Sunday 29 January 2012

The Savage Detectives

The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolaño

This reading of The Savage Detectives was for a group read hosted by Rise and Richard. This was my second time reading The Savage Detectives and it has been an interesting ride, finishing on Friday Night/Saturday Morning at 4.30 after reading the final 250 pages. I'm only managing to get to this post up now as it was even more incoherent last night than it is now. I hope it will contribute something to the discussion of the book.
(This also needs a SPOILER alert - I ramble all through the book in this post and may give away more than some people who have not read the book would wish to know,. )

When I last read it it was my first experience of Bolaño but now, having read a few, it was interesting to see how it interacted with his other books. In fact it started at times to feel like you could see the writer's mixing the elements in his alchemical lab, trying to get the formula right.

Poets, Geometry, Nazis, Students, Germans, Mexico, Barcelona, Giants, Books, Murder &c ...

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Leonard Cohen - New Album Stream

After the tasters, the main course!

Dip your ears in the stream below.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Bicycle Thief

The Bicycle Thief - Vittorio De Sica

Inspired by the serendipity of a free month on Netflix and a 'foreign' movie reviewing meme on a couple of good blogs I follow (here & here) I decided I would watch some films and write something about them. I thought that I would pick a 'classic' I had never seen to start the ball rolling.

The classic is The Bicycle Thief (a.k.a. Bicycle Thieves). The film is set on the grim streets of post war Rome. Men swarm up an anonymous looking stairs in a high rise building as the credits roll and then fallback as a cigar smoking functionary emerges, descends and calls for Ricci. Someone has to run over to get Ricci who is not paying any attention. When he gets over he is told "You'll hang posters", handed a slip and told to go to the employment office. Disbelievingly he says "My god, a job."  But there is a catch. He will need a bicycle and his is in the repair shop and money will have to be found to redeem it.

Sunday 22 January 2012

"sharp instruments and lynched messiahs"

Kill yr Idols

I've taken a break from In Search of Lost Time in order to read The Savage Detectives for next weekends readalong. After reading the passage below, from The Savage Detectives, I'm now desperate to prove I'm not desperate by finishing In Search of Lost Time.
The following quote is from The Savage Detectives. The call to Kill Yr Idols is from Sonic Youth.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Show Me The Place

Old Ideas, New Songs

Found another track from the new Cohen album, available at the end of the month. Enjoy.

Show Me The Place

Perhaps I should reread a Cohen novel and write about it to coincide? I will if I can find the time.

Monday 16 January 2012

Swann's Way

Swann's Way - Marcel Proust

In which our author remembers his obsessive love for his mother and how it coloured his days and more particularly nights  - How the visits of M Swann affected this - How M Swann was plucked from his life as a jaded socialite by the firm hand of a musical Cupid and the treacherous journey that ensued - How the narrator found in Swann's daughter a vessel for his attentions - and much else besides...

It's not often that you read a book that gave birth to an adjective - I can now understand Proustian as something more than a set of preconceptions. Like the molecules that stimulate the olfactory system, and sometimes memories, Proust's sentences (building slowly and leisurely,  clause following clause, exploring the least sensation and smallest moments in high seriousness) are complex constructions. At first I was tempted to apply the adjective Prousty, finding the writing and subject matter overly precious but gradually the book wove it's spell and started to reveal a guiding intelligence which was as much at home in irony and satire as in rhapsodic remembering of the smallest twitch of a swooning adolescent.

Friday 13 January 2012

Fellini's Swann

Swann in Love La Dolce Vita

As I read the following description I was forcibly reminded of Marcello in La Dolce Vita. His intelligence, his social mobility and his moral and spiritual decrepitude mirror those of Swann.
When Marcello sees the young waitress who appears as a chink of light in the turgidity of his life he describes her as like an angel in a painting. I must watch the film again to see how the parallels play off each other.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Proust on Giotto's "Charity" & "Envy"

Proust on Giotto
One of the pleasures that the internet can add to reading, is the opportunity, if your attention is arrested by a particularly vivid description of an artwork, or building, to view images of the object thus described. This allows the reader to implement a sort of 'gold standard' to judge the writer's descriptive and interpretative powers. They are 24 carat in this instance, I hope you agree.

