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89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

04 Nov
89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

Books Bought, October 2013

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

The Book Of Penguin, Duncan Campbell-Smith

The Canon: the beautiful basics of science, Natalie Angier

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

Utopia,’ Thomas Moore

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

City Of God, Paolo Lins

Lord Malquist & Mr.Moon, Tom Stoppard

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Delete This At Your Peril,’ Neil Ferguson

Hugo’s Spanish In Three Months. 

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Books Read, October 2013

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and other stories, Etgar Keret

Martha And Hanwell, Zadie Smith (Penguin 70’s series)

The Snobs,’ Muriel Spark (Penguin 70’s series)

Stick Man,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Snail And The Whale,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Smartest Giant In Town,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Boomerang,’ Michael Lewis 

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

Simpkin,’ Quentin Blake

Cockatoos,’ Quentin Blake

Angelica Sprocket’s Pockets,’ Quentin Blake

Secret Lives Of Great Authors,’ Robert Schnakenberg 

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

The Great Cheese Conspiracy,’ Jan Van Leeuwen & Imero Gobbato

Jerusalem,’ Simon Sebag-Montefiore

The Cherry Orchard,’ Anton Chekov

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace

Diary Of A Bad Year,’ J.M.Coetzee

The Bear,’ Anton Chekov

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov 

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Grantland,’ issue 3

The Believer,’ issue 101

Grantland,’ issue 4

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Of the dozen books bought this month, the last two were presents, so all in all a massive contrast from last month’s ridiculosity. 26 read, including a couple of kids’ trilogies whilst staying with a friend and her rugrat, and the rest was a fun mix of science, history, economics, science fiction and, mainly, short fiction.

Most of the list were read whilst on a family holiday in sun-drenched Israel, the wonderful bustle of Tel Aviv limiting my intake somewhat, (although I did get halfway through my ‘Hugo’s Hebrew In Three Months’ book…again…).

Enjoy these extracts from this month’s paper consumption!

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Secret Lives Of Great Authors,‘ Robert Schnakenberg

A fairly amusing compilation of life histories and little-known (to me, at least) facts about a few dozen famous authors down the ages, focusing on their foibles and (often sexual) bizarrities. What did I learn? I’m glad you asked…

“Fans of English football…can thank [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] for helping found the Portsmouth Football Club in 1884. Doyle also served as the team’s first goalkeeper…”

W.B.Yeats subjected himself to a rudimentary form of Viagra, known as the Steinach Operation:

“The fifteen-minute operation, in which monkey glands were implanted into Yeats’s scrotum, went off without a hitch. Yeats got his groove back…”

This wonderfully led to Dubliners nicknaming him ‘the gland old man’!

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island, used under Creative Commons license

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Finally: Gertrude Stein owned a cat called ‘Hitler,’ due to its brush moustache. This may seem a strange pet name for a Jewish artist, until you learn that she also approved of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government in France, and apparently felt that Hitler “…should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ridding Germany of its troublesome Jews.” That’s quite some self-hating!

a-supposedly-fun-thing

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace
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I am on a Foster Wallace binge right now, flying through every novel and essay collection of his I can find, (despite the fact that they are far from the easiest to read). This moderately slim collection of essays was everything I have come to expect from the sardonic, literate world-observer.
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“Third World rebels are great at exposing and overthrowing corrupt hypocritical regimes, but they seem noticeably less great at the mundane, non-negative task of then establishing a superior governing alternative. Victorious rebels, in fact, seem best at using their tough, cynical rebel-skills to avoid rebelled against themselves – in other words, they just became better tyrants…”
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A fascinating and illuminating idea on the brain states of infants, and one which simply  explains why the world seems so much more fun when we’re younger:
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“One of the few things I still miss from my midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakeable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me…this sense of the world as all and only For-Him is why special ritual public occasions drive a kid right out of his mind with excitement. Holidays, parades, summer trips, sporting events. Fairs. Here the child’s manic excitement is really excitation at his own power: the world will now not only exist For-Him but will present itself as a Special-For-Him…”
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On roller coasters:
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“I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying. One of my basic life goals is to subject my nervous system to as little total terror as possible. The cruel paradox of course is that this kind of makeup usually goes hand in hand with delicate nervous system that’s extremely easy to terrify…”
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Photo used under Creative Commons License

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And finally a lovely turn of phrase on tennis, (a recurring theme for child player DFW):
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“The top seed this weekend is Richard Krajicek, a 6’5” Dutchman who wears a tiny white billed hat in the sun and rushes the net like it owes him money and in general plays like a rabid crane…”
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jerusalem-book_SWBOTc4MTc4MDIyMDI1Mw==
Jerusalem: the biography‘ Simon Sebag Montefiore
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I like to read about the places I am visiting whilst I am there, and whilst I didn’t make it to the thrice holy city this time round, this 650-page history lesson encompassed several millennia of details on the region and religions which I have always wondered about. A few gems I took from it began with the fact that:
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“Jewish spoils paid for the Colosseum…”
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Jerusalem at one point was wonderfully described by Chateaubriand as “…this deicidal city.” I love new/invented words…
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I learned of a fascinating church in this multi-faithed city:
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“Christ Church was – and remains – unique in the Protestant world: there was no cross, just a menorah; all the writing was in Hebrew, even the Lord’s prayer. It was a Protestant church designed for Jews…”
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Finally, an interesting statistic, given the often-quoted ‘fact’ of America having been founded as a religious state, (despite whatever the Founding Fathers actually, specifically started in the Constitution:
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“In 1776, some 10% of Americans were church-goers; by 1815, it was a quarter; by 1914 it was half…”
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Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov
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A single quote taken from what was (for the first two-thirds, at least), a wonderfully thought-provoking sci-fi classic, more a book of ideas than of memorable lines but this one tickled me:
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“It was childish to feel disappointed, but childishness comes almost as naturally to a man as to a child…”
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A remarkably similar book to ‘Foundation‘ in many ways, this book by Italian genre-inventor/breaker also had similarities to his ‘Invisible Cities,’ which I quoted from a few weeks ago. Again, the only way to get across the beautiful, bizarre nature of these vignettes, (an omnipotent being who was present for every important event in galactic history, real or imagined), is to quote the start of one in full:
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“One night I was, as usual, observing the sky with my telescope. I noticed that a sign was hanging from a galaxy a hundred million light-years away. On it was written : I SAW YOU. I made a quick calculation: the galaxy’s light had taken a hundred million years to reach me, and since they saw up there what was taking place here a hundred million years later, the moment when they had seen me must date back two hundred million years.
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Even before I checked my diary to see what I had been doing that day, I was seized by a ghastly presentiment…”
the-bus-driver-who-wanted-to-be-god
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The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God: and other stories,’ Etgar Keret
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To conclude this month’s summary, I was thrilled to uncover another collection of short stories from one of my favourite contemporary writers, (and one of Israel’s too, apparently). The partly-absurd, partly-disturbing tales are, each and every one of them, gems. One of them, for no reason I can discern, at one point states:
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“I gave him a name; I called him Margolis, after a man who used to live in our mailbox…”
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And finally, there is the conclusion to a wonderfully macabre, Grimm-esque short story, with seemingly little to no relation to the two-page fairy tale which had gone before, but beautifully put nonetheless:
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“There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed…”

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4 Comments

Posted by on November 4, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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4 responses to “89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

  1. nycavri

    November 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    October 2013

    The Humbling – Phillip Roth
    The Score – Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark)
    The Cocktail Waitress – James M Cain
    Dead Men’s Boots – Mike Carey
    Deadly Sanctuary – Sylvia Nobel
    Dallas, November 22, 1963 – Robert A. Caro
    Mosquito Coast – Paul Theroux

    Plenty of pulp noir (as usual), less non-fic than I would like (also as usual), an adequate cozy mystery, and a couple of heavier lit-fic things.

    And Mike Carey, who writes so well it makes me angry.

     
    • doronklemer

      November 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      You read Mosquito Coast? I have a few of his on my shelf, and have only ever read one, kind of author I keep buying, thinking I should read more, and never get round to!

       
      • nycavri

        November 4, 2013 at 8:01 pm

        Been meaning to read it since I saw the movie in my teens. Powerful, preachy and extraordinarily depressing – well worth a read.

         

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