Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

I'm currently back in the U.K. for a short visit and whilst here I've been reading a few books and enjoying the summer sun. One of those books was Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which I always thought I'd read. I suppose it's one of those books that's so famous one assumes one has read it...

As it turned out, I hadn't read it at all. I was riveted almost from the start and proceeded to read the book in less than a day - which is surprising, given that I'm a slow reader. I spent a beautiful summer's afternoon enjoying the story unfold from the mouth of the riverboat captain, Marlow, who goes in search of Mr. Kurtz, a trader who's venture into the heart of Africa has seen him ascend to the level of a god among the natives.

I really enjoyed this book and what it says about European colonialism as well as the human condition.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley

I'm back after previously suggesting I might give up this blog... Well, as it turns out, I shall use my new blog for new books, and this blog for when I read older books. 

I'm currently on holiday and recently I stocked up for my travels by visiting Amazon and downloading a number of new Kindle books. As well as some more recent publications, I also picked up the classics for either free or a nominal price. One of these was Aldous Huxley's Crome Yellow

Chrome Yellow is a satirical novel set in a big English country house, following the convention of the country house novel. It features a range of characters - each of them a type of person - who come to the country house in question, called Crome. The book is made up of dozens of short chapters in which the protagonist, Denis, meets with each of the other characters. 

The book was based upon a real house and many of the characters were likewise based upon people Huxley knew there. Last year I read his biography but I cannot recall exactly who these people were. In any case, I recall them being rather pissed off at Huxley's portrayal of them. Indeed, these are not flattering portrayals. The book is very funny partly because it is so mocking of these wealthy types. It is clear Huxley is mocking himself, too.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Reviewing Elsewhere

Hey folks.

Just a note to let you know that I'll be posting my book reviews somewhere new. You can keep on sending me books but I won't be posting reviews here. I'll be posting them at this book review website.

Best,
David

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Lost Island of Columbus, by Keith A. Pickering

Keith A. Pickering's book, The Lost Island of Columbus, is the story of how he solved the mystery of where Christopher Columbus first made landfall on October 12th, 1492. Given the importance of this date in world history, one would think the answer to the question would be easy, but evidently it took a hell of a lot of work to figure it out.

Pickering uses a wide range of scientific methods to uncover the truth, and in doing so he thoroughly covers the history of the Landfall Debate, which has gone on for well over a century. His arguments for Guanahaní as the site of Columbus' first encounter with the New World are highly convincing.

Unfortunately, although his work is impressive, the book is not hugely readable. It is certainly hard to argue with Pickering, but one can easily get lost in the tidal wave of figures thrown at one. At times there are so many references to maps and tables that appear later in the book that it really is hard to enjoy. Then again, his aim with this book seems to be to put any other landfall theory to the death, and so he is eager to use all the available information to put his own theory beyond doubt.

Also a bit off-putting is the extent to which the author seems determined to assert himself as the champion of a centuries-long game, and his competitors as pathetic losers. While Pickering's investigation is impressive, his attitude his hardly humble. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fargo Rock City, by Chuck Klosterman

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota is not what I was expecting it to be. I thought this was going to be more of a memoir, as the title misleadingly suggests. Certainly, each chapter title takes us year by year through the life of a young metalhead from the sticks, but beyond that there's not much memoir there. Sometimes we get a story from his own life, but more often this book is a series of essays on metal.

There are essays on music videos, essays on sexism, essays on why Appetite for Destruction is the best album of all time, and more. At times it all gets a bit tedious, even for a metal fan like myself. However, the author is hilarious and peppers every chapter/essay with numerous witty observations and brilliant one liners. I laughed so much while reading this book that even the less interesting parts were thoroughly enjoyable. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

My Secret History, by Paul Theroux

I found a paperback copy of this book recently and, after having read The Mosquito Coast a few years ago and greatly enjoyed it, I decided to delve into this mammoth work.

At first, I thought it was an autobiography of sorts. From what little I knew about Theroux's work, it all seemed to match up. However, right at the start of My Secret History he takes pains to state that although certain similarities might seem to exist, it's purely a work of fiction. As an author of work of fiction that most readers assumed was autobiographical, I know his pain and will thus take him at his word that this is all made up.

Yet it is deliberately autobiographical-seeming. The novel tells the life of Andre Parent - a writer, would you believe - as he goes through various stages of his life, from boyhood to manhood. Like an autobiography, it is not neat and convenient, with all ends tied up. It is messy and real. Everything about it is entirely believable.

The book is broken into six chapters over the protagonist's life. They jump about a lot in terms of place as Parent moves from America to Africa to England to India, bouncing back and forth in pursuit of something. It is usually women he is after. From an early age, he has an irrepressible appetite for sex. At times he seems morally virtuous like some sort of hero, and elsewhere he utterly reprehensible. He is at times an unreliable narrator, but always an enjoyable one. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

New Reviews Coming Soon

I haven't posted in reviews here in a while because since returning from holiday in Sri Lanka back in January, I've been busy with work. Most of the books I've read have been directly related to work instead of pleasure, and so I haven't reviewed them here. However, as I get more free time I have been reading a bit more and will post some reviews soon.