Tag Archives: books

I may have been mistaken

I will admit, that there are certain things in life about which I can be a little bit of a snob.  Although I am sure that Mrs. Seven would disagree with me.  She would raise her eyebrow and say “little bit?”

I drink filter coffee and espresso brew rather than cheap coffee.  (And I judge people who call it expresso.)
I turn up my nose, and say “No, but I read the book,” whenever asked about a film adaptation.
And I believe that Kindles and E-Book readers are not the same as real books, and will never replace them.


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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Ponderings


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Everything is Illuminated

Be warned. Alex has a thesaurus, and he’s not afraid to use it.

The primary voice of narration in this amazing novel is 20 year old Alexander Perchov, whose limited English is amplified by a thesaurus he received from his friend. Hence the opening of the book…

“My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my friends dub me Alex, because it is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name. Mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me!,because I am always spleening her.”

The book is told in the form of:
a) Alexanders story about taking an American Jew to look for the village his father came from;
b) The story the American wrote about the history of the village;
c) A one sided correspondence between Alex and the American, in the form of Alex’s letters.

While the American is the better writer from a technical perspective, Alexanders writings exhibit more truth, and emotion, especially since you have to read between the lines.

In case this sounds too serious he is also accompanied by his grandfather, who thinks he is blind, but isn’t, and a ‘seeing eye bitch’ named Sammy Davis Junior Junior.
“The bitch is his, not mine, because I am not the one who thinks he is blind”

On the opening page you want to laugh until you cry, and by the closing page you just want to cry. And somewhere in the middle you move from one to the other without realising it, or losing the spirit of the first few pages.

Well worth the read, if you can handle the fractured English.

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Posted by on August 23, 2010 in books


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The Butcher Boy – Patrick McCabe

This is another one of the 1001 Books to read before you die that I have been avoiding.  I guess I thought it would be disturbing.

It was.

Francis Brady is a very disturbed boy, and he tells this story in a form of first person narrative which has no respect for punctuation, sentence structure, or grammer rules.  At times it is hard for the reader to tell what is going on in his head, and what is going on in the real world.

Francis has the same problem.  Trapped in a world where his fantasies and imagination fill in the gaps, he live a life in an Irish town with his abusive Father, and suicidal Mother.  He tries to act like everyone else, but he isn’t.  When a schoolboys mother refers to him and his family as “a family of pigs” it pushes his fragile mind into an obsession with pigs, and with the Mother and her family.  He takes out his obsession in the strangesy ways: breaking into their house to defecate on the floor, stalking the son, obsessiong over his friendship with his own friends.

Told through his eyes, we get an un-nerving view into a very fractured mind.

Reading it was a little like reading a cross between A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Lord of the Flies.

Not one I would recommend for the faint of heart.

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Posted by on June 19, 2010 in books


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On Writing – Stephen King

on_writing_stephen_kingI have read this book about three times, and I always like to keep it on my desk for reference purposes. 

It is one of the best books on writing I have ever read.  It combines real life stories about King’s life with advice about writing.  It covers everything from attitude, to nuts-and-bolts techniques.

I learned a great deal about how to write, but also about what makes a writer.  About the process of making it in the industry, and about the pitfalls, both before and after you are actually writing.

I can recommend it to anyone who has an interest in writing, or just an interest in how King became one. 

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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in books


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The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a national resource.  She is a handmaid: viable ovaries make her a precious commodity in the Republic of Gilead, where the birthrate has plummeted to dangerous levels.  Assigned to a Commander whose wife cannot produce, Offred’s purpose is onefold: to breed.

I read The Handmaid’s Tale, but Margaret Atwood, as part of the 1001 books challenge.  Set in a dystopian future, in a post-feminist America called Gilead, it is quite a disturbing read.  Gilead is ruled by a totalitarian theocracy, and women are subjugated to a spectacular degree.  Due to the low reproduction rates, high ranking officials are assigned ‘handmaids’:  concubines for reproduction.  There is a strict hierarchy of roles in the society, and the handmaids fall into an interesting position.  They are a valuable national resource, yet they have no rights.  The wives in the homes where they are assigned hate them, and can vent their anger in any way they wish, however killing a handmaid is a serious and punishable offence.  They are told they are a valuable part of the society, yet they are kept in rooms that are no more than prisons, where the light fittings are removed, and the windows made of unbreakable glass, so they can’t commit suicide.

I found the book incredibly disturbing, and I can’t say why.  I am not usually affected this badly by dystopian literature, and while 1984 and Farenheit 451 are equally horrific, this book seemed to have an added emotional impact I can’t put my finger on.

The story is told by Offred, who is one such handmaid.  Offred is not her real name, and only means that she is currently assigned to a Commander named Fred.  (Of-Fred)  Her story is told in a disjointed, stream of consciousness style which takes a while to get used to.  Perhaps the book is disturbing because Offred keeps flashing back to her ‘old’ life, with her husband and child.  We see her in perfectly normal scenes we can relate to; arguing with her husband about the dishwasher, throwing the plastic shopping bags away so their daughter doesn’t choke.  This makes her current predicament so much worse, by contrast. 

A very well written book I think, and my only complaint is the epilogue, which seems to serve no purpose except to tie-up loose ends and give the story some closure.  I feel the ending before this chapter, while not conclusive, makes a better ending to the story, and more in keeping with the tone.  I found the epilogue rather jarring.


Posted by on February 10, 2010 in books


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