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173. Books Bought & Read, September 2018…

173. Books Bought & Read, September 2018…

19 bought, 9 read.

After breaking my streak with a positive net gain last month, it wasn’t even close in September. Not even 50%, (aka 2:1, proportionally speaking. Sorry, I spent the past two weeks intensely studying maths for the first time in around two and a half decades in order to pass a grad school entrance exam, which both limited my available time for pleasure reading and left me with numbers and symbols floating in front of my eyes from which I have yet to recover).

The Big Issues raised by this month’s blog: do the books I received for trading in excess copies during a vicious Bookshelf Cull count as ‘Books Bought’ for the month? And is it fair, knowing I won’t surpass my Books Bought total for the month, to not read the last few pages of a couple of novels I was nearing the end of, knowing I can then count them towards next month’s tally when I finish them on October 1st? Who knew keeping a book blog would open up such a Pandora’s Labyrinth of moral quandaries?! (And more to the point, without spellcheck who knew it was spelt ‘quandaries‘ and not ‘quandries‘?)

 

 

With slim pickings on the Books Read front, I have time and space to mention that the Books Bought column was boosted by the discovery of some beautiful covers on rereleased books. These were mainly those delightful Penguin Classic Deluxes, which I continue to hunt down faster than Pokémon in Central Park, although I only seem to be finding the 600+ page editions which are putting a significant strain on our bookshelves, (see: the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and the 50th anniversary edition of Bulgakov’s ‘The Master And Margarita,’ neither of which I may ever even read, having read them both already. But they sure look stunning on the shelf).

Following on from last month’s discovery of Tao Lin, I picked up and had a crack at his breakout novel, ‘Taipei’. Confusing, frustrating, stylistically interesting but with a lead character I completely failed to connect with, I can see why he has become both such a popular and a divisive figure, (a brief internet search immediately brought up a review from NPR containing the following: “Taipei, Lin’s newest book, is…(a)t once very bad and very good, it swings between dullness and wild, excessive beauty.” It is headlined: ‘Taipei is Lifelike – But That’s Not Necessarily A Compliment.”)

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On a completely different fictional plane, I have loved tracking down the bite-size books in Melville House’s incredible The Art of the Novella series, and this month I picked up and imbibed two more: a so-so Edith Wharton tale of marital folly, and Prosper Mérimée’s delightful ‘Carmen‘, inspiration for the opera and a thoroughly enjoyable 19th century romp around Spain featuring derring-do, men fallen from grace (for a change), and the laughing, cavalier eponymous heroine, a Roma traveller with a knack for getting whatever she wants. Highly entertaining.

The Prophet‘ was a gift from family friends which I had somehow never gotten around to reading, and there were some moving and relevant sections to this nearly century-old parable/fable (parafable?) I’m not sure the poetry is especially outstanding but, like Paolo Coelho, Gibran’s work presents something for seekers, and for every facet of their personalities at every important point of their life, which isn’t a bad way to achieve (eventual) popularity. This ‘something-for-everyone‘ nature of the book may explain why it’s not always looked upon seriously by critics.

‘Dream Cities’ was disappointing; Frankl’s holocaust-inspired memoir and exposition of his psychoanalytical method ‘Man’s Search For Meaning‘ was confusingly simultaneously depressing and uplifting; and R.Crumb’s baseball card-depictions of musical legends dating to the late 19th century was less informative than I’d hoped and simply pretty.

But my favourite book of the month was an early work by celebrated Spanish writer Javier Marías, discovered purely as it was put out by The Believer’s book publishing branch, and as I’m sure you all know by now I trust The Believer with my life, (or, if not my life, at least a significant portion of my finances). A faux-19th century travel adventure, ‘Voyage Along The Horizon‘ instead spends more time analysing the role of unreliable narrators and dissecting short story and  detective tropes than providing actual adventure, (not to mention conclusions), which the Italo Calvino fan in me loved.

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And with that, after being behind on my blogging for most of 2018, I find myself in the rare position of being up to date with my literary comings and goings, a state which I hope to maintain.

