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Nunquam procrastinandum

More Books That Tried To Kill My Housemate.

Posted on 2012.12.08 at 18:34
4) John Birmingham, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand. (reread)

This is the beating black heart of Brisbane Sharehouse Living, 90s style. I have learned many useful things about communal living from this book. The utility of the stolen milk crate, the importance of hatstands, the unchanging nature of our local brand of deadbeat goths and the eternal persecution of Centerlink and its ancestors. I read this for the first time late in 99, mere weeks before moving out of home to my own first foray into sharehouse living, and it has proven terribly informative and useful.

It's also funny as hell. It's a tad dated in places, these days (I have never lived in a house without at lease internet addicted cave dwarf type person) but is still sharply written, brooding and bleak and with that gorgeous Northern Decay you get from truly true to life Queensland stories. Lush, decaying and as intricately engaging as watching a finch stuck in an orb weaver's web.

It's also been adapted to film, graphic novel, and stage play, and I also highly recommend all three for the truly multifaceted understanding of the material. I bring you herring!

5) Stephan Dando-Collins, Pasteur's Gambit.

This is a weird, flat little history. It covers the attempts by the Pasteur Foundation to engineer a biological control for Australia's rabbit problem back in the late 1880s, through the advocacy of his nephew and protege Adrien Lior.

I was pretty excited to learn about this hidden facet of Australian history. I had no idea we had taken such an innovative, early step towards pest control! How intriguing! Unfortunately, the reason I hadn't heard about it is because the whole initiative was stymied at every level by a commission whose members were financially vested in the current meathods of control, mostly through selling baiting machines and rabbit proof fencing. They weren't effective, but hey, they made the commisioners money.

It would have been an interesting enough story on its own, but for Dando-Collins' framing of the story as some lost triumph that never materializes. The history itself is solid, well researched and well presented, but the structure promises a big redeeming reveal that never arrives. Rather, we are left with the sorry state of politics as it stood in 1890, parochial and self involved, and the Australian branches of the Pasteur Institute withering to nothing.

Also, Louis Pasteur seems like a bit of a dick.

6) Bill Bryson, Down Under

Ah, now this is better. Bryson does write a nice, richly embroidered travelogue. He drives around Australia, and is pleasantly bewildered by it. It's typically Bryson - cheerful, optimistic, and friendly, ultimately reflecting the delight he finds in the most typically and boringly Australian things. It's another slightly dated book (first published 2000) but is still very sweet and entertaining. It covers a nice patch of Australian History sympathetically but without glossing over any of the wretched bits, and even goes into a good chunk of our geological past. I enjoyed it rather a lot.

Nunquam procrastinandum

The Books That Tried To Kill My Flatmate

Posted on 2012.12.05 at 20:20
Ahah, hahahahaha.

Hello. Been a while, hasn't it?

I have a large stack of books sitting on top of my computer desk, a tall item of furniture on some less than stable floorboards. The stack had reached mighty proportions, before falling over and nearing braining my poor housemate.

So in the interest of not killing anyone, he's a small selection of this year's books. I've had a particularly shitty year, so the list is really heavy on re-reads. The only sense of order is the order in which they have been carefully placed on my desk chair after their tumble.

1)Neil Gaiman, American Gods(reread)
You can read the first five chapters here, and if you like speculative fiction. I'd advise you do to so.

American Gods follows the travails of Shadow, an ex-con released a day early from prison after the sudden death of his wife. Lost, he takes a job with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, in a world where the gods of the old world are real and fighting for survival. It's deeply thoughtful without being heavy, witty and wry, a meditation on the nature of faith and the nature of man.

It's probably my favourite book, not just my favourite Gaiman. I can't recommend it enough. Incidentally, HBO are adapting it as a six season series, which should give you an idea of how much territory the book covers.

2)Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys (reread)
This is the follow-up book to American Gods. It picks up after the sudden death of Mr. Nancy, a elderly but lively Haitian chap who just happens to be an incarnation of the spider god Anansi. His divinity passes to his two sons, Fat Charlie Nancy - an unremarkable accountant - and the infinitely cooler Spider. It's a more focused book, about family, responsibility and the nature of stories and songs. It's wittier and much lighter than American Gods, with all the latter's thought and charm but none of its fatalistic black heart. This is also a re-read, a good salve for bad times, an ultimately cheerful and optimistic little tale.

3) Cormac McCarthy, The Road.
Speaking of black hearts, here's one to dish out the misery. The Road is a post-apocalyptic travel story, about a man and his son trying to reach the sea in the hope that there is life beyond their shores. For reasons never specified, all plant life has died, and in the collapse of agriculture and the food web society has collapsed into roving gangs of survivors, many cannibals. The un-named man and his son make their way through this harsh place, hoping desperately that there is life in other countries. It's fairly brutal, without anything like a happy ending, but it's fairly evocative and if you have a taste for post-apocalyptic narrative it's worth a look.

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: The List, 2010

Posted on 2011.01.02 at 00:01
Well, I did well for reviews this year, didn't I?

It's been an interesting year for my reading habits. I let my hair down and just read as I wanted, anything that came into my paws, and as you can see it means I've read a lot more overall than I otherwise would have. I also went on a massive Trojan War bender right in the middle of the year, and basically ate up anything even tangentially related. No idea what broke me out of it, but there you go.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I had a fair bit of gin and at least one festive hangover during the four days it took to put this list together. I also suspect rather heavily that I'm missing a few, because I have a habit of loaning my books out at a prodigious pace and took a few from the Pile over the year and threw them at people.

