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    Heh. Far from it Sam. Its called retirement

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      Something I'll probably never get to experience.

      Anyway: finished The Quiet Fan this afternoon, and I know we're obliged to say this and I know we're obliged to say 'I'm not just saying this because I have to,' but it's dead good and I heartily recommend it for everyone's reading pleasure. Thanks very much for writing it, imp.

      Later on I'll be getting stuck into The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

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        In my late twenties and early thirties I read maybe six or seven Thomas Hardy novels and thought he was a genius. Currently re- reading The Mayor of Casterbridge and remembering why.

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          I'm halfway through the second of the Barchester Chronicles. It's not caught me quite as much as the first one. The new characters are just a little too grotesque.

          The first one has an incredible section about newspapers.

          They're about real sorts of people, and about real sorts of events but handled so lightly and with so much fun.

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            Finished Parable of the Sower and onto Parable of the Talents because what we need in life is more apocalyptic doom.

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              Chasing The Boogeyman-Richard Chizmar. The author is well known in horror circles through his creation of Cemetery Dance magazine which has led to collaborations with Stephen King. Throughout the book deliberate comparisons are also made to Ray Bradbury. The cover firmly proclaims the book is a novel which in retrospect acts as too big a spoiler-Chizmar almost manages to convince that his tale of a serial killer in his small town is true crime fiction. Authenticity is further provided by a series of photographs dotted throughout detailing victims,crime scenes & familiar town locations. Chizmar places himself at the centre of events as they unfold in the summer/autumn of 1988 and until the final denouement the blur between fiction and non-fiction is maintained. While the conclusion feels hasty and tacked on overall there is enough style to recommend a reading.

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                https://twitter.com/rid9way/status/1436290027462463490

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                  The Great Mistake-Jonathan Lee. Got this on basis of admiration for author novel High Dive based on IRA assassination attempt on Thatcher at Brighton. Understood from blurbs that again it a novel based on historical events though not one this time familiar with-Andrew Green being the protagonist or historically The Father Of New York. As it happens the great historical events of which he is associated which while alluded to-creation of Central Park,NY public library among others-are not the fulcrums on which the book balances. Likewise the introduction of Samuel Tilden into the narrative. A google search is required to establish the full story of his standing in US history. As is the murder that opens the story and runs throughout the narrative. It therefore a character driven story & one in which the novel works better when it is not Green himself but those who float around the events of his life-the detective working his murder, the madam who inadvertently causes his murder, his housekeeper,his brother,even his father.

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                    Throw Me To The Wolves-Patrick McGuiness. Another novel read on basis of admiration of earlier work-Last Hundred Days detailing collapse of Ceausescu Rumania. And this is an excellent tale. A mish mash of buddy cop partners Gary & Alexander/Ander dealing with their age differences (9 years but that matters. Gary sings Brexitland to tune of Soft Cell Bedsitter while Alexander wonders how he could have could have heard or known it being a baby when it released) and class differences (Alexander went to public school and is therefore Prof. Gary didnt. Alexander relates tales of iniquity including a truly haunting recall of trial by classroom peers conducted by a teacher along with standard bullying & sexual abuse both open and covert. Gary muses that despite for all that his school never produced ministers of state, captains of industry etc). It all coalesces around a murder for which a teacher of Ander school becomes the prime suspect & develops into a state of nation novel which satisfies neither of them. Ander is part of the British Light Entertainment generation which had a hand down the nations paints. Gary has seen hipster bars and food shops expensively replace the lifestyle he is familiar with. Social media also takes a battering although in end secures justice is done. Sort of.

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                      Finished The Vanishing Half last night. One of the best novels I've read this year. It's publicised as the story of twin Black sisters who leave the tiny Louisiana town they grew up in and who lose contact after one of them decides to 'pass over' and live her life as a white woman. But It's far more wide-ranging than I'd expected from what I'd read about it beforehand, and has twice as many main protagonists as that description suggests.

                      I've started Nudibranch, a collection of short stories by Irenosen Okojie, a British-Nigerian writer I've not come across before. Very strange so far. I'm enjoying them a lot.

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                        I read the Diane Cook novel referenced above (The New Wilderness), and it really did feel like a years-long trek through the fucking wilderness. It was like one of those Netflix series that drags on about 50 episodes too long. She should stick to short stories. Highly lauded in the press and short-listed for the Booker, and I have no idea why except that no one dared pan it because environmentalism is the main theme.

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                          It's one that I recommended (I think) at the time, but now I've got some distance from it (I checked my handwritten list and was slightly surprised to find I read it earlier this year, as it feels like longer ago) I have to admit I won't be rushing back to re-read it. Not that I rush to re-read anything, because my head is always turned by a book I've not read yet, but you know what I mean. I still say it's decent but would certainly agree it could have been quite a lot shorter. (It's possible I thought this at the time; I've not gone back to check.)

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                            The Girls-Emma Cline. One from the pile that more often end up neglected & ignored the further the distance from release. Think the attraction at the time was an award-Shirley Jackson one maybe. Anyway its a riff on the Charles Manson tale (all names are fictionalised) seen through the eyes of 14 year old Evie during a disaffected period of her life-summer of 1969 awaiting education at private boarding school while parents marriage collapses. The attraction is more for the young girls who are in thrall to the charismatic Manson figure although this doesnt get in the way of her being sexually abused by either him or the Brian Wilson substitute in the tale. Evie never convinces as part of the cult-and appropriately she doesnt merit any kind of mention in the subsequent decades worth of media attention on the events. Nor are many of the characters more than one dimensional-mother getting into New Age hocus pocus in effort to generate new relationships while dad has run off with the younger model nearer to Evie in age. And in the few years since book release Tarantino has produced a screen version of the ranch that makes the one described here just looking tame and lacking depth or resonance.

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                              Whisper Down The Lane-Clay McLeod Chapman. Its taken for granted that picking up a horror novel means suspending disbelief in how the real world actually works. The author trick is to convince that this doesnt matter. If I create the supernatural I can make readers believe it is real. This tale didnt fulfill that part of the bargain between author and reader. And yet at end it turns out it is based on actual events in 1980s USA.-Satanic Panic. Sean is a bullied loner but natural story teller who becomes the focus of allegations of occult abuse involving his teachers. Twenty years on hes Richard and a teacher and facing the same allegations that his earlier lies ruined so many lives.

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                                Originally posted by Sam View Post
                                Something I'll probably never get to experience.
                                Anyway: finished The Quiet Fan this afternoon, and I know we're obliged to say this and I know we're obliged to say 'I'm not just saying this because I have to,' but it's dead good and I heartily recommend it for everyone's reading pleasure. Thanks very much for writing it, imp.
                                I only just noticed this post. Cheers, Sam, very much appreciated. I don't think that anyone feels obliged to say nice things about my books on here, though maybe some have diplomatically withheld their opinions (not that they need to). A GoodReads member called 'GaSton' left one-star ratings for TQF and For Whom the Ball Rolls on the same day last month - a private account, so impossible to see what else they rate. I did send them a polite private message praising their bravery at tackling a second book by the same author after so disliking the first, but no response as yet...

                                Re. the Diane Cook book. It's readable enough, but there was something nagging at me all the time that I was reading it, and three-quarters of the way through I realised what the problem was - I was fucking bored and couldn't wait to finish it. But by that point I'd got so far I thought that I might as well endure to the end.

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                                  Just had a week's holiday, part of which was spend in Sedbergh, England's official book town, so picked up a few bits and pieces in various shops and smashed through a few in the week. Fiction-wise, I read Liam Williams' Homes and Experiences, which is both a wonderful ode to pre-middle age faffing about and harsh critique of AirBnB style tourism (which was funny as I was in AirBnBs all week), and if you know Williams' TV/comedy work you'll recognise and appreciate the tone. Also picked up a single volume edition of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, and read the first book, All the Pretty Horses, which was just as good as I'd heard it was.

                                  In terms of non-fiction, I read dear old Bob Mortimer's autobiography And Away…. It's gloriously silly and funny in places, of course, but also genuinely moving as well.

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                                    I don't remember why I began reading it, but I almost put down Extinction by Thomas Bernhard about twenty pages in. I think it was only the unusual structure of the book that made me persist. It's longish, over 400 pages, and written entirely as an internal monologue by the central character, a person whose name we never know until the story's last line. I don't want to give the impression this is a piece of stream of consciousness surreality. Quite the opposite. It's extremely linear and very coherent, though repetitious in the kind of way a song's chorus might be, and indeed our thoughts are especially in times of stress.

