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2016 50 Book Challenge - Page 73

post #1081 of 3281
32. Yours Until Death, by Gunnar Staalesen (2010)

Yours Until Death is the first of the Varg Veum books translated into English although, oddly, not the first in the series. Based in Bergen in Norway, Varg is a dissolute small-time private investigator, and was formerly a Child Welfare officer. 

The book opens with a young child walking into Varg's office seeking help recovering his bike from some vicious bullies. Varg agrees to help, and gradually starts to get involved with the boy and his recently-separated mother. After the mother asks Varg to talk to her ex-husband about child support, he sees him go into her flat where he is soon found dead, and she is found holding the murder weapon.

Despite appearances, Veum refuses to believe that she can have done this and offers to help the defense investigation.

The book is quite good without being highly original or surprising. Veum has a nice line in wisecracks but the character is not as memorable as Martin Beck or Kurt Wallander, for example. Staalesen gives him some depth by harking back to Veum's own unhappy childhood, but he doesn't do much with that, at least not yet. The book's real strength is Staalesen's prosaic descriptions of Bergen and its surrounds. One passage where he describes the sudden onset of Spring is excellent, as is the brooding presence he gives the mountain that glowers over this ancient city.
post #1082 of 3281
Clockwise counting 65/50: Salman Rushdie - Midnight's Children (1980)

An epic tale about India, Pakistan and an amazing muslim family, written in the style of magical realism with a distinct Indian flavour. I see strong similarities with Faulkner and the recent Chinese Nobel laureate Mo Yan but while I may narrowly prefer Mo Yan's even more brutal and colourful narrative vein, this book mesmerized me very much in the same way. 

1,001 children were born within the midnight hour of India's independence August 15, 1947, and these children were all given magical powers of various kind. The narrator, Saleem Sinai, who was the first (or second) child born at the stroke of that midnight of independence, is writing his autobiography to the single audience of his housemaid and wife-to-be. He tells a wonderful, magical and terrifying story of his Kashmir heritage, his Bombay upbringing and his politicisation in Pakistan. 

I can't recommend this book highly enough but it is a very thick one and it is not always easy reading. Patience and stamina will be needed but this is doubtlessly great art. Must be one of the foremost achievements of modern literature.

And.... this tale of the 1,001 midnight's children is obviously on the list of 1,001 books to read before you die.
post #1083 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

83. Notes From the Underground Fyodor Dostoevsky 1864

LIST

What a horrible awful book.

I must read this. I am however now first pushing through Crime and Punishment which I once, long ago, abandoned well past halfway through. It depressed me terribly at the time but I find it less burdensome today at a more advanced age and possibly taste.

It is strange that Kafka never depressed me like Dostoyevsky, his books are in many ways even darker and more claustrophobic. I have read most of Kafka and all three novels (Trial, Amerika, Castle) actually twice. For those who didn't yet read Kafka, it really is a must!!
post #1084 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

32. Yours Until Death, by Gunnar Staalesen (2010)

Yours Until Death is the first of the Varg Veum books translated into English although, oddly, not the first in the series. Based in Bergen in Norway, Varg is a dissolute small-time private investigator, and was formerly a Child Welfare officer. 

The book opens with a young child walking into Varg's office seeking help recovering his bike from some vicious bullies. Varg agrees to help, and gradually starts to get involved with the boy and his recently-separated mother. After the mother asks Varg to talk to her ex-husband about child support, he sees him go into her flat where he is soon found dead, and she is found holding the murder weapon.

Despite appearances, Veum refuses to believe that she can have done this and offers to help the defense investigation.

The book is quite good without being highly original or surprising. Veum has a nice line in wisecracks but the character is not as memorable as Martin Beck or Kurt Wallander, for example. Staalesen gives him some depth by harking back to Veum's own unhappy childhood, but he doesn't do much with that, at least not yet. The book's real strength is Staalesen's prosaic descriptions of Bergen and its surrounds. One passage where he describes the sudden onset of Spring is excellent, as is the brooding presence he gives the mountain that glowers over this ancient city.

You are really a connoisseur of Scandinavian crime. What about Stieg Larsson's trilogy? I must admit I haven't yet read it although I am as Swedish as that Muppet chef (but his use of the Swedish language is a bit more eloquent than mine).
post #1085 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

1. The Undivided pt 1

2. The Undivided pt 2

3. No Country for Old Men

4. The Difference Engine

5. Wake in Fright

6. The River of Doubt

7. The Pearl

8. Crytonomicon

9. Shot in the Dark

10. Malcolm X - Biography

11. Final Empire

12. The Quiet American.

13. Habibi

14. The Invisible Man

15. Tender is the Night

16. Guardians of the West

17. King of the Murgos

18. Demon lord of Khandar

19. Sorcress of Darshiva

20. Seeress of Kell

21. Once We Were Warriors

22. Winter of our Discontent

23. Othello

24. A Scanner Darkly

25. The Well of Ascension

26. Hero of Ages

27. Alloy of Law

28. Marrow

29. The Prince

30. Leviathan Wakes

31. The Meaning of Sarkozy

32. The Death of Ivan Illych

33. The Devil

34. Lucifer's Hammer

35. The Yiddish Policeman's Union

36. Rainbows End

37. Palimpsest

38. Red Shirts

39. Caliban's War

40. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

 

41. The Communist Hypothesis

 

A book about communist theory. Slow going, joyless, at times interesting, but pretty boring to be honest.

post #1086 of 3281
84. The Hit David Baldacci 2013

Will Robie teams up with a rogue agent to solve a plot designed to create a new world order.