So, in no particular order beyond the order I pull them down off the Pile, the List. First, the virgin reads:
So let's do this: Lots of books ahoy!Collapse )

jilder's 50 books

3) The Odyssey

Posted on 2010.03.04 at 01:17

Isn't it lovely? This is Coralie Bickford-Smith's recent hardcover redesign for Homer's Odyssey and is the reason I have switched from a diet of vampire schlock to classics.

For the three of you in the English speaking world who do not know the plot of The Odyssey, here's a quick summary.Odysseus, King of Ithaca, spends ten years roaming around the Aegean Sea after the Trojan War, having adventures and trying not to be smashed into tiny, damp pieces by the god Poseidon. The Earth-Shaker is cheesed at Odysseus for blinding one of his sons and bragging about it. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his patient wife Penelope is trying to fend off a horde of hungry suitors, while their son tries to work out what's happened to his father.

Odysseus is my favourite hero. He's really just a regular kind of guy. He's described as being a bit of a bandy-legged redhead, not particularly good looking, shorter than the other epic heroes of the Trojan War. He's smarter than all the meat heads of antiquity combined. He came up with the gambit with the Trojan Horse, of course, but he was also responsible for the Oath of Tyndareus, whereby all the warlords fighting for the hand of Helen, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, swore not to go to war with her groom, but instead to band together and defend her husband should she ever be stolen away. Helen, better known as Helen of Troy, had already been abducted at least once, and this gambit allowed her to be married off without sparking a war. For this he won the right to marry Penelope, though they still held a sort of mini Olympics for her hand. It will surprise no one that it was rigged and her took her home to Ithaca, having impressed his young bride enough somehow that she didn't even look back.

Actually, what won me over to him is material from the myths surrounding the Odyssey. On their wedding night, Odysseus told Penelope to scream and holler as if he were forcing her, in order to placate the guests waiting outside their bedroom door, and that they would then take their time becoming friends before becoming lovers. Given that a post-nuptial rape was not uncommon, in fact expected, it always struck me as a surprisingly civil action in a barbaric time.

In any case, the Oath came back to bite him in the arse, and I can almost hear the "well, fuck" from the lips of the king when a trader tells him that Paris of Troy has nicked off with Helen. He attempted to get a sort of ancient Section 8 by harnessing a donkey to an Ox, plowing a field in winding, messy lanes and sowing the furrows with salt. A smug bastard by the name of Palamedes popped the infant Telemachus in the way of the plow, forcing Odysseus to stop plowing and reveal that he was actually still sane and fit for the war.

It's worth noting that some Very Bad Things later happen to Palamedes. Don't piss off the smartest man in Greece if you want to live.

This all sort of happens off scene in The Odyssey. It picks up with Odysseus languishing on the Island of Ogygia, pretty much being kept as a love toy by the sea goddess Calypso. He weeps all day and is kept in her bed all night, and she will not let him leave. Hermes shows up and basically tells her to knock if off and let him go home. She furnishes him with a raft and some other odds and ends, and as a final bribe offers him immortality. He pretty much turns her down, saying he wants to get old and die with his wife and child.

So he sets off in what's more or less a raft, and winds up washed ashore on the island of Scheiria, home to the Phaeacians, naked and bashed, and makes a nest of leaves to expire in. He is discovered the next day by the 16 year old Princess Naausica, and in one of my favourite bits refrains from the traditional begging gesture of grasping her knees instead opting to cover his wang with a branch and talk to her from far, far away. He's very specific about the wang coverage. The bulk of the story is Odysseus telling the Phaeacian court who he is, what happened, and asking in the nicest possible way if he can borrow a boat to get home, thanks. A bunch of court drama happens too, and he winds up winning himself a whole mess of treasure, both for being a bitchin' storyteller and for being a pretty good javelin thrower.

He gets back to his island, and then has to deal with the eleventy billion bastards eating up his farms and trying to seduce his wife Penelope. They have forced themselves on her as guests, and are not good guests at all - they eat whatever they want, harass the bard (the bronze age equivalent to retuning the stereo in someone else's car), rape the staff, steal whatever isn't nailed down and keep trying to kill their son. Telemachus is really not holding up too well, trying to exert his burgeoning authority and basically getting laughed at a lot. I think he's referred to as a yapping puppy at one point.

He sneaks in disguised as a beggar, to work out the lay of the land, and works out who's loyal and who's a thieving bastard. Then there's the bit with the axes, all the suitors get killed, Penelope tests him and he basically dissolves into a blubbery mess, they go and make friends again, and lastly a truce is made with the families of the slain suitors. And basically everyone lives happily ever after.

Through all of this he has the favour, protection and love of Athena, the Grey Eyed Goddess of War, Strategy and Clever Buggers. It's never made clear why she has such a soft spot for him - his lineage would make the patronage of the messenger god Hermes more appropriate, given that particular god is his great grandfather on his dad's side. He also lies like a rug and is a cunning thief too. But Athena loves the little scamp that he is, and the scene where he wakes up alone on the beach, miserably convinced the Phaeacians have taken back the treasure and dumped him on another wretched island, only to have her appear and rebuke him and reveal the island to him, one beloved inch at a time, is one of the most touching bits in the epic. The relationship between the goddess and the king is the richest and most rewarding.

