Thoughts: Miscellaneous Vonneguts

Hey, Dove isn’t the only one who can do bookpinions! (Although she’s always more perceptive when it comes to books, to be fair, so hers are probably more interesting)

A while ago I decided to set myself a reading challenge. My three favourite ever novels, at that time, were Mrs Dalloway, The War of the Worlds, and Slaughterhouse 5. But if those books were so great, what were the rest of the authors’ oeuvres like? So, I decided to try reading every novel by these three. For HG Wells, that remains something of an aspiration – Wells wrote over 50 novels, with terrible early-twentieth century titles like Apropos of Dolores, All Aboard for Ararat, Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island and the incredible The Bulpington of Blup that seem perfectly tuned to put off any potential readers – but I managed to read all of Woolf’s novels* last year, and I got the final three Vonneguts for Christmas.

These were:

  • Deadeye Dick
  • Bluebeard
  • Hocus Pocus

Thoughts: Collected Poems by PJ Kavanagh

Every time I read poetry I say this, but I still feel the need to repeat it. Poetry is not really my medium, and I’m never sure if I’m reading it right. One at a time or one after the other? Read in rhythm or as naturally as possible? Pause at the end of lines or not? I suppose I also don’t feel like I’ve read enough poetry in my time to be able to make valid comparisons, or for my judgements to have the sort of reliability I hope my non-fiction and fiction “reviews” do. They’re very much for myself; I don’t think I’d feel confident in recommending or not a book of poetry to someone else, at least someone I didn’t know well.

But I’ve read more poetry in the last few years that I pretty much ever have, so maybe I’ll get better at it? I don’t want to be one of those people who says “I don’t know about art but I know what I like”, but I think knowing what I like will be a good start.

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Google Search Q&A 7

It’s really thin pickings now. The only search results we still see are from what I imagine must be the really exotic search engines. Hello to all you Yahooers and Lycosers and Duck Duck Goers! But there’s one search that we get weirdly often. It doesn’t even have any sparrows in it.

coat of arms of different country

Not many people have been to Different Country, but I popped through on holiday this year, and I got a glimpse of their coat of arms. I reproduce it below (with help from Wikimedia’s very extensive palette of coat of arms elements)

Isn’t it lovely?

First Terrible Poem of 2017

I’m reading a book of poetry right now, and I guess I just couldn’t help myself.

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Thoughts: Learning to Drive, and other life stories, by Katha Pollitt

I really wasn’t expecting this one to be anything special. I put it on the list because we got the film at Sneak sometime in 2015 (arghhh so behind) but I knew it was based on a short piece and they’d changed a good few details for the film that I didn’t immediately see a decent reason to change (and still kind of don’t, except that it helps to think of the film as “inspired by” and not “an adaptation of”). The film was nice? I can’t remember a huge amount about it, but I’m bad at remembering films and it was two years ago (oh god so behind) so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

What really gave me misgivings (misgave me?) were the reviews of the book lined up proudly on the back and in the first few pages, which I read through because eh, why not? They had lots of alarm bell words in them, like “confessional” (I didn’t think people actually said that! The first I heard of this women’s writing being confessional thing was in a Guardian article!), “searingly honest” (ugh), “wise” (UGH), and worst of all, “Unafraid to say what others only think” (the only one I wouldn’t necessarily associate with female writing), which wasn’t even from a review but from the blurb itself, and my god, doesn’t that make you think the worst of someone? Maybe I’ve been burned too many times by Those People who assume that Down The Rugby Club lies a microcosm of all the mystery of humanity’s secret thoughts.

The thing is, none of those things are even bad! They’re meant to be compliments!

It’s just that they have such connotations now, of tryhard triteness and this awful trend of mining one’s past for the worst trauma the writer can rip out of their chest and throw, still wet and twitching, at the feet of their readers for no other reason than because not to do that makes you less confessional and less honest.

There’s a reason this book came with those tags, though.

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Thoughts: The China Coin by Allan Baillie

You know how some books just stick in your head, even if you haven’t read them? The China Coin was one of those for me. I don’t know how old I was, but it was at one of our school’s summer fayres at one of the jumble sales where I first saw it and read the back and considered reading it and then put it down again.

It’s been at the back of my mind basically ever since, so I finally put it on my reading list, where (as I’d kind of suspected) it was unavailable for Kindle, so then it went onto the Christmas list, where my Holmesian family managed to track it down for me <3

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Thoughts: Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

It’s that time of the year, with a fresh Christmas haul and before work starts again for the year, where if you’re not looking directly at me, I’m hibernating somewhere with a book.

This one is going to be a bit complicated, though (and contains some mild spoilers).

I didn’t even have to open it to know that, because the first line is on the back, and it goes like this:

“I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.”

This one, I thought, is going to take some defending.

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Thoughts: Poems and Songs by Leonard Cohen

New year, new attempts to hit those old resolutions! Namely, to record my thoughts about the books I read. I tried throwing out my thoughts on Twitter, and while at first I quite enjoyed tearing 140-character pieces off my thoughts and throwing them into the wind, it became a bit unmanageable with Twitter rearranging everything.

I do have a Goodreads (it is here) but here’s the thing: I hate star rating systems. They’re simplistic. They lack nuance. They lack consistency. No one in the world rates all their books by a single consistent metric. I loved reading The Disaster Artist (Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell) last year – it was hugely fun and entertaining, a legitimately compelling story. I read Mason & Dixon (Thomas Pynchon) which was mind-blowingly detailed and wonderful, clever and with superbly drawn characters and a fantastic ear for voice. I read the last of the Lord Peter Wimsey books (Striding Folly by Dorothy L Sayers) and though I was quietly distraught at saying goodbye to him, was it her best? No. So there would be three rating systems already – The Disaster Artist judged by how it exceeded my initial wary expectations, Mason & Dixon judged for its storytelling and technical ability and Striding Folly judged by the rest of Sayers’s work. And different people rate in different ways. Some have their own personal rating systems that mess up all the algorithms.

Sometimes I like the idea of having proper discussions with people on Goodreads, and sometimes I hate the idea of anyone ever seeing my private opinions. When I read classics I just feel stupid about saying “Yep, turns out To Kill A Mockingbird is a good book, who knew!”

The main reason is that Amazon gets enough from me, frankly. It gets my money and it gets all my free data, and I baulk at the idea of giving it my opinions to display as well. Arbitrary, petty and irrational? Yep. But those are my feelings and they’re not hurting anyone.

The first book I read this year was Poems and Songs by Leonard Cohen. I loved it.

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Frankfurt Sneak Statistics III – Sn3ak

Here we are again. Another year of OV Sneak Preview – the showing of a random new movie each week at Frankfurt Metropolis cinema. In 2014 and 2015, I collected all the statistics of the films we saw and did a bit of maths. Now, let’s do it all again. This time, we also have statistics for how many films passed the Bechdel test, provided by the lovely Dove.

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Blooming Bloomsday

This is something I wrote for Bloomsday. Dove suggested I put it online so here you go. Joyce in the style of Joyce.

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