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2016 50 Book Challenge - Page 116

post #1726 of 3286
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#19 -- WITTGENSTEN'S NEPHEW, THOMAS BERNHARD

Discover, at last, the hidden impulses behind my reading.... They are this: You guys. Those numbers! 43 books? It's April May, FFS. ffffuuuu.gif

Insomnia woke me up, I made some coffee, hunkered down, read some Thomas Bernhard. Wittgenstein's Nephew. The title, taken from Diderot's Rameau's Nephew (a reference I actually got! Diderot rocks.), implies a funny account of a semi-famous, mostly-buffoonish, wholly aloof man, the relative of a great genius. This is somewhat misleading, for in fact this book, which might be strictly memoir, is in fact a classic bromance, an accounting of a non-famous, non-buffoonish, but wholly aloof man (fighting bouts of insanity) who became a dear friend of the author, Thomas Bernhard. As the title states, he is related to the famous Ludwig (a man, Bernhard claims, is actually unknown to 1960's Germany, and despised by his wealthy family).

In typical B-hard fashion, the book is one lengthy paragraph, an unbroken race to the end. I picked it up because someone called it a companion piece to The Loser, which I plan to re-read ASAP. Probably not as perfect as some of his others, but different, and good, and heartfelt, and wholly welcome.
post #1727 of 3286
List (Click to show)
1. All Tomorrow's Parties
2. Undivided: Part 3
3. High Fidelity
4. Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World
5. Polysyllabic Spree
6. Armageddon in Retrospect
7. South of the Border, West of the Sun
8. What we talk about when we talk about love
9. Norweigan Wood

10. The Master and Margherita

11. The Fault in Our Stars

12. Of Mice and Men

13.Fade to Black

14. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

15. Watchmen

16. Captains Courageous

17. A Brief History of Time

18. The Trial

19. Wind up Bird Chronicle

20. A Visit from the Goon Squad

21. Neuromancer

22. Count Zero

23. Shadowboxing

24. Hell's Angels

25. Anansi Boys

26. Steelheart

27. A Hero of Our Time

28. Mona Lisa Overdrive

29. The Complete Collection of Flannery O'Connor

 

29. The Complete Collection of Flannery O'Connor

 

All 31 of Flannery O'Connor's short stories were contained in this completely lengthy and drawn out volume. There were two that I thought were really something: The Germanium (her first) and "the Displaced person", they were humanistic, interesting, concise and engaging. Many of her other stories dragged on in an arc of vague nothingness that gave me nothing as a reader.

 

I have no idea why she was proclaimed such a talent, and even the famous 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' was fairly dull. Mostly I found her stories to lack much meaning or conviction (I kept thinking, why did you write this? What am I supposed to be getting from it?), so perhaps the flaw is mine. 

 

If you're curious, try the two stories listed above.

post #1728 of 3286
44. Lonely on the Mountain Louis L'Amour 1980

Rustling and gold equal yet another thrilling Sackett saga. Enjoyable; repetitive.
post #1729 of 3286
25 Jar City A Reykjavik Murder Mystery by Arnaldur Indridason

This the 3rd book by this author I have read found them to be entertaining and a good story in terms of narrative and central character development. It takes an interesting approach to the fictional art of murder and its repercussions. I guess it helps that the central dectective is somewhat damaged goods, but what else is new in good noir?
post #1730 of 3286
25. The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedström, #1)The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


The Ice Princess is the first of a series of novels about Fjallbacka detective Patrik Hedstrom. In this book, Hedstrom is a constable working under a conceited boss whose only interest is in scoring enough brownie points to get promoted out of the Fjallbacka backwater.

The book starts with the discovery of the body of a young woman, Alex, in the bath. The body is identified by Erica a writer recently returned to Fjallbacka from Stockholm, who knew Alex, as a child. The verdict appears to be suicide, but is it?

The investigation is led by Erica really, with Patrik playing second fiddle. The two of them are relatively amiable characters, but they lack the complexity, contradictions and depth that you'd expect from your typical nordic noir detective. A lot of what happens is pretty close to soap opera played out by shallow secondary characters that are little more than obvious cliches in some cases.

Lackberg has now written a stack of these novels but, based on this first one, I think they would be more like Midsomer Murders than Henning Mankel. I don't think I'll bother with the rest.