My favourite part of the Odyssey is exactly how little the way people behave has changed. When Telemachus and a companion goes to visit Menelaus and Helen in Sparta, trying to dig up news on his father, there's a lovely bit where Menelaus interrupts his own formal greeting with something like "oh, you've grown, look at you, you look just like your old dad - hey Helen, he looks like his old dad, doesn't he, just the spit out of his mouth, eh?", proving that your dad's old mates have been the same since the beginning of time. He pretty much keeps that sort of thing up the whole time the kid is there. Mothers still use guilt on their offspring, like Anticlea, Odyssey's mother, coming up from the underworld to tell him she died of a BROKEN HEART, after he ABANDONED HER. Your nanny will still refer to you as the cutest little baby ever, even when you're nearly fifty and a battle-hardened warlord.

The characters are so very real. Telemachus' posturing reminds me of many young men working out how to be men. Naausica is likewise a very young, vibrant princess, excitable and vivacious. Odysseus' thought processes are often noted, and I am very fond of passages that read "sagacious Odysseus was seized by the urge to dash out Irritating Bastard's head of a rock, but decided that might be a bit much" or "wise Odysseus smiled ruefully at the Suitor, knowing that if he smashed a stool in his stupid smug face he may break his disguise". He's a smart guy, but he still wants to stab a bitch every now and then, just like everyone else.

Oh! I love how the best thing that Homer could come up with for Menelaus is "red haired" or "loud voiced." All of the royals in Ithaca get variations on "Wise" - wise Odysseus, thoughtful Telemachus, sagacious Penelope. Menelaus, who has always struck me as one of history's greatest Cheerful Idiots, gets "red haired". He did leave his literally disturbingly beautiful bride - who he pretty much had to carry off by force- alone for two weeks with Paris of Troy, a notorious womanizer and well known for being a smooth operator (he doesn't crop up in the Odyssey, but he's described in The Iliad as "...prince of beauty--/mad for women... luring them all to ruin"). I mean really. It's like getting that nice Don Juan guy to keep an eye on your teenage daughter. Then he accidentally betroths her daughter to two different massively disturbed violent young men at the same time, and dithers about what to do about it. He's a bit of a twit. In fact, you could say marrying Helen to begin with was a the Moron's Choice. He basically bought her with money borrowed from his brother, Agamemnon, who opted to marry the less pretty and less likely to get kidnapped Clytemnestra, even if that ended less than well for him.

There's also the subtle stuff in there. Ithaca is a wind blasted rock, or as Odysseus puts it, "a good country for goats". The kings there do their own carpentry and know their way around a farm - really, can you see Prince William being able to plow a field, let alone with a donkey and an ox? Laertes, Odysseus's father, goes and hides from Penelope's suitors on a sort of hobby farm up the back of the island. The googly eyed awe that Telemachus directs at the mighty palaces of his father's old war buddies is pretty apt, especially in the conversations between Telemachus and his young traveling companion, a lot of which isn't far off a more formal archaic version of "Dude, check it out!" Calypso's pretty astute observation that the gods can shag whoever they want, but the goddesses are not permitted to know the love of mortal men. It's all just very observant.

I just love it. It's a good, touching story, with real people in it, as well as the gods and monsters. The language can be a bit formal and repetitive at times, but it's really very rewarding to work past that. I'd recommend reading the Odyssey to just about anyone with the ability to read.

Verdict: Totally and Emphatically Worth a Read.

jilder's 50 books

2) Poppy Z. Brite: Self Made Man (re-read)

Posted on 2010.01.12 at 03:32
Tags: ,
Self-Made Man (Also published under the name Are You Loathsome Tonight? is a nice, tidy little compilation of short stories by the lovely, decadent and talented Poppy Z. Brite. I am perhaps a bit overly generous with praise - as mentioned in my last review, I have of late taken to re-reading many of my vampire novels in order to inoculate myself again the whole Twilight hysteria trend. Lost Souls is a sharp little piece of writing, and very, very different to our sparkly Mormon infestation or even Rice's foppish fools. It is a first novel, and has many flaws, but I love it, and the lingering flavour of it on my intellectual palate drove me to give Self-Made Man a once over.

Brite's style matured beautifully, with the occasionally overwrought UberGoffic moments in Lost Souls more or less absent from her later work. That said, Self-Made Man is an inconsistent little compilation, a mixture of exceptionally inspired work and pieces that are more like writing exercises than actual short stories. It's overall pretty representative of Brite's style, with a good blend of humour, horror and sweet man love. It's not at all hard to see why her later work is almost entirely comprised of dark comedy novels chock full of gay guys, because it's obvious from this early sampling of her style that it's in those areas her work excels. She treats her male lovers with affection, even when she's cutting them up with sharp implements. I'm a little sad there's less violence in her writing these days, because it's all written so lovingly, each cut and bleeding organ receiving a virtual hagiography as it's lifted out of its owner. Still, her skill as a writer has improved as the gore leached from her books, so I really oughtn't complain.

