tell you to read it and find out for yourself what makes it such a compelling book.

From the very first lines I was hooked. Continue reading