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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: ::good::

Review: Graeme Simsion’s “The Rosie Project”

graeme simsion the rosie projectIt is a truth universally acknowledged that a high-on-the-Aspergers-spectrum genetics professor with tenure must be in want of a wife. Don Tillman sets out to get his. He has a questionnaire. Rosie doesn’t match the questionnaire. It’s still Rosie. I enjoyed this book. It made me laugh. I think the Great Performance Revision of the finale was highly improbable, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of days of snigger-out-loud bed, armchair and library reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: The Big Bang Theory
Who I’d recommend it to:
Comedy seekers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley

Review: Pema Chödrön’s “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”

pema chodron when things fall apartAn anthology of Chödrön’s talks on facing hopelessness. Useful. Accessibly bite-sized.

Where it came from: JH’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
A few weeks of a chapter a morning
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
I’d say it’s a self-selecting title
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Review: Jesse Blackadder’s “Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica”

jesse blackadder chasing the lightJesse Blackadder’s fictionalised account of the first women to set foot on the Antarctic mainland, fruit of her own journeys there. It’s a competent novel, easy enough to get absorbed by it, the oceangoing scenes are vivid, as is the (anti)whaling panorama. I’m not convinced by it as a “historical” novel, though; I have no sense of either the 1930s or Norwegians in a work entirely peopled by 1930s’ Norwegians, and there was no real distinction of voice between the three female leads. (Who, most disappointingly, got into a catfight partly over a man. Sigh. I’d definitely expect better of a dyke writer than that.) I also couldn’t give a damn about the “who stood where when” shenanigans, which meant the plot’s key tension entirely missed me. Overall, solid and moderately enjoyable but not superlative.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
An exhausted Saturday evening read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Elizabeth Hand’s “Generation Loss”

elizabeth hand generation lossSince I had been so comprehensively dazzled by Hand’s Available Dark, it only seemed logical to read her Cass Neary series opener. We have the same principles: reprehensible heroine, near-junkie, photographer, nihilist and “damage” connoisseur who ends up in a grim locale (here: Maine islands in midwinter), encounters bizarre and disturbing locals, and gets to photograph some dead people in insalubrious circumstances. It was a solid novel, alright, and I’d recommend it for photographers and dilettantes of the dark side. For me, though, I think you can only get smitten by an author the once. Sigh. The end.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
A few beddy, armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Never try to relive first love
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; Five Photos of My Wife by Agnès Desarthe

Review: Kate Summerscale’s “The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water”

kate summerscale the queen of whale cayRequired reading for a bookclub I may or may not be able to make friends with, this biography is quite the ripping yarn. Marion Carstairs, best known as “Joe”, inherited some cool oil millions and did whatever she damn well pleased in life – claimed to have left home at 11, drove an ambulance in WWI, slept with every pretty lady who crossed her path into her 70s (including Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich), raced speed boats to international acclaim, ran her own benevolent imperial dictatorship in the Bahamas, enacted piracy in the islands when her family annoyed her, and did it all accompanied by her faithful homunculus (man-doll) Lord Tod Wadley. Quite the life; amazing what you can do when you’re so rich you’re ranked as “eccentric” rather than “freak”. A pretty good bio, although I was disappointed by the author’s titillation at Carstairs’ life and loves as a classic invert. Recommended.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Evening armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: A reminder of the power of perspective: “As the heady 1920s gave way to the sober 1930s, Carstairs’s verve, independence and experimentation were being interpreted as insalubrious and freakish.” (p.114)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers dulled by ordinary [sic] lives
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture”

ariel levy female chauvinist pigsLawksamighty, another book which tells me the world is nastier than I’d imagined. Levy analyses women’s participation in highly sexualised modern culture as consumers, purveyors and designers of Raunch Culture – aka women acting like porn stars all the time is the coolest, dude. With chapters on mainstream US trends in public sluttishness, dyke misogyny, teen sex anxieties and TV consumer-sex in various forms, it’s classic New Yorker writing and research on a hideously demoralising topic. Ewk. And ewk again. I have nothing intelligent to say except that I wish none of it were true yet I fear that all of it is: skankfest is the new black. Good on Levy for writing the book, this analysis needed to be done.

Where it came from: AN’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Evening reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “Hotness doesn’t just yield approval. Proof that a woman actively seeks approval is a crucial criterion for hotness in the first place.” (p.31)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Dummy category – those who’ll read it aren’t the ones who’ll need it
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Sandy Balfour’s “Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords”

sandy balfour pretty girl in crimson roseA memoir of travels and family interspersed with crossword clues, history and personalities (especially UK crosswordage for the die-hard fan). It’s quite charming as a memoir, Balfour’s style is dry and wryly entertaining, and for a while at least I put in a concerted effort to solve every clue as it appeared. The rarefication of the crosswording milieu started to get to me, however – although that may really mean that I was outsmarted more frequently and more resoundingly than I can stand – but I did enjoy the book and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my crosswording mentor. I did buy it thinking of her.

P.S. Oh, that’s right — whyfor no exploration of the fact that all the crossword setters, except a dead one, were blokes? Quite the patriarchal institution, the crossword page, classic Oxbridge Britishness controlling the grid.

Where it came from: Another lovely secondhand bookshop in these parts
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted bed and armchair reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf via MR
Best line of the book: “the much-quoted wish of Louis MacNeice: ‘I would have a poet able-bodied, fond of talking, a reader of the newspapers, capable of pity and laughter, informed in economics, appreciative of women, involved in personal relationships, actively interested in politics, susceptible to physical impressions…’” (p.75)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to: Devoted crossword “solvers”, and perhaps other passionate word nerds
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön