Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami

"The goal of pinball is self-transformation, not self-expression."

It has been one of those crazy weeks that fly by and yet fill you with a sense of exhaustion mixed with tedium and a little dash of frustration. To hide from the trials of the daily slog, I dove deep into Murakami territory and was not disappointed. Reading his novels is like waking from a seriously weird dream. The details are a mite hazy, your recollections lie on the tip of your tongue and yet simultaneously a million miles away.

Imagine around 160 pages of escape into another world with an obsession for a very rare pinball machine, random bed buddy twins and the tale of the rat and his strange, meaningless sexual entanglement that ranges from all powerful to forgettable in a very short time. This is apparently the 2nd of 3 Rat stories and unfortunately it seems I've gone and read them in reverse order, which is typical. I have a habit of doing things back to front.
Throw in musings about life, relationships, pinball and fleeting obsessions and this is a delightful dreamlike escape. Not my number one favourite Murakami and yet still a delightful excursion.

5 out of 5 ball flipping gets the big scores.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq

"The director of Perfumes Plus was holding my right breast in one hand, the job contract in the other"

Fancy a really strange read? Well this certainly will fit the bill. A rather comely young woman gets felt up by her new boss  and finds her extra curricular activities take over from selling perfumes. While her male clients appreciate her youthful fecundity, misuse and pregnancy physically alter her until she is transformed into a pig. Pink, fat, can be used to make bacon - that kind of pig.
It is reminiscent of the way in which women start off as innocent and appealing and then is transformed by age and experience into something far less appealing. Sometimes the life of a pig might just be more liberating as our sow discovers.
Definitely an intriguing read and quite a quick one - which is pretty much what the heroine gets up to a lot,

4 out of 5 trotters seem unflattering.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

"While it was technically accurate that both Liz and Jane were single, this fact did not for either woman convey the full story."

It is a truth not universally known that this Pride and Prejudice transplanted to modern days has been sitting within my to be read pile since Christmas. How did I let that happen? This is fantastic stuff! Funny, well written, it is a complete delight and the pages just seemed to fly by at a record pace.
This re-telling is part of a series of re-imaginings of the works of Jane Austen by modern writers, known as the Austen Project. One of literature's most famous dysfunctional families - has their ever been a mother more mortifying than Mrs Bennett? - is now transplanted to Cincinnati of all places.
Bingley's first name is Chip and he's been on the equivalent of reality show, The Batchelor.
Darcy is a brain surgeon, Elizabeth (Liz) writes for a women's magazine and Jane is getting artificially inseminated. This is Austen but certainly not as we know it. A great story transcends the details it would seem, as this incarnation is simply delightful.
I'm keen to seek out more works by its author now, as this one was so much fun and this world needs way more of that these days.

5 out of 5 daper doctors are always called for.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

"It seemed wrong for Goths to kiss so we bit gently at each other's necks like little vampires."

Childhood friendships are fraught. So much shared experience and yet so many opportunities to grow apart. Zadie Smith's latest novel certainly captures that aspect of the difficulties of a lasting friendship between childhood best friends, particularly where their social circumstances are particularly different. There are many aspects of growing up that Smith captures with insight, and that made for an engaging read.

It is difficult for our heroine to deal with the eminently talented and early blooming status of her friend Tracey and indeed their lives will play out rather differently. There are so many stories going on here that I occasionally got a little bewildered. I'm sure it wasn't the fact I was reading this poolside on holidays - surely not.

I wanted to love this a little more than I did.  The Madonna in Malawi like antics of Aimee, the protagonist's pop star boss, were vastly entertaining. Notwithstanding, the momentum seemed to hit a kind of lull three quarters through the novel and it felt slightly anti-climactic.

4 out of 5 dance moves will have you swinging like you're winning.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

"That was the thing about him, he just lived in his skin and didn't give a thought to the consequences of anything"

I was really reticent to read this novel, having read somewhere about the rather depressing denouement and yet, given its place on so many "must read" lists, I cracked the spine. Much has been said about how horrible a character Rabbit is and yet in someways he's relatable to us all. A once brilliant athlete in high school, his glory days are long gone and adulthood, full of responsibilities becomes an all together too dreary prospect. So, as the title suggests, he runs, albeit out on his heavily pregnant wife.

This is quite a common phenomenon  and I can kind of sympathise with that notion of impending entrapment that both parties might feel with an upcoming birth. A woman whose body is no longer her own, and a man who only comes to the realisation of how that might impact his life at a space way where it is too late to really back out.

Rabbit runs and finds his old coach and the accommodating Ruth. His self absorption continues and he weaves a path of destruction in all his romantic entanglements. For they are less about romance and more about fending off the monotony of reality. Rarely have the unuttered and unlikeable thoughts that secretly plague us all been so vividly realised. I finished this book in an hour it was engrossing. Our own poor behaviour is acceptable to ourself as we explain it away, and yet our impact on others can be so devastating and never more so than here.

I'm eager to see where the sequels go.

5 out of 5 gritty but engrossing pages fraught with imperfect humans.

Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

"Thinking of my ankle made me think of Grant, and thinking of him made me think of his hands on my leg, and thinking of that..."

Undoubtedly I made for a somewhat tragic figure reading a Glittering Court romance on the sand during my holiday. That being said, I regret nothing. I do so enjoy a dalliance in Richelle Mead's other worlds. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that I've fallen in love with Grant, which might make things a little difficult for our heroine, Mira.
The latest instalment in this extravaganza of big gowns, big hair, big jewels and the odd pirate completely delivers. It might have taken longer to get into than I would have liked, however that was entirely due to life getting in the way of reading - don't you hate when that happens?
This was quite possibly the perfect selection of pool side reading material, provided no-one was looking over my shoulder. Was it the sun or was Grant getting more dashing and appealing?

The amazing Nicki was kind enough to loan me this copy and I might be returning it slightly sun damaged and sandy - I apologise profusely, I just had to finish it. Drawn into danger and adventure and excitement and sneaking out, it was just like being seventeen again. Which is kind of fitting, since the last time I was here ( on holidays in Vanuatu), I was that exact age - full of enthusiasm and unconcerned about dull things.

Far from dull, Mead's latest addition is a joy... and now I eagerly await more. Get tapping those keys Richelle, the back cover says "trilogy" and I'm hanging out for the next one.

5 out of 5 because a girl has to be a fighter and a dancer.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

"There didn't seem to be anything alive, including ourselves. We were dislocated, we were not there, now we were ghosts."

So I distinctly remember writing an amazingly glowing review of this book and it appears to have disappeared. I blame the average mobile coverage at my current destination and yet, we shall persevere.
This has to be one of the best books I've read this year, even if it loses its driving, visceral momentum towards the end. What stand out is how very different it is. Whereas other novels have covered similar periods of history, this transports what could be a typical story into something beautiful, inherently masculine ( seriously the pages almost sweat testosterone) and yet remain tender and interesting.
I don't want to go in depth into the story, I want to leave that to you. I found myself re-reading passages and continually appreciating something new - a rarity of late.

5 out of 5 men in dresses that kick a#$@.