11/10/2013 § 1 Comment
Two estranged, dysfunctional families reunite for a week-long sojourn to a rented Red House in England’s rainy countryside. The consciousness of the story flits between eight characters in a narrative that is sparsely populated with insightful observations and overborne by self-conscious characterisation. Characters, young and old, are excessively cerebral and plagued by supposedly shocking illicit desires. The Red House is a gloomy read, pervaded by resentment and guilt. By the close of the book little has truly changed and the reader is left depressingly aware of the character’s lives continuing to tick relentlessly on beyond the last page.
19/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Richard is a money-driven Misogynistic bigot, happy to discard his dysfunctional family in favour of fast cars, booze and women. That is, until he has a stroke and winds up in a coma; terminal until a disembodied voice seems to offer him a final chance to make amends. In stark contrast to Gibbings’ crude comedy Malice in Blunderland, this parable-like novella reads like A Christmas Carol for grownups. Theological dilemmas are interjected by touchingly believable anecdotes and struggles against every-day excesses and egocentricity. A quick and impactful read; what ‘Remember to forget’ lacks in laughs it makes up for in morality.
12/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.
23/07/2013 § Leave a comment
Sulky drop-out Raskolnikov commits the harrowing murder of an elderly shopkeeper. Ostensibly to spare his virtuous sister the obligation to marry for money, Raskolnikov’s motives are grounded in ego and ennui. Dostoevsky’s tale is spun via the construct of conversation, which dismembers the narrative just as Raskolnikov’s mind unravels with self-doubt. The inconsistency of the murderer’s psyche gives the impression of multi-layering, which is buffered by manifold stories and the illusion of guilt over brooding. Watch as the arachnid character is funnelled into his own web, and wonder whether Raskolnikov believes his tangled yarn to involve either crime or punishment.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Book review)
27/04/2013 § 2 Comments
Centenarian Allan Karlsson flees his retirement home-imposed birthday celebrations and, through cantankerousness and folly, winds up on the slipper-cloven-shuffle from the authorities with a suitcase full of cash and a trail of corpses in his wake. This books reads like a bad impersonation of a funny story. The title tries too hard to achieve quirky literalism, and it’s downhill from there. The result is a farcical yarn that trivialises murder and shoe-horns in ridiculously unlikely political figures; all without the laughs to back it up. With flaws that can’t be blamed on translation, this novel is lucky to raise occasional wry smiles.
19/12/2012 § Leave a comment
An acerbic hypochondriac and reluctant purveyor of crime fiction finds himself, compelled by the prospect of reward and glory, filling the shoes of a missing private detective. But what begins as a harmless hobby soon transcends into a dangerous murder investigation, with Nazi conspiracies a go-go (albeit suffused with the feminine wiles of self-appointed sidekick, Alison). This novel doubles up as a cynically hilarious parody and genuinely enthralling mystery. The ‘mystery man’ is fantastic to get to know as he begrudgingly overcomes his reticence, and Bateman’s disclaimer about second edition revisions hints at a not-so-fictional basis for a sinister plot, veiled with humour.
29/11/2012 § Leave a comment
This collection of interviews aims to paint an original picture of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities. Spanning squatters to bankers, north to south, Taylor’s five year odyssey allows readers glances into the windows of an array of the city’s relationships, acquaintances and pen-pals. Unfortunately, Taylor peaks with his poetic introduction, with exciting and surprising accounts (the voice of the tube and TFL lost property deserve a mention) too sparsely scattered. More importantly, despite well thought out categories, the domineeringly bitter portrayal of the city as grim and unfriendly alienates those readers who are residents and overwhelms the remainder.
To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw “If you only get one great love, then London may just be mine… and I can’t have nobody talkin’ shit about my boyfriend.”
13/11/2012 § Leave a comment
Edward is a 39 year old Asperger’s and OCD sufferer living alone in Montana. Coping with solitude and a fraught paternal relationship, Edward relies on his stringent routine of diligently recording seemingly benign data and religiously watching episodes of Dragnet. That is, until an unexpected friendship with a nine year old and enlightening foray into internet dating proves more therapeutic than even the most logical of psychiatrists. 600 hours is to Mysterious Incident what the Wilderness years were to Adrian Mole. It may be less enthralling and inventive, but spending 25 days with Edward is still heart-warmingly hilarious and enlightening.
28/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Danny, a recently dumped twenty-something, is in a funk. Prompted by the random words of a stranger, he decides to rid himself of perpetual nights in watching Eastenders by saying ‘Yes’ more. Specifically to everything, all the time. The results are comedic, bizarre and highly readable. Admittedly, the portrayals of Danny as both a naïve simpleton who believes internet scams, and also an astute philosopher able to mock his own idiocy are a little hard to reconcile. Despite this frustration, and its over-hyped ‘profound’ message, Yes Man is worth picking up for the Hypnodog encounter and ‘lost glasses’ incidents alone.
24/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Evie is left desolate after discovering that her long-term girlfriend has been cheating on her with a mutual friend. Her journey to recovery (with pit stops for sexual confusion, rediscovered friends, and self-pity) will resonate with anyone who has put on a sardonic brave face to mask heartbreak. Stunning one-liners make your stomach clench with the memory of when you, albeit less eloquently, thought them yourself. To describe this novel as ‘lesbian chick lit’ is to undervalue a relentlessly honest, witty account of post emotional-apocalypse. Blackwell expertly captures today’s London and the cynical humour of those that frequent its underbelly.