It was pretty good. Robie is my favorite Baldacci character.
post #1087 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

You are really a connoisseur of Scandinavian crime. What about Stieg Larsson's trilogy? I must admit I haven't yet read it although I am as Swedish as that Muppet chef (but his use of the Swedish language is a bit more eloquent than mine).

I read those as soon as they came out in English. I believe the original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. Reading the full trilogy, you can see the reason for that; the progressive Larssen was writing a serious critique of Swedish society.However his posthumois publishers chose to focus all the attention on the Salander character and play her up to the hilt. In the process, I think Larssen's intent was lost.
post #1088 of 3281
85. Crome Yellow Aldous Huxley 1921

LIST

Huxley's first novel, about a group of Bohemians right after the great war summering at an English estate called Crome. The protagonist writes bad poetry and has painful encounters with the opposite sex. He foreshortens his holiday because of these.

So-so. Certainly not the caliber of Brave New World.
post #1089 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

1. The Undivided pt 1

2. The Undivided pt 2

3. No Country for Old Men

4. The Difference Engine

5. Wake in Fright

6. The River of Doubt

7. The Pearl

8. Crytonomicon

9. Shot in the Dark

10. Malcolm X - Biography

11. Final Empire

12. The Quiet American.

13. Habibi

14. The Invisible Man

15. Tender is the Night

16. Guardians of the West

17. King of the Murgos

18. Demon lord of Khandar

19. Sorcress of Darshiva

20. Seeress of Kell

21. Once We Were Warriors

22. Winter of our Discontent

23. Othello

24. A Scanner Darkly

25. The Well of Ascension

26. Hero of Ages

27. Alloy of Law

28. Marrow

29. The Prince

30. Leviathan Wakes

31. The Meaning of Sarkozy

32. The Death of Ivan Illych

33. The Devil

34. Lucifer's Hammer

35. The Yiddish Policeman's Union

36. Rainbows End

37. Palimpsest

38. Red Shirts

39. Caliban's War

40. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

41. The Communist Hypothesis

 

42. While Mortals Sleep

 

A collection of Kurt Vonnegut short stories. As an unashamed fan of KV, this was enjoyable, but as someone who has read a compilation previously (Welcome to the Monkey House) I felt these stories were generally weaker (although the last one was excellent). Entirely personable, human, savvy and conscionable.

post #1090 of 3281
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post

42. While Mortals Sleep

A collection of Kurt Vonnegut short stories. As an unashamed fan of KV, this was enjoyable, but as someone who has read a compilation previously (Welcome to the Monkey House) I felt these stories were generally weaker (although the last one was excellent). Entirely personable, human, savvy and conscionable.

LM, you should keep an eye out for "Bagombo Snuff Box", another collection of KV short stories.
post #1091 of 3281
Clockwise counting 66/50: John Le Carre - A Delicate Truth (2013)

The grandmaster of espionage fiction is 82 years old and can still write better than almost anyone else. This is maybe not up to the absolute top standard of my favourites The Honourable Schoolboy or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold but it is nevertheless very good and always entertaining. Better, I would say, than anything he has written for a long time. 

This is about how the gung-ho New Labour in the War against Terror sets aside law and moral to go after enemies. They do so together with a private defence contractor from Houston, Texas and any scandals are elegantly covered up. A young foreign servant and a retired diplomat are risking a lot to become whistle blowers. The British government are the bad guys.
post #1092 of 3281
13. The Twelve Caesars - Suetonius

Biographies of the first twelve roman emperors written in the 2nd Century AD. Not surprisingly many had already become exaggerated figures of the imagination. The usual pattern for the more notorious seems to have been a steady descent into dark megalomania. It is also an interesting source for learning about Roman culture and the political system. Suitably came with a recommendation from Gore Vidal on the back cover.
post #1093 of 3281
86. Cat and Mouse 1961 Gunter Grass

LIST

Chronicle of a schoolboy German oddster during WWII. He has a prodigious Adam's Apple. The other kids called it a mouse and set a cat upon his throat as a joke. Hence the title. Also a prodigiously proportioned penis. And an odd devotion to the Virgin Mary.

I liked it. Hoping Tin Drum (supposedly Gass' best) is also on the list.
post #1094 of 3281
Clockwise counting 67/50: Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace (2012)

Neil Young has been very important to me and many of his 1970s albums remain on my personal all-time top list. After having seen that his auto-biography got such good reviews, I really looked forward to read about the man and what had gone wrong with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. To my disappointment, Neil is revealing very little indeed and this 500 page book reads very much as a long thank-you-list to all the wonderful people he has worked with and known over the past five decades.

The man is a genius songwriter but alas not a genius autobiographer. In my view, this is for hardcore fans only.
post #1095 of 3281
Clockwise counting 68/50: Yasunari Kawabata - Snow Country (1948)

This is the first book I read from Nobel Prize winning Kawabata and it is undoubtedly a little masterpiece. An independently wealthy young man from Tokyo, a certain Shimamura, takes frequent short vacations at a hot spring resort in the mountains. He meets the geisha Komako and a love affair develops. Komako's love is pure but agonizing and self sacrificial in nature. A bitter sweet tragedy which could never have a happy ending.
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