I'll give a brief summary of the book, though I really don't want to go into too much detail for fear of giving too much away.The introduction to the collection, by Peter Straub, is a confusing collection of quotes and I always skip it because it just bores me, especially since I don't read Straub's work and have no idea what he's going on about. The second story, "In Vermis Veritas", is told from the perspective of a worm eating its way through a corpse (I've linked to Brian Molko from Placebo reading it aloud). The third piece is a ghost story titled "Arise", and features a musician who fakes his own death, only to be brought back to reality after the suicide of his band-mate and collaborative partner. It's not bad by any stretch, but it's a little overshadowed by the rest of the compilation. "Saved" (written with Christa Faust) is easily my favourite of all of Brite's short stories, a simple, perverse piece of twisted erotica that sits just right with me. It's about a malfunctioning young man's first run in with a working girl, featuring hippy mothers, grimy hotels and explosive death, and it's really just a treat to read. It is good enough to leave me disappointed with the next entry in the compilation, "King of Cats" (with David Ferguson) which is a bit twee for my tastes. Basically, it's a homoerotic retelling of the Miller's Son and the Cat (more popularly known as Puss in Boots, though given that it was written for a gay erotica anthology I'm not at all surprised they left out the pussy).The title entry is next, "Self-Made Man", which is also lovely, inasmuch as you can call a Dahmer inspired corpsapalooza 'lovely'. Written during the research phase for my favourite Brite novel, Exquisite Corpse, it doesn't pull its punches as far as gore goes, but is also very clever to boot. "Pin Money" is up next, a sort of 'prequel' to her historic collaboration Triads. It's a very neat little tale that has me interested in getting Triads at some point in the future. "America" is next, in which two characters from Lost Souls tell a joke while driving through the desert, and is so short that it's easy to miss. Not a very good joke, mind, but it's still nice to revisit those two characters. After we get out of the car we are treated to "Entertaining Mr. Orton", another sharp gay ghost story, and a damn good one at that. " Monday's Special (A Dr. Brite story)", is a trip to a parallel world where the author became a coroner, not a writer. It's the first in a series of such tales, and is short and sweet and not overly taxing. "Vine of the Soul" is a 1999 New Year's tale that is a bit too dependant on drug references for it to be of much use to me, but its main protagonists from Drawing Blood so I enjoyed it anyway. " Mussolini and the Axeman's Jazz" follows, and is another one of the stand-outs from the collection. It's a fictional account of the Axeman of New Orleans, and manages to work in both Franz Ferdinand and Count Cagliostro to good effect. Wrapping things up is "Are You Loathsome Tonight?", an experiment in language that is atmospheric but not actually as entertaining as the rest of the collection. Finally, we're treated to a epilogue by Caitlin R. Kiernan, "...And In Closing (For Now)" which is actually very good, enlightening, and much better than the intro.

It's worth noting that unless you find the whole 90s splatter punk entertaining then it's probably not for you. But I do, and it was good.

Verdict: Worth a Read.

jilder's 50 books

1) Anne Rice: Angel Time

Posted on 2010.01.05 at 05:59
Oh, Anne.

We need to talk. We've been friends for a while, you and I. I read Interview With the Vampire at just the right impressionable age, and was hooked. The decadence and humility of Louis hit just the right note for a girl coming out of a thick diet of sword-and-sorcery demigods and goddesses, and I devoured the series as it progressed. And recently, in an attempt to banish the spirit of Twilight from my mind, I re-read the Vampire Chronicles, and rediscovered the rich, occasionally indulgent lushness of it all, the way the prose meanders like a vine from one idea to another, the loose connection of the damned protagonists to whatever historical period interested you most at the time. I got to experience a little pre Revolutionary Paris, a little Renaissance Venice, some 80s San Fransisco, and liberal sprinklings of prehistoric Egypt. And it was good, Anne, it was good. Your research showed, your characters were, if a little petulant at times, still reasonably believable. And even now, as an adult, though I find bits trite it still remains one of the great entries in the canon of vampire literature.

Then things started falling apart a little.

Look, I know your personal life took a massive rough turn. And it showed - Blackwood Farm remains a nadir that will never be surpassed. But you got better, Anne. You took what you could from those dark hours and produced some of the best work of your career. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana had the possibility of being massive disasters - either evangelical pap or dry historical accounts, but you managed to take some difficult, controversial material and create a really touching pair of books, something thoughtful and emotional and reverent.

But this isn't about Jesus. This is about Angel Time.

The concept - a reformed government assassin traveling through time on a mission from a divine messenger - seemed okay, if a bit like something the Hallmark channel would commission for their Uplift Post-Menopausal Women's Hour. But many great books look stupid when you write their plot down in one sentence. "Refromed ex-convict visits tours America with the incarnation of Odin" and "Randian parody apocalypse featuring polka dotted multi-ethnic submarine and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure robotic J. Edgar Hoover" are two of my favourite books, as a matter of fact. So I bought it, and read it, and well. Intervention.

There are spoilers here, incidentally.Collapse )

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: Not Forgotten

Posted on 2010.01.02 at 01:12
Okay, so usually this is the annual "Whoops, there I go forgetting to review again" post. I'm foregoing it this year. It's been the Year of the Re-read around here, and while I have clocked probably closer to 100 than 50 books, most of them were re-reads. I suspect denying myself the simple pleasure of a comfortable trip back to something I had already enjoyed got the better of me.

So rather than play catch-up, I'm just going to start fresh for 2010, and let myself have my re-reads.

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: Library Books Demand Immediate Review!

Posted on 2009.04.25 at 17:59
So, I've yet again fallen prey to the terror of Piles. I only just put away all of last year's books (and please, if you've borrowed a book from me in the last, oh, call it epoch, don't bother returning them for a while). I utterly run out of shelving space. In fact, I may be but a hair's breadth from cracking L-Space.

