Category Archives: Books

WOOL, by Hugh Howey

I found out about WOOL from a Facebook friend, who recommended it highly. And boy am I glad she did! Post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature doesn’t come much better than Hugh Howey’s five novel series(with more to follow, as well as the prequels FIRST/SECOND SHIFT).

From WOOL’s ominous beginning – a recently widowed sheriff volunteers for “cleaning” – to its revealing conclusion, the author fills each page with characters that grow from accepting the status quo to questioning everything they’ve been led to believe about how and why they live the way they do. Even the ‘villain’ of the piece is motivated by what he thinks is right – and a part of me understood why he acted the way he did.

Mr. Howey’s writing is superb; his descriptions of life underground are both real and affecting, and his action scenes gripped me with their authenticity and pace. In WOOL, mankind’s future is as bleak as Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, but the hope Hugh Howey offers at the end makes following Juliette’s journey a sign that maybe, just maybe, we can make amends for our mistakes.

Read WOOL. Please.

Advertisements

David Foster Wallace: The Infinite Jester.

I have just finished reading Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, D.T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, an author I’ve heard about but never read. I doubt I’m the only one in the latter category. He’s mentioned in the same breath as Dave Eggars, Thomas Pyncheon, Jonathon Franzen and Dom DeLillo. Of these authors, I’ve only read DeLillo’s Point Omega – and that’s only because it’s a short novel. I still didn’t get it – if there was anything in there to “get” that is.

Wallace achieved fame after the publication of his second novel, Infinite Jest. There is a copy of this 1,079 page monster beside me right now, looking at me, daring me to open it up and read it. It’s a scary proposition. All the more so because the author himself felt he couldn’t top it. No matter how hard he worked (and he came up with some great excuses when he couldn’t quite find the inspiration), Wallace’s anxieties and ongoing struggle with depression and addiction – as well as a succession of failed relationships – ripped his undoubted talents as a fiction writer to shreds. His non-fiction, particularly his journalism, kept him alive – but only to a point.

Wallace committed suicide at the age of 46. He left behind his wife of four years, and an unfinished manuscript for what would eventually become The Pale King, a novel about boredom and the I.R.S.

So why would I be interested in a writer I’ve never read, especially one I’d probably never read? * Because he (and I’m sorry if this sounds clichéd) suffered for his art. When he faced long bouts of writer’s block, he wrote to DeLillo and Franzen to complain about his lot. Nowadays we writers moan about our lack of creativity on Facebook or Twitter. Both actions are cries for help, but Wallace had a bit more class about him. He was also a deep thinker; there wasn’t a subject he didn’t want to know about. He studied philosophy, mathematics, tax accounting (for The Pale King), and was a clever, funny, but insightful critic on modern-day consumerism and mass entertainment. Infinite Jest is Wallace’s commentary on a society brought up to worship television, a society that has become addicted to addictions, become increasingly disconnected, and mourning for a loss of community. Wallace gives us no answers because that would be the easy way out. We have to find these for ourselves.

And this is why I am drawn to this man. He echoes my thoughts right now. The world he wrote about in 1996 is still very much the world of 2012. We’re still searching for answers, looking for meaning in an ultimately meaningless society. Will we find them? Wallace didn’t stay around long enough to find out.

* (I will clarify my above statement. I have read Wallace: it was an article he wrote about Roger Federer – Wallace played tennis to a high level when he was younger – and it’s an exquisite piece of writing.)

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell.

 

A book sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to read at my leisure, has now become must read soon. Because if it’s anything as good as this movie trailer suggests it may be, then Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, could very well be the best book I’ve read in a long, long time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DhJsPW862k

Image

 

The Daily Rant: Raving Haruki Murakami and 1Q84

Rather than rant away on some topic that’s currently got my back up, today I wish to rave about an author I’ve recently discovered. I don’t know a lot about Japanese author Haruki Murakami, but 200 pages into his new novel, 1Q84 (first published in his native country in 2009), I am astounded and captivated by this literary marvel.

This is a long book and was originally published as a trilogy. However,  the American publishing company Knopf published all three novels in one volume last week and it’s this edition that I picked up in Hodges Figgis. For reasons best known to myself I tend not to read foreign authors (my recent attempt to read Les Miserables stalled at the end of the first volume), but it appears Murakami’s style is distinctly Western by nature.

I can’t give too much away about the story mainly because I don’t really know what it’s about. Okay, it has a fantasy feel to it because of its theme of parallel universes and a race of beings known only as the Little People. But it’s the power of Murakami’s prose that’s holding my attention. He is a very ‘readable’ literary fiction writer (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and his characters are uniquely drawn and compelling.

From what I’ve read so far, there is murder, sex, religious zealotry, magic realism and a 17-year-old Japanese dyslexic who may or may not have written a book called Air Chrysalis. It is this girl, Fuka-Eri, around which the plot revolves.

At the moment I’m taking every opportunity to read this novel, whether it’s stealing a page or two while working, or whole chapters when I have more time. Like I said, I’m only a fifth of the way through the novel. but already I feel like I’ve discovered lost treasure.

100 Words. 100 Days: Day 94. On Classic Novels.

There was a time when I wouldn’t touch a classic novel with a lighted pitchfork. They were too dense, I thought, written in a language no longer relevant for today’s modern needs. Too many thees, thous and words I need to look up in a dictionary.

But then I picked up Les Miserables, by  Victor Hugo. Yes, it’s dense, with passages that seem to go on forever, and for no particular reason. It has more tangents than a geometry manual; but it’s a joy to read. I feel that I’ve given classics a bad rep. Now I’ve changed my tune.

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 93. On Good Reads.

I pity those who say they’ve never read a book and don’t feel the need to. Sure isn’t it a waste of time? they say. We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and work to be done. Who needs sparkly vampires anyway? We have cinemas and DVDs for that. To them I say, you’re missing the point. Movies and television shows provide the images for you. With reading you have to do the work yourself.

And yes, my non-reading friends (who are more than likely not reading this), reading is work, and it rewards better than most cash-paying jobs.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 83. On Neighbours.

Mozart lived here when he was younger.

While I was in London this weekend, I stayed in The Belgravia Hotel (more like a guest house, but there you go) on Ebury Street, about ten minutes walk from Buckingham Palace. I took a bus tour of the city and it actually passed through Belgravia. I learned I was in august company. Mozart lived across the road from the hotel (he composed his first piece at the age of eight in London); Ian Fleming, Roger Moore and Sean Connery lived nearby too. JK Rowling and Margaret Thatcher are current residents.

Geniuses all, with the exception of The Iron Lady.