View all my reviews
post #1731 of 3286
List (Click to show)
1. All Tomorrow's Parties
2. Undivided: Part 3
3. High Fidelity
4. Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World
5. Polysyllabic Spree
6. Armageddon in Retrospect
7. South of the Border, West of the Sun
8. What we talk about when we talk about love
9. Norweigan Wood

10. The Master and Margherita

11. The Fault in Our Stars

12. Of Mice and Men

13.Fade to Black

14. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

15. Watchmen

16. Captains Courageous

17. A Brief History of Time

18. The Trial

19. Wind up Bird Chronicle

20. A Visit from the Goon Squad

21. Neuromancer

22. Count Zero

23. Shadowboxing

24. Hell's Angels

25. Anansi Boys

26. Steelheart

27. A Hero of Our Time

28. Mona Lisa Overdrive

29. The Complete Collection of Flannery O'Connor

30. The Last Blues Dance

 

30. The Last Blues Dance

 

My mum lent me this book. It's OK. It's about middle aged immigrants in London realising their mistakes. The prose is kind of fun, but the subject matter is both predictable and shallow. It was OK, and a light read. Compared to FOC it was a fucking rollercoaster!

post #1732 of 3286
26. Half Blood Blues

Half Blood BluesHalf Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Half Blood Blues is a little like a cross between Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories and Suite Francaise. The story kicks off with a group of jazz musicians cutting a record in wartime Paris. Shortly afterwards one of them, a black German considered the next Louis Armstrong, is captured by the Nazis.

The story cuts between the war years in Berlin and Paris, and 1992, when the central characters have grown old. The narrator is Sam, the bass player, who comes from Baltimore with Chip the drummer. The jazz scene in Weimar Berlin sought out black American players and gives them great opportunity. They hook up with a Jewish pianist and a couple of Aryan Germans, as well as Hiero, the trumpet genius.

Hiero and Sam are rivals for the attentions of singer Delilah, who is a confidante of Armstrong's. This rivalry intensifies as the band members finds themselves outcasts when the Nazis take action against Jews, blacks and jazz musicians, affecting them all. They flee to Paris, only to have the Nazis follow them. There, the rivalry between Sam and Hiero turns bitter.

In 1992, Chip and Sam are invited to Europe to the opening of a documentary about Hiero, which surfaces feelings long suppressed. An invitation to a meeting in Poland adds to the mystery.

Edugyan has created a set of terrific characters with an argot that feels authentic. Jam sessions and Hiero's playing are described in a way that makes you feel the music and get what makes Hiero great. It is a terrific account of professional and personal jealousy in a context of shared fears that work to both pull the characters together and drive them apart at the same time.



View all my reviews
post #1733 of 3286
Clockwise counting 40/50: Robert Harris - Fatherland (1992)

Harris' debut novel is a murder mystery set in 1964 Nazi Germany. Hitler has won the war and will celebrate his 75th birthday. Good and bad SS officers are working the case, which suddenly turns into more than one murder case and develops into a big conspiracy. It is a fast and entertaining read but maybe not as good as its reputation. As bestselling thrillers go, it must anyway be rated quite highly. In some way similar to the excellent Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.
post #1734 of 3286
Clockwise counting 41/50: Robert Harris - Lustrum (2009)

Published as "Conspirata" in the US, "Lustrum" is the name of the original UK edition.

Ancient Roman power politics thriller with the great orator and consul of Rome, Cicero, as the hero. Narrated by Cicero's slave / secretary Tiro. The bad guy and ultimate master of conspiracy is Julius Caesar but the power elite of Rome 63-58 BC is full of conspiring and murderous characters. The novel follows historical records closely with numerous references to Cicero's writing / speeches.

This is exciting and well written. I really enjoyed it. It's the second novel of a Cicero trilogy, with the 3rd soon to be released.
post #1735 of 3286
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I must admit this novel -- which many Americans consider his masterpiece -- was a bit of a slog this time out. I paused to read stories by Lydia Davis and William Gass, two writers who totally fucking enervate me, spur me to action. The Loser spurred me to lunch. And to the interwebs. To the critics, I'll say try out his Frost instead.