So in an attempt to get things rolling for this year I'm going to ditch any sense of order and just review things as they come. Starting with library books.

jilder's 50 books

The Things We Do Not Do.

Posted on 2009.04.25 at 17:35
Better late than Never, I suppose.

So for 2008, in nothing like an order:

1) Powermad: A Book of Deranged Dictators by Karl Shaw.
2)The Gospel of Judas by Jeffrey Archer with the assistance of Francis J. Moloney.
3) Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
4) Dopeland, by John Birmingham
5) Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
6) Goddesses, Whores, Wives & Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity by Sarah B Pomeroy
7) BK: Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of The BKT Serial Killerby Stephen Singular

8)Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
9) The Difference Engine, by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson
10) Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
11) Starfish by Peter Watts
12) Nation by Terry Pratchett
13) ThigMOO by Eugene Byrne
14) The Company by Max Barry
15) Blindsight by Peter Watts
16) Matter by Ian Banks
17) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick
18) An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes In New England by Brock Claire
19) The Pirates! In An Adventure with Napoleon by Gideon DeFoe
20) Mr. B. Gone by Clive Barker
21) The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
22) Honk if You Are Jesus by Peter Goldsworthy

Short Stories
23) Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams
24) The Vintage Bradbury edited by Gilbert Highet
25) Looking for Jake and other Stories by China Mieville

Role-Play Books:
26) Dark Heresy
27) The Inquisitor's Handbook
29) World of Darkness Core Book
30) Hunter: The Vigil
31) Changeling: The Lost
32) Wraith:The Oblivion
33) Necropolis Book Atlanta

34) Life of Pi by Yann Martell
35) Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett
36) Coraline by Neil Gaiman
37) Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
38) Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
39) Thud!, by Terry Pratchett
40) The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett
41) Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett

So, a small year for me. I'm a whole nine books off. But hey, another year!

jilder's 50 books

Warren Ellis: Crooked Little Vein

Posted on 2008.12.03 at 18:06
Warren Ellis' first foray into the novel, Crooked Little Vein is a tight little thriller about a magical back-up American constitution, designed to re-program the morals of all who are exposed to it. Private Investigator Mike McGill, a hopeless shit magnet, is hassled by the cadaverous White House Chief of Staff into hunting it down. Written by Benjamin Franklin and bount in the skin of an extraterrestrial, the back-up was lost by Nixon during the 50s and has been traded by all manner of weirdos, and poor Mike must interview them all. Along the way he acquires an assistant, Trix, discovered in a macroherpephiliac film festival, a heavily tattooed polyamourous leftie working on her "perv thesis", and the two of them traipse across America, encountering everything from the aforementioned MHP cinephiles to saline injectors, ninja doormen, jar-humpers, Christ fuckers, pimps, hos and everything in between. As the book moves from simply the deranged to the dangerous, the two of them have to stay on their toes to stay not just alive, but unmolested and free of disease.

This is one twisted piece of writing. In case you hadn't worked it out. Ellis crams a whirlwind tour of bestiality, bastardry, buggery, bishop-bonking, biting backsides and a few more even more avant-guard sexual practices that I dare not name. Not only that, but he pulls no punches, with casual physical brutality to balance out the sex, and more colourful language than a tye-died pirate being slowly beaten to death by clowns. Speaking of clowns, Crooked Little Vein reminded me in a lot of ways of Pilo Family Circus, that other nadir of literary gentleness. It's not quite as twisted as Pilo Family Circus1, mind you, but still pretty warped. Here, the crazy is saline-infused-balls-out from the word go, whereas Pilo at least let you get all tucked in and comfy before the clowns started shitting in the bed. No, Crooked little Vein lays into you from the get-go, not messing around at all, dragging you through the self-confessed cultural underbelly of America in a no-holds-barred perv fest. It's unforgiving, and just a little extreme at points. It gets hard, after a while, to believe that there's no-one in Ellis's world that isn't fucking their dog, or worse.

And that I suppose, is the book's biggest flaw. There is simply no frame of reference. Everyone is a whack-job, a pervert, a far-right slathering conservative or a transsexual self-administering plastic surgery freak. It's like looking at a painting of crows standing on asphalt at midnight during a new moon. There's no contrast. Technically it's tight, and so well written it's heartbreaking in places. While the book fills up very quickly with the sort of deviant caricatures that Michael Ninn usually has as background filler in his movies, Mike himself is a pretty well drawn character. He's one of those sweet, ordinary guys that just happen to get shat on by Fate every day from the cradle to the grave. But his assistant's name is an allusion to a sex act, and even the angel that swoops down and offers Mike the tools to survive produces eel porn as a fund-raiser.

All this ties to Ellis primary hypothesis - the belief that the deviant are now the mainstream, with every little vanilla heart hiding some sort of dark delight. He's decidedly unsubtle about it, to the point where it's mentioned at least three times over the course of this quite short novel, in pretty much the same words, at one point dedicating a whole chapter to a conversation where a septuagenarian serial-killer rams the point home. It's really profoundly unsubtle, especially since it's a short, half-sized book. I can sympathise to a degree, since I spend most of my time dealing first-hand with the psycho sexual underbelly that he's discussing. There comes a point when you become convinced that the only ones having missionary-style sex are missionaries. But I can't agree with him. The underbelly may be getting more air time, but 99.9% of the population isn't going to know what the fuck you're talking about if you started on about bukkake parties and polyamory. It gets the air time for the same reason child abductions and murders get a lot of attention - they're rare.