                                    The narrator is an Austrian living in Rome. He vehemently dislikes Austria, his home there, and his wealthy family, so he rarely visits. The story begins after his return from a visit that has angered and depressed him so much he swears to never return. Waiting for him is a telegram (the book seems to be set in the early 70s) telling him his parents and elder brother have been killed in a road accident. He's must return immediately as he's now the heir to the estate. The first half of the book deals with the dismal prospect of this, the second with the reality.

                                    I wouldn't say the story is compelling, compulsive would be more accurate. There was a point about half way through where not only did I realize I had to finish it, but that I wouldn't be able to read anything else until I had. Bernhard is regarded, I understand, as perhaps Austria's leading novelist of the past century. But he genuinely did dislike the place as much as his protagonist, in Extinction, his final work, he describes it as "corrupted by catholicism, pseudo-national socialism, and pseudo-socialism." Naturally this has given him a somewhat ambivalent reputation in his homeland.

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                                      Thanks for that, AdeC - sounds right up my street.

                                      When we were still living in the US, we spent two weeks on holiday in Sedbergh, and by the time the fortnight was over I'd bought so many books that I had to pack them up and send them home by sea mail. Particularly enjoyed browsing several times in the big shop on a corner, though I can't remember its name.

                                      Have just started In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, which I only came across because someone on here started a thread about Fitzcarraldo Editions, a publisher I'd never heard of. The first 50 pages are touching, lyrical and reflective - am going to take my time with this one.

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                                        I have bought Extinction, AdeC, so thanks for that recommendation.

                                        And you're very welcome to the praise, imp. Also I'd totally forgotten having supported it on Unbound, so it was a nice surprise to see my name in the supporters list at the back!

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                                          Originally posted by imp View Post
                                          When we were still living in the US, we spent two weeks on holiday in Sedbergh, and by the time the fortnight was over I'd bought so many books that I had to pack them up and send them home by sea mail. Particularly enjoyed browsing several times in the big shop on a corner, though I can't remember its name.
                                          Fair play, that is boss-level book buying. The shop you're thinking of is Westwood Books. Our digs were barely a minute's walk from it, yet I somehow restricted myself to one browsing session in the three days we were there.

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                                            That's the place. I walk in to a shop like that and immediately need to go to the bog.

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                                              56 Days-Catherine Ryan Howard. First lockdown novel have read & captures it well allowing for set in Dublin rather than England. Serves as the backdrop to a twisty turney tale with echoes of James Bulger case. At times the telling of the two protagonists separate stories gets a little repetitive though the irregular introduction of the two detectives leading the case balances this out.

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                                                Finished Nudibranch earlier. It is, I think, a slightly uneven collection – perhaps inevitable given it's very experimental – but the good stories are really good. I'll definitely be checking out Okojie's novel, Butterfly Fish, off the back of it.

                                                Following ale's recommendation a page or two back, I've now started Cold Water by Gwendoline Riley. Wanted something short and fictional, as following this it's probably time for another non-fiction title.

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                                                  Just about 20 pages shy of finishing Chimamanda Ngoze-Adichie's Americanah. (So still some twists to come possibly.) Overall, very good indeed, very glad I read it, and it won't be the only one of her novels I read. I've learnt a lot from it I hope, and enjoyed it. Emotionally rich, beautifully written for the most part, great story. Some patches less interesting than others (the bits involving Blaine's sister and her circle were dull and added little imho) and the device of adding long posts in full from the lead character's blog was a bit clumsy in places. The narrative perspective was a slightly unsatisfactory compromise. There's no omniscient narrator, and in general things are reported only through the experience of the lead character Ifemelu. There's an exception to that in that some chunky parts are told through the experience of the love of her life Obinze, yet in all the scenes when they are together, or in the sections of the book dealing with their relationship on her return to Nigeria, we get her perspective only and can only imagine his side of it, even though we've got to know his perspective for whole chapters elsewhere.

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                                                    I really enjoyed Americanah too, and her short story volume The Thing Around Your Neck.

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