So you probably won’t hear from me again until next December…

 

 

Books Bought, September 2018

Rules Of Civility (Amor Towles)

The Joy of X: a guided tour of numbers, from one to infinity (Steven Strogatz)

The Gift: creativity and the artist in the modern world (Lewis Hyde)

You Are Not A Gadget: a manifesto (Jerome Lanier)

On Boxing (Joyce Carol Oates)

The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)

Big Sur (Jack Kerouac)

A Sentimental Journey (Laurence Sterne)

Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko)

McSweeney’s Quarterly, issue.51 (various)

The Book Of Other People (ed.Zadie Smith)

A Farewell To Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

The Master And Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

Sherlock Holmes: the novels (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Absolute Sandman, Vol.II (Neil Gaiman)

The Absolute Sandman, Vol.III (Neil Gaiman)

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

Carmen (Prosper Mérimée)

The Complete Fairytales (George MacDonald)

 

Books Read, September 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

Dream Cities: seven urban ideas that shape the world (Wade Graham)

Voyage Along The Horizon (Javier Marías)

Taipei (Tao Lin)

Man’s Search For Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

Heroes Of Blues, Jazz And Country (Robert Crumb)

The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)

*********, ***! (***** ****) (Book redacted pending future update)

Carmen (Prosper Mérimée)

The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)

 

 

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Posted by on December 8, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

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Don’t forget to check out and order my first ever published book, available here!

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October’s reading, (and purchasing), was brought to you courtesy of a three-week holiday (vacation) to the city that only sleeps when it’s tired, or has a job interview early the next morning, or because the bars have all closed at 2am: New York.

A long flight and metro journeys between my base of Brooklyn and the island once known by the natives as Mana-hatta, (amazing what you can learn on a walking tour…), allowed me to get through seventeen wonderful, and not always short books: The Strand and various lovely, (and cheap), book sellers on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to bring a further 26 home with me, (at least, the ones which weren’t left behind as presents).

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The Strand, the world’s largest bookshop…

One of them, Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York‘ came to me in the opposite direction, a lovely and unexpected gift on my 17th 37th birthday, and the perfect jazz prose-poem for somebody wandering the streets of the city, for the first or fiftieth time. A new author for me to look out for, this slim and gorgeous time gets 9/10 on the Borges/Brown scale.

(I decided to abandon grading all of the books I read: my blog was almost impossible to even get to last month, so from this month I am just awarding the Borges mark of excellence to any book on the list which I highly recommend reading.)

Bill Bryson‘s story of a single topic (aviation) in a single year (1927) in American history is fascinating, thanks to not covering just one year or one topic but everything from Communism and Prohibition to baseball and murder cases, and I highly recommend it. Since I try to match my reading to my location, I also finally read Brooklyn-based Michael Chabon’s modern classic ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay,’ a beautiful tale of World War II refugees, New York life, and comic books. Perfect.

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I was guilty of buying a book of which I already own two copies, but since my signed copies of Haruki Murakami’s latest offering is safe in The Cupboard in the UK, and the US version has a different, (and far more gorgeous) cover, I felt entirely justified. The book was everything I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite writers…although no more. Not underwhelming, just not as overwhelming as I’d hoped.

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After returning to Lisbon to continue life and work, I flew through a couple of comic books picked up at New York’s ComicCon, which were nowhere near as much fun as their animated originals, and got back to my latest love, Portuguese literature and especially a fascinating offering from Next Great Portuguese Thing, Gonçalo M.Tavares. If you can find him in translation, I recommend his experimental style highly.

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New York Comic Con…

If you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

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Books Bought, October 2014

Burmese Days,’ George Orwell

Pastoralia,’ George Saunders

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america,’ ed. Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten

Manual Of Painting And Calligaphy,’ José Saramago

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

The Graveyard Book,’ Neil Gaiman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Strong Opinions,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

On The Map: why the world looks the way it does,’ Simon Garfield

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,’ David Foster Wallace

Northern Lights,’ Philip Pullman

Anansi Boys,’ Neil Gaiman

Freedom Evolves,’ Daniel.C.Dennett

From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ Susana Mateus & Paulo Mendes Pinto