Crooked Little Vein talks at length about the democratising role of the Internet on the process of 'main streaming' the deviant, and here Ellis is on firmer ground. The Internet does bring the cow-garrotters out into the light - but the Internet is far broader than just the muddy channels that collect its less salubrious content (I'm looking at you, 4chan). Most of the web is shops these days, or blogs about people's pets. No, to find the genuinely twisted stuff you need a few tools that elevate you above the masses. A secure credit card, a solid understanding of bit-torrent, of forum trawling. Some google-fu, at least.

Despite these failings - perhaps because of them - Crooked Little Vein is a tight, mean little book. Mike and Trix manage to gain quite a bit of shape over the small time frame that we have them (in terms of time, the book barely covers a week), and as I've mentioned there are a quite a few genuinely warm, bitter-sweet moments. Mike of course falls head over heels with her, and has a hell of a time relating to her as a pretty much mainstream, monogamous kinda guy. In fact, at times it's quite endearing how much shit he's put up with, and still managed to remain more or less human2. Ellis also has the sort of comic timing that seems totally at odds with the physical barbarism demonstrated from front page to back. The in-flight ramblings of the detective Falconer, and the Texas steak house that serves its beef in bullock sized chunks, so blue "that a good vet could've gotten it up onto its feet in an hour or so".

Overall, I'd have to say that Crooked Little Vein is not for the faint hearted, so if you're concerned about being confronted with some pretty graphic descriptions of far from common sex acts, I'd steer well clear. However, if you read Pilo and thought, "Yes! Here is a twisted genre, yet to be named, calling out to the secret ostrich-molesting cultist deep within me, dear God yes!" then by all means, pick it up and choke it down. It's a much more political animal, and a hell of a lot less subtle, but subtley is lost on a story that opens with a rat pissing in the protagonist's wake-up coffee.

Verdict: Worth a Read

1: While I freely admit I may be a sick fuck with a high threshold for depravity, I draw the line at anything worse than Pilo. Even my freak flag does not fly that high.
2: My good friend Chris is like that. Sweetest, gentlest guy you'll ever meet - but he'll always be the one to get knocked off the boat by a random seagull to the face, or finding half a finger puréed into his margaritas. Still manages to be as lovely as a basket of kittens, done in a good bechamel with a bit of white wine playing with yarn on a warm spring day.

jilder's 50 books

Yann Martel: Life of Pi

Posted on 2008.12.03 at 17:59
This is my first re-read of the year, brought on by a hunger for a good book, densely written, that would occupy me at work without being overly strenuous. Yann Martel's Life of Pi more than fits the bill. It's a beautiful book, full of rapturous praise and deep contemplation, gloriously written. It won the Booker Prize in 2002 just after its release, and a more fitting recipient I'd be hard pressed to find.

The story follows the early life of one Piscine Molitor Patel, a young Indian boy growing up in his family's zoo in the former French colony of Pondicherry in the late 1960s. :
It was a huge zoo, spread over numberless acres, big enough to require a train to explore it...You must imagine a hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours. The riot of flowers is incessant. There are trees, shrubs and climbing plants in profusion - peepuls, gulmohurs, flames of the forest, red silk cottons, jacarandas, mangoes, jackfruits and many others unknown to you if they didn't have neat labels identifying them at your feet. There are benches. One these benches you see men sleeping, stretched out, or couples sitting, young couples, who steal glances at each other shyly and whose hands flutter in the air, hapening to touch. Suddenly, amidst the tall and slim trees up ahead, you notice two giraffes quietly observing you. The sight is not the last of your surprises. The next moment you are startled by a furious outburst coming from a great troupe of monkeys, only outdone in volume by the shrill cries of strange birds.

However, He grows into a young nation struggling with its fortunes and its future, but this is for the better part left in the shadows. The young Pi prefers the study of animals, befitting a zoo kid, and dives head first into every religion he discovers, at one point becoming simultaneously a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian, much to the consternation of the heads of said practices in his town. He manages to wriggle his way around it, and quietly continues his theologically complex studies. Despite their disdain for politics, the situation in India gets too much for his parents, and they decide to emigrate to Canada. They sell the zoo and the animals, and along with a handful of beasts board a Japanese cargo ship destined for their new home, tending the animals over the course of the trip. Unfortunately, there is an accident of some sort involving the engines, and the boat sinks, shipwrecking poor Pi and killing his family and most of the crew.

The rest of the book deals with his experiences as a castaway, but don't for a minute think the gleeful tone of the book dissolves into misery. For starters, in the lifeboat with the then 16 year old Pi are a spotted hyaena, a zebra with a broken leg, Orange Juice the matriarchal orang-utan and most importantly Richard Parker, a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger. I'll refrain from offering anything that spoils the tale, but Pi's survival becomes entirety dependant on the tiger's happiness. They eventually settle into a symbiotic relationship, with the tiger keeping apathy and depression at bay through the periodic application of mindblowing terror, and Pi for his part keeping the cat well supplied with fish and fresh water.

