Six Degrees of Separation: from A Christmas Carol to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

 

It’s the 2nd December and Christmas will be going up Chez Hicks today. The family tradition when I was growing up was to put Christmas up on the 1st December, which has been tweaked to the first Saturday of December in our house. Either way, I’m only a day late. Continue reading

Vernon Subutex 1

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Read 10/10/2018-21/10/2018

Rating 4 stars

The first book in Virginie Despentes’s trilogy about a down-on-his-luck former record dealer is a domino effect romp through the music world and its parallel den of vainglorious excess, the French film industry. The title character, Vernon Subutex, has in his possession a set of video tapes in which Alex Bleach, a recently deceased rock star, interviews himself and shares his wisdom with the world.

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The Idiot (Elif Batuman)

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Read 04/06/2018-16/06/2018

Rating: 5 stars

The Idiot was my last book from the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist. I didn’t manage to finish reading it before the winner was announced. In fact, it’s a book that I took my time over. I liked its style. The way Elif Batuman writes reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Murakami in the surreal episodes that reveal the oddness of human nature. At times I was reminded of Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. It also made me think a little of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, because it’s about a young woman trying to work out what is expected of her and how to behave around others while maintaining her integrity. Continue reading

The Old Beauty and Others

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Read 23/04/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Over in A Corner of Cornwall, Sandra’s recent Six Degrees post brought Willa Cather’s The Old Beauty and Others to my attention. First published in Britain nine years after Cather’s death, the volume brings together the last three short stories she wrote, each one a masterclass in how to write this literary form, each one containing an entire world within its pages. Continue reading

The Fountain in the Forest

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Read 31/03/2018-03/04/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I read a review of The Fountain in the Forest in The Guardian which makes reference to Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec, as well as David Peace, Jorge Luis Borges and Paul Auster. All of these men are innovative writers whose works I admire. The review also introduces The Fountain in the Forest as a pulp style detective novel. Police procedurals and books about private detectives are probably my favourite genre. If I had to pick one, I mean. If I had to. The review made it sound as though this book would be right up my alley.

After I finished reading the review, I immediately placed a reservation request with my local library. Continue reading

Never Any End to Paris

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Read 17/07/2017-20/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Read Around the World Challenge: Spain

The Enrique Vila-Matas of Never Any End to Paris, who both is and isn’t the novelist Enrique Vila-Matas, is convinced that he grows to resemble Ernest Hemingway more every day. Nobody else agrees with him, least of all his wife, most of all the organisers of a Hemingway Lookalike contest in Key West. Like the novelist, the book’s Vila-Matas has been obsessed with Hemingway since he read A Moveable Feast as a teenager. In his 20s, he moved to Paris to try to absorb some of what inspired Hemingway. Never Any End to Paris is Vila-Matas looking back on those youthful days. Continue reading

A Gentleman in Moscow

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Read 29/04/2017-30/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

I’ve been itching for an excuse to read A Gentleman in Moscow for a while, so I was pleased when it came up as one of the reads for the March Madness Challenge over at The Reader’s Room. I was even more pleased when my local library accepted my request for it to be added to their stock. It only arrived on Thursday, though, so I didn’t have much time to read it in. Fortunately, it was gripping.

Now that I’ve read some Zweig, every time I think a novel reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, I’m going to remind myself that it’s Zweig I’m thinking of.

The beginning of A Gentleman in Moscow made me think of Zweig. Moscow in 1923. The early days of the Bolshevik regime. Sasha Rostov, who may or may not have been on the side of the revolutionaries before they brought down the bourgeoisie, finds himself firmly viewed as an opponent of The People, if not quite their enemy. Continue reading