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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

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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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10. The thought-provoking gang…

10. The thought-provoking gang…

‘The Thought Gang,’ Tibor Fischer

Well, it always looked likely to happen. Day 23 of a 31 day trip and I’m already on the last of the nine books I brought with me, (even including a bonus one so small it subsequently only lasted a couple of hours). Oh well, more time to get these reviews written, and maybe even a few bonus posts on the many and varied joys (and tribulations), of reading. But for now…

I have gotten into a pattern recently of finishing a non-fiction book and treating myself to a nice bit of fiction. (In case that makes me sound anti-fact in any way, let me quickly point out that I then polish off a fiction book in order to treat myself to a bit of non-fiction. I guess I’m kind of lucky that way. Optimistic, some might say).
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Whilst browsing through a dire and largely water-stained selection of second-hand books in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, over the Summer, my eye had caught on the name Tibor Fischer. It took me a few minutes of flicking through the paperback to remember that I’d been to a talk by him at the Hay Festival and that he had been shortlisted for the Booker prize once and had won all sorts of Best Young Novelist awards. On impulse, despite The Cupboard back home creaking with unread tomes, I bought ‘The Thought Gang,’ his second of several dysfunctional novels.
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I turned out to be strolling the streets and stalking the cafes of Tel Aviv with a 300-page exercise in style reminiscent of Queneau or Perec, fitting considering most of the action takes place in France. Having recently read an excellent book on codes, I knew that something was up when Fischer had used words beginning with ‘z’ a dozen times in the first few pages alone, or approximately 11.5 times more than was statistically likely. By the end of the story, (of an ageing, alcoholic philandering philosophy professor with an allergy to work who fleas a post-blackout situation of police-involving proportions and subsequently teams up with a hapless, limb-limited failed robber to form a more successful and surreal bank-robbing team operating across the waters in France), I still had no idea why this ‘z’ obsession, and I didn’t care. I just loved the book.
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What was there for me not to love? This nonsensical adventure contained all of the things I appreciate in a good read: non-secretarial -sequiturial linguistic acrobatics, reminiscent of one of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut; philosophy for beginners, (and advanceders); plots that arrive unexplained, from nowhere, before disappearing again with equal disdain for standard story-telling tradition; larger-than-life protagonists, more stereotypes than characters; tongue-in-cheek self-referential post-modernism; even a football match, for crying out loud. Danes, a seance gone awry, verbs, scathing wit, Greek, and a double-bracketed sentence at one point. Perfection.
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Among other things, ‘The Thought Gang’ provided me with a constant flow of turns of phrase, (turn of phrases? turns of phrases? cute lines?!), and twisted ideas which would have warranted a place in my old quote book, and will instead be dutifully archived here:
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“Suddenly I smelt broken nose…”
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“I didn’t want her to find out that, like most men, I’m a life support system for a phallus…”
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“…your closest friends are the ones it takes you longest to discover you don’t like…”
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“…(a forehead, as someone once remarked, that has conquered its way to my neck)…”
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plus a whole host of other eminently quotable quotes which I can’t provide, as I somehow removed all of the post-its from the pages which were housing them before I’d typed this review. Luckily the spine fell open at this description of one fleeting character who hit remarkably close to home:
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“Sitting down, what was most striking was the booklessness of his table and no volumes were visible or perceptible about his person or down by his side. He would carry three volumes at a time, over a thousand pages on his person; the book in his hand had been so customary it had seemed like an evolutionary innovation. I remembered him saying that one of his greatest fears was a free consciousness and no text to plunge it into…”
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My elder brother, (not to be confused with my younger brother, since he doesn’t exist…wow, Fischer’s style is catching…), studied philosophy at university before vacating his adopted country for his (literally) native one, which led to lots of jokes about what a philosophy degree can lead to, (besides, in the existent brother’s words, change being the only constant, and a request to passers-by if they can spare any). The actual answer, it seems, is that with a firm, possibly choking grasp of the English language, coupled with a knowledge of the Greeks, the Romans, the French and the Others, you can write incredibly fun fiction.
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in BOOKS

 

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