The result is a surprisingly exultant examination of humanity and divinity, mercy and despair. The tone wavers between these two points, spending most of its time thoughtfully examining the impact on the soul of survival. Martel details the minutiae of Pi's equipment and routines with a brisk efficiency that leaves one satisfied but not overwhelmed with detail; clearly it's the young man's mental survival that is more interesting, and that receives the most attention. For a book that is at least two-thirds at sea, with not whole lot of anything going on, it's surprisingly lively. Pi's study of religions serves him well at sea, with all that time to contemplate the infinite while bobbing around on a seemingly infinite sea. He ruminates, each new experience an opportunity to turn the philosophical implications over and over in his mind.

The use of language is masterful. Martel's writes with an obvious love of words, an almost tactile affair that invites you to roll each turn of phrase around in the mouth. He plays with words the way a gifted guitarist noodles around their instrument, or how a soccer play fools around with a ball. Skilfully, merrily and without any self conciousness. His dialogue is snappy and authentic (inasmuch as I've experienced in my limited conversations with people of Indian extraction - which luckily extends somewhat past Bollywood), his descriptions airy and engaging, lithely phrased.

The whole effect is a book that fairly ripples, radiating its own energy despite the general lack of activity. Martel writes this as the supposed result of a series of interviews much after the fact, and the interjections of this additional "author" break the time at sea into neat pieces that prevent the monotony of sea life from becoming, well, monotonous. Furthermore, by assuring the reader that Pi survives his ordeal from the onset, Martel allows the absence of narrative tension to flower into a deep but playful thoughtfulness that encapsulates the mind of the protagonist to a t. It's eminently difficult to find a passage to quote that sums this up - each paragraph leads on to the next with such a comfortable ease that it's hard to pick just one bit. You've got to run with it, every energetic step of the way.

I couldn't recommend this book any more highly.

Verdict: Most Definitely Worth a Read.

Honestly, my omnivorous habits sometimes lead me to buy some strange books. This one was a 3 dollar special at my current favourite clearance outlet, purchased more or less on whim. I was hoping for something light and not too chewy, and despite the apparently heavy subject matter, Powermad delivers. It's an unnervingly glib look into the derangements of some of histories, a jumble of tidbits about a variety of history's more notorious dictators, from Nicolae and Eleni Ceasescu to Idi Amin and the inevitable snippits about Hitler.

To comment on the structure of this book would be exceedingly difficult, since there isn't any. It's loosely arranged into nine chapters - Pyschopaths; Paranoiacs; Kleptocrats; Megalomaniacs; Stand By Your Mao: Leaders' Wives; Dictation: The Despotic Muse; Sporting Dictators; Private Dictators and Dead Dictators. It also has 5 list-long appendices, ranging from car lists to a rundown of non-despotic siblings. Really, that's a strain.The entries range from a few lines long ("The Equatorial Guinean leader Macias Nguema once initiated a cabinet reshuffle by clubbing his foreign minister to death.") to lengthier, page-long outlines of the more elaborate shenanigans. Between chapters are more substantial (and I use the phrase loosely) biographies of key despots.

While this format means that each fact is easy to digest, it often gives no context, and a picture of each dictator is only developed over the length of the book, and with a degree of difficulty at that. For a book that's supposed to be making light of some of the worst examples of leadership on record, this is a beneficial thing, as realistically the subject matter does not lend itself well to chuckles. The after-effects of these guys is still being felt, and they are anything but funny. In fact, as I got through the book, it made me progressively more squeamish. Each out of context bit of hilarity made the despots seem like loveable clowns, not mindbogglingly deranged sociopaths that destroyed literally millions of lives between them. Zaire's former President Joseph Mobutu, for example, started to seem almost cartoonish by the end of things, a massive tragedy when Shaw himself notes that the man's pilfering of state coffers and incoming aid was so great that it ws said "he could write a personal cheque to pay off his country's entire foreign debt".

In its defence, Shaw has a dry, understated sense of humour that's readily apparent throughout. It also seems well enough researched for what it is, and a list of further reading appears at the back. In a way, it disempowers these formerly powerful men and women by making laughing stocks of them, pointing out the foibles of some truly monstrous human beings and exposing them as the mere mortals that they are. Shaw's turn of phrase, while intended to frame the absurdity of each factoid, occasionally drops a heavier note, of which the line about Mobutu quoted above is a good example. Of course, the stunning lack of context presented by the style makes it difficult to get a good perspective on these foibles, and leaves the book looking like a literary freak show - see! Idi the cannibal, all alive-o! Behold! Adolf, the Flatulent Fuhrer! Marvel at the Mummy Dictators of the East, Preserved Forever by the Mystic Arts of the Orient.

In the end, this is a bog book. It's written pretty much to do nothing more than sit next to your loo and occupy the top half while the bottom half is busy. And really, if some drunk guy at one's next party accidentally takes a leak on it, it's no real loss.

Verdict: Not Worth a Read

jilder's 50 books

Jeffery Archer: The Gospel According to Judas

Posted on 2008.12.03 at 17:55
I was bitterly disappointed to find that this is, in fact, not the Gospel of Judas unearthed in Eygpt a while back. No, this is a work of fiction, presumably an attempt of the latter to cash in on the fame and notoriety of the former. In fact, this is not revealed until you're well into it, in the form of a wee footnote tucked away in an unlabelled index:

There were many gospels, known as 'apocryphal gospels', that were not accepted by the emerging Church. A collection of such gospel material, written in Coptic, but originally in Greek, The Codex Tchacos, was made public in 1999. Several fragments of a 'Gospel of Judas' can be found in the codex, and these possibly date back to second-century Gnostic understanding of Jesus. Judas is presented as someone who is encouraged by Jesus to do God's will by setting in motion the action that will liberate Jesus from the wicked human condition to become a heavenly figure...The Gospel of Judas recorded here was not inspired by this text, but attempts to present the Christian story through the eyes of Judas

Allow me to repeat: The Gospel of Judas...was not inspired by this text, but attempts to present the Christian story through the eyes of Judas

As in, "we made it up as we went along."There's no Library of Congress label in this book, either, that would give it away. It's only that footnote that lets the reader know that what they hold is more or less a fiction. An apparently well researched and laid out fiction, but a fiction nonetheless.

