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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Wrong About Japan

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Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

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Read 12/09/2017-17/09/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

It’s a funny old thing, time. Gwen and I have been chatting in the comments over on her blog about how our attitudes to books and their authors change over time, and how where you are in your life can affect how you react to a book, from thinking it’s the best thing ever written to throwing it down in disgust before you’re even half way through.

That’s almost where I am with Bill Bryson. 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

Hidden Figures

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Read 07/04/2017-10/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

What I wanted was for them to have the grand, sweeping narrative that they deserved, the kind of American history that belongs to the Wright Brothers and the astronauts, to Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr. Not told as a separate history, but as a part of the story we all know. Not at the margins, but at the very center, the protagonists of the drama. And not just because they are black, or because they are women, but because they are part of the American epic.

So says Margot Lee Shetterly in the prologue to her history of the black female mathematicians working at NASA from the 1940s onwards. Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia. Her father was an engineer at Langley, working for NASA. She grew up among the women who worked alongside her father as human computers. Until a chance remark made by her father on a visit Shetterly made with her husband in 2010, she had no idea about the pioneering work these black women carried out, or about just how many black women worked at NASA. And so began her research into the subject. Continue reading

We Should All Be Feminists

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Read 26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is an essay in book form, a modified version of a TED talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2012. It’s less than 50 pages long, but it packs a punch.

The event at which Adichie was speaking in 2012 aimed to challenge and inspire Africans and friends of Africa to think differently. In Nigerian culture, Adichie’s culture, being a strong independent woman is frowned upon. In her talk, Adichie identifies the different ways in which women are kept down in Nigerian society. I recognised some of those ways in my own culture, despite the fact that women were supposedly emancipated a century ago in Britain. Continue reading

On Flirtation

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Read 08/02/2017-13/02/2017

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve had Adam Phillips’ book, On Flirtation, on my bookshelf for more than ten years. I bought it on the recommendation of someone highly inappropriate with whom I was flirting, at a time when someone else was flirting with me and I was flirting with the idea of being a more hedonistic person than had previously been the case.

I enjoy flirting. I like that feeling of uncertainty, the thrill of what might happen, whether it’s stepping too close to the edge of something safely dangerous, or making eyes at someone attractively unattainable. I like the sense that I could become someone different by flirting with possibility, but not having to commit to it. I also like that it ends as soon as it becomes boring, or as soon as something more important takes up your attention.

I started reading On Flirtation for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge. I was looking forward to it. I expected it to be a book about what flirtation is, why we do it, what its hidden meaning and purpose might be. The opening sentences of the first two paragraphs confirmed what I think about flirting.

The fact that people tend to flirt only with serious things – madness, disaster, other people – and the fact that flirting is a pleasure, makes it a relationship, a way of doing things, worth considering.

Exploiting the ambiguity of promises – the difference, say, between someone being promising and someone making a promise – flirtation has always been the saboteur of a cherished vocabulary of commitment.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be a treatise on flirtation. It was more of an exploration of and challenge to psychoanalytic dogma. Not the book I wanted at all. I’d go as far as saying the blurb on the back cover was misleading. Continue reading