Sunday 23 March 2014


Antwerp - Roberto Bolaño
"reality seems to me like a swarm of stray sentences"

I started jotting down notes towards a coherent post on Antwerp but it seemed easier more in keeping with the spirit of the novel to leave them as simply notes towards a blog post.

Antwerp is the first known novel written by Bolaño. It was written around 1980 but not published until just before his death. It is short and experimental, with atmosphere and effect more than plot and character the driving force. It is closer in spirit to poetry than prose and perhaps marks the major staging post between both poles of Bolaño's writing.

The gun was only a word.”
Chekov, famously, said something about having to use a gun, if you introduce it. Bolaño seems to be saying that you don't.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Martin Beck 1 & 2 - Roseanna / The Man Who Went Up In Smoke

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who have left their stamp on Scandinavian writing.
Martin Beck 1 & 2 - Roseanna & The Man Who Went Up In Smoke - Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

Here, or elsewhere I made the statement that I'd immerse myself in crime for a portion of the year. I thought that reading a ten book series would be a good way to make good on that promise. Unfortunately I still have to find book three, four and ten so for the now I'll write up some thoughts on the first two books in the Martin Beck series, often blamed for the wave of Nordic noir that has descended upon us over the last number of years.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Not to Disturb

Not to Disturb - Muriel Spark

"'Their life,' says Lister, 'a general mist of error. Their death, a hideous storm of terror - I quote from The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, an English dramatist of old.'"

This short novella is from the early seventies and is similar in style to The Hothouse by the East River, which I read and wrote about a few years ago. It is a spectral book, with elements of a play, and of a film script, only ninety one pages long and telling a story of murder and suicide in a locked room, mostly from the outside. And not alone are we outside the room but we also seem in some way to be outside time.

Thursday 13 March 2014


Bilgewater - Jane Gardam
"My mother died when I was born which makes me sound princess-like and rather quaint."

I was inspired to read something by Jane Gardam by her inclusion on the shortlist for the Folio Prize. I had picked this one up at some point in a charity shop and so decided to pull it from the shelves. It was initially published as a children's book but was subsequently published for us adults as well.

Friday 7 March 2014

Dissident Gardens

Dissident Gardens - Jonathan Lethem

I felt strangely ambivalent about this book while reading it, initial trepidation turning into admiration but always tempered by a feeling that the book had arisen from the unholy union of a host of Sunday Magazine articles and an accessible, hip course of lectures on Critical Theory. It seems almost unbearably bourgeoise, an Upper Middle Class embrace of sexual, racial and political dissidents and sympathy for their tragic fates.

It is a book full of characteristics but without really convincing characters, full of speech but devoid of a voice. Not that I find these insurmountable problems, many books are brilliantly fake, but it feels at times like this book aims to be either realist family saga and metafictional gloss on family sagas but falls a little between the stools.  However, despite these failings there is still much to enjoy here.