on "Charity"

"... it is without any apparent suspicion of what she is about that the powerfully built housewife who is portrayed in the the Arena beneath the label 'Caritas', and a reproduction of whose portrait hung upon the wall of my schoolroom in Combray, incarnates that virtue, for it seems impossible that any thought of charity can ever  have found expression in her vulgar and energetic face. By a fine stroke of the painter's invention she is tumbling all the treasures of the earth at her feet, but exactly as if she were treading grapes in a wine-press to extract their juice, or, still more, as if she had climbed on a heap of sacks to raise herself higher; and she is holding out her flaming heart to God, or shall we say 'handing' it to Him, exactly as a cook might hand up a corkscrew through the skylight of her underground kitchen to some one who had called down to ask her for it from the ground level above."

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Resolutions 2012

Plans for 2012

Last year I managed to kickstart my reading by setting myself a target of reading 100 books for the year. I made 85 before I had to resort to the works of Roger Ackroyd in order to get over the line.

This year I have been trying to think of a slightly different set of resolutions but had only really decided on reading In Remembrance of Things Past by January 1st. That and a reread of The Savage Detectives for the group read hosted by Rise and Richard. I was intending to try and read the Proust in January but the pace I'm setting means that's not a possibility. Also I'll have to take a break to read The Savage Detectives after I finish the first volume - Swann's Way.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Books of the Year

Books Read 2011

Books of the Year

I discovered one thing when trying to work up this post - I like lists but not making them. Books are hard to compare, they all have different ambitions and suit different moods. They are not the same in memory as they are while being read.
And this year I've been lucky. I've read a lot of good, even great books. I could easily have come up with a top fifty (from eighty five) and all of the books would have earned their place.
But there is only one way to make a list and that's to stop thinking and do it. And so I did. Apologies to all the books that should be in this list but aren't. It doesn't mean I don't love you!
Here's an irreducible top ten (there's fifteen) and if I think for longer the list will grow. They are in no particular order.

Monday 2 January 2012


Charles Roger Hargreaves

Men by Charles Roger Hargreaves

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
T.S. Eliot (from The Hollow Men)

Given that my resolution for 2012 is to read one of the twentieth centuries greatest novel sequences (À la Recherche du Temps Perdu) it seemed appropriate to end this year by reading another institution of twentieth century writing Roger Hargreaves' roman fleuve encompassing men in all their varieties, shapes, appetites and weaknesses.

I decided to finish my 100 book challenge by reading fifteen volumes and I came away having become blissfully lost once again the colourful world contained in these pages. Some volumes express the mundanity of the quotidian life while others soar into the realms of fantasy.

Here we find Meneer Doodsbenauwd repeating "This is the End" and Unser Herr Unmöglich challenging the basis of physics. These old friends have stood up to many rereads in the past and I am glad to report that they still do. Mr. Barus' meeting with the Giant still provokes a change in character that at first seems impossible but there is nothing impossible in this world. When Herra Fyndinn discovers how to make animals laugh I laughed along, aware yet of the fragility of our understanding of the natural world.

As Senhor Saltitão puts on his heavy boots I felt the weight of history, the armies marching to the Somme, the collapse of the domestic under the weight of the military. Bay Akýllý has to face the fact again and again that being the brightest of his generation is not enough to throw light into every corner. Some questions have no answers. Fætter Dagdrøm shows us how the unfettered imagination can overcome the walls of any prison. Anarchy reigns incarnate. Chinese whispers in his own mind leave Monsieur Étourdi a poor sort of Pegasus, his messages mixed and all the more thought provoking for that.

Sunday 1 January 2012

The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things is a rich sprawling family saga focussing on the effect of the 'love laws' on one family. It gives an insight into life and politics in Kerala and is filled with rich, vivid descriptions and verbal inventiveness.

Rahel and Estha are twins, Rahel female and Estha male. They are not identical ("two egg twins") and have the usual complement of fingers and toes but, we are told, they have only one soul between them.  "Rahel has a memory of waking up one night giggling at Estha's funny dream."