Antic Hay,’ Aldous Huxley

Chrome Yellow,’ Aldous Huxley

Mortal Coils,’ Aldous Huxley

Ballet,’ Arnold Haskell

Biografia De Lisboa,’ Magda Pinheiro

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Books Read, October 2014

One Summer: America, 1927: ,’ Bill Bryson borges

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

The Amazing Adventures Of  Kavalier And Clay,’ Michael Chabon borges

Salvador,’ Joan Didion

But Beautiful,’ Geoff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóibín

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

The Colossus Of New York: a city in thirteen parts,’ Colson Whitehead borges

One More Thing: stories and other stories,’ B.J.Novak

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares borges

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

borges = recommended book

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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92. An Evening With Nick Hornby…

92. An Evening With Nick Hornby…

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to finally meet one of my favourite authors, a man who not only lives in London but loves music, books and football, as well as McSweeney’s and The Believer and a whole host of other things I also know and love.

But all that changed when around fifty people gathered on plastic stools in the back of legendary indie record label Rough Trade‘s East London megastore to hear a Q&A promoting Nick‘s latest book. A mere seven years after the first compilation of his monthly ‘Stuff I’ve Been Reading’ column for The Believer magazine, (2006’s ‘The Polysyllabic Spree‘), comes the sequel, titled simply: ‘Stuff I’ve Been Reading’.

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Part of my excitement was, naturally, due to the fact that this is the column which directly inspired the last two years of my creative life, (i.e. this book blog), and wasn’t dampened in the least when I found out that for some confusing international publishing reason I already actually owned the book, since there have been several volumes released Stateside which I have managed to pick up over the years.

Nick was excellently interviewed by Canadian journalist and author Craig Taylor, and the theme of the evening, 2013-11-14 19.23.55(and, indeed, of the monthly articles), soon became clear: you should read what you want, and what you enjoy. The Believer has a policy of not saying bad things about people or artworks, and so Nick quickly began self-censoring his To Read list and (something which I am physically incapable of doing) abandoning books after just a few pages if they were not enjoyable enough.

In other words, stop buying books like ‘Frost/Nixon‘ (the example given on the night) thinking of yourself as ‘The kind of person who reads ‘Frost/Nixon‘ in an ideal world where you had enough time to read books like ‘Frost/Nixon‘ when, if you’re honest, that copy of ‘Frost/Nixon‘  will almost certainly sit, unread, on the shelf for the rest of your life.

(Pretty soon, I was feeling kind of sorry for ‘Frost/Nixon‘ and making plans to buy it at the soonest opportunity).

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We learned of Nick‘s recent jazz obsession inspired by the book ‘Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: five years in new york which changed music forever‘ by Will Hermes, which led to a recommendation with which I whole-heartedly agree: that books which focus on a single period, (a year, a decade), but cover a range of topics are incredibly satisfying to read because you learn about things (such as sewage, for example) which you would never know about otherwise because, let’s be honest, who is going to read an entire book about sewage?

Photo courtesy of Antipode Foundation under the Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of the Antipode Foundation under the Creative Commons license

After a few readings from the new book were given, your humble blogger actually kick-started the Q&A due to a surprisingly shy crowd, taking the opportunity to help promote Nick’s work with the fantastic after-school writing charity the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies shop, a branch of the incredible Dave Eggers-founded 826 Valencia programme. This led to further charity-based news of a forthcoming album release, with famous bands and singers recording the lyrics of students from the programme. Here is a sneak preview, (and one of the coolest things I’ve seen/heard for a while). Fans of Little Britain will be especially thrilled:

The night ended with a signing session, (sadly not a singing one), during which each and every fan was given time and a friendly chat, including a promise to my Argentine journalist friend to arrange an email interview exchange which I hope to piggyback on and share with you in the near future. The evening was such a resounding success that I even failed to take my traditional stalker’s photo…but never fear, I took one for my friend to treasure back in Buenos Aires.

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And, in fact, the night really ended with one last signing on Rough Trade’s Wall of Fame…or, in this case, asking the author to risk life and limb to add his name to their Ceiling of Fame. Ah, the perils of fame!

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Posted by on November 30, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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