#20 Thomas Bernhard, The Loser
post #1736 of 3286
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Clockwise counting 40/50: Robert Harris - Fatherland (1992)

Harris' debut novel is a murder mystery set in 1964 Nazi Germany. Hitler has won the war and will celebrate his 75th birthday. Good and bad SS officers are working the case, which suddenly turns into more than one murder case and develops into a big conspiracy. It is a fast and entertaining read but maybe not as good as its reputation. As bestselling thrillers go, it must anyway be rated quite highly. In some way similar to the excellent Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.

Read this years ago among a spate of 'what if Nazi Germany had won the war historical novels' SS-GB by Len Deighton being one of the better ones. As for Gorky Park big fan of Arkady Renko and have read all in the series, about three months ago I picked up a first edition hardback of Gorky Park for a $1. My favourite book of the series is Polar Star such a tragedy it never made it to film it would have been visually spectacular.
post #1737 of 3286
24 Hypothermia A Reykjavik Murder Mystery by Arnaldur Indridason Quite enjoying these books this is the 4th in the series I've read so far and picked up a couple more from the library this week. The narrative moves at a good pace and the principal character Detective Erlendur is like a dog with a bone once he gets involved in a case.The emotional baggage he carries around, bitter divorce, two estranged children one a junkie whore, who he inches closer too over the series is tempered by the loss of his brother in a blizzard when they were children. A life compounded by loss forms the basis of his drive and resolve to achieve results.
post #1738 of 3286
List (Click to show)
1. All Tomorrow's Parties
2. Undivided: Part 3
3. High Fidelity
4. Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World
5. Polysyllabic Spree
6. Armageddon in Retrospect
7. South of the Border, West of the Sun
8. What we talk about when we talk about love
9. Norweigan Wood

10. The Master and Margherita

11. The Fault in Our Stars

12. Of Mice and Men

13.Fade to Black

14. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

15. Watchmen

16. Captains Courageous

17. A Brief History of Time

18. The Trial

19. Wind up Bird Chronicle

20. A Visit from the Goon Squad

21. Neuromancer

22. Count Zero

23. Shadowboxing

24. Hell's Angels

25. Anansi Boys

26. Steelheart

27. A Hero of Our Time

28. Mona Lisa Overdrive

29. The Complete Collection of Flannery O'Connor

30. The Last Blues Dance

31. Gularabulu

 

31. Gularabulu

 

Review is more for the Australians than anyone else, as I'm not sure non-Australians would understand anything in these stories.

 

A collection of stories from the Kimberly's, and is an ambitious project. Paddy Roe (escaped the clutches of the Stolen Generation) narrates a dozen short stories to academic Stephen Muecke, which are reproduced (including the interaction between narrator and audience) here. It reads more like a play than a story. Muecke went to painstaking effort to capture the unique way stories are told in Indigenous Australian tradition, even writing much of the prose in phonetics to give the reader the sense of Paddy's accent, clipped speech, pauses and rambling method of telling a story.

 

Honestly, this was a real disappointment for me. Reading the introduction was excellent, Muecke explains how he hoped to capture the nature of Paddy's stories, and communicate them to a non-Indigenous audience, thus transcending, in some way, the vast gulf between cultures in Australia. The introduction is heartfelt, passionate and vivid, but the stories are anything but. Paddy's stories usually deal with one or two fantastical elements interrupting a normal day, but they fail to capture my interest. The performative aspect of the narration is mildly interesting, but doesn't actually excite me at all. In a detached, academic way it's kind of OK, but it's not the visceral and intense method alluded to in the introduction.

 

After working with Indigenous Australians for the past three years, I was hoping to come across something that was insightful, revealing and intimate - as I'm yet to find a single example of any Indigenous culture that meets these criteria for me - but I was, again, left wanting.

 

Barely interesting, non-informative, with an excellent introduction Gularbulu is probably not worth a read (especially if you're not Aussie).

post #1739 of 3286
45. The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg 2012

Examines the role certain parts of the brain have on human decisions. Promulgates the golden reward cycle:

-cue, routine, reward.

If you want to change your reward, of course the solution is to change your routine.

There are a number of case studies, which tend to resonate with me.

I thought it was pretty good for non-fiction. Which I normally avoid like the plague.
post #1740 of 3286
^Was that the one with the Febreze story, about the lady with so many cats, she didn't know her house (and clothing, and person) smelled? And they had to create a vacuum cue, and then became instant millionaires?

If so, that seemed like a pretty neat book.
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