So, in short, despite being entitled the same, they are not the same thing at all. And I totally fell for it. D'oh!

This does colour my opinion of the book quite a lot. It's a very pretty book, with a cover printed to look like an old leather folio, branded with an iscthus and a quartered wheel, and gilded along the edges, like many religious texts. It has that new-book-smell in abundance. It has a nice burgundy ribbon bookmark, and is laid out not unlike a Bible; it's organised into verses, with all text taken from the Bible highlighted in red, and a column down one side for references. Again, not unlike many Bibles, where the words of Christ are highlighted in red, and relevant passages are cross-referenced in a special column. Those sort of massively organised Bibles always apppealed to me when I was a kid slogging my way through a series of conservative Christian colleges1. Really cut out the hassle of looking things up in a concordance, a great time saver when you've got an assignment due and you'd rather be reading Exit to Eden.

Of course I find this all very irritating, because it perpetuates the lie that this is an apocrypha. It's not. It's something entirely designed to make Archer some money. You can write Christian fiction, label it fiction, and it can result in some wonderful work. Christ the Lord had me enraptured from the first page. But this is not lovely fiction. This is a shameful piece of work, one that does no justice to the subject matter in any way, and that decieves the reader from the moment ones' eyes hit it.

The narrative itself is middling. It does, in fact, tell the story of Christ from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the treasurer of the Disciples, the man whose actions result in the Crucifixion. I bought this in the first place because I've always had a strange fascination with the place that Judas has in the Christian mythos, especially in the way the Mideiaval church regarded him. Without the actions of Judas, there's a middling chance that the Crucifixion may never have happened - his role as 'betrayer' is entirely neccisary for the Promise of Salvation, yet he has been regarded so foul that Dante saw fit to incarcerate him in the very lowest pit of hell, forever chewed by the Beast that is Satan.2

The Judas shown to us is a well-meaning man, constantly worrying about his master. Formerly a disciple of John the Baptist, he joins Jesus on the orders of John, told to follow him, for there goes a Son of God. They wander about, Jesus heals a bunch of people, pisses off the Jewish zealots and the Sanhedron, and they start to run out of money. Every time some cash comes their way Jesus gives it to the poor, despite clear evidence that he and his disciples aren't far off being pretty destitute themselves. As treasurer Judas starts freaking out. Being the one who goes out and mingles in the marketplaces collecting food and securing lodging, he becomes aware of plots to kill or kidnap his Master once they reach Jerusalem, and he enlists the help of a Scribe (a sort of rabbincal Legal Aide) to try and find a way to preserve Jesus from death. The Scribe, unfortunately, is on the pay of the Sanhedrin, and dobs on Judas as soon as he can, tricking him into the Kiss in Gethsemane by promising to provide money and other assistance to flee the city. Poor Judas is inconsolable, and is even more distraught when the Scribe fingers him as the betrayer. An emotional wreck, he flees to the sanctuary of the Essenes, a sort of monastic order of Jews who preserved lore and kept the ways, to live out his days in misery and regret, pausing only to relate the tale to his son Benjamin, and to be crucified himself when the Romans decide that the Essenes are too independent and kill the lot of them.

There's a lot of problems here. Judas just doesn't seem terribly bright. I mean, honestly, do you go to the adviser of your enemy for help? He pesters Jesus for clarity, and hassles the other disciples. Further compounding matters is the figure of Christ Himself. The Jesus that Archer gives us is a tetchy man, prone to elliptical, contradictory pronouncements that puzzle his followers no end, uses circular logic, and speaks in empty aphorisms. The words of Christ, taken from the Bible, are simple, yes, but often resonate with a pure understanding of the human condition. They show a man much more complex and intelligent than the crabby prophet that Archer offers. The gospels do not say whether Judas ever saw the Resurrected Christ, so Archer leaves that bit out, resulting in a Jesus who wanders in circles, and seems faintly foolish right up to the Crucifixion. Archer also leaves out two of the most well-known miracles - that handy water into wine trick, and the walking on the water - after his adviser dismisses them as "nature miracles" that were written in well after the death of Christ to demonstrate his mastery over nature. I'm left with the image of a televangelist faith-healer, surrounded by prop cripples, instead of that of someone who is arguably one of the most influential men in history. Even Anne Rice's seven-year-old boy Messiah is more engaging than this shambling master.

Really, I only started enjoying this towards the end, where the perverse part of my head started using the cast of Life of Brian to narrate the story. The footnotes also proved more interesting than the main narrative, full of interesting little tidbits about ancient Jewish practice, though in the end they only served to illustrate the foolishness of Archer's Jesus. The eviction of the money-changers in the temple, for example, seems less righteous once one is informed that observant Jews couldn't carry coins bearing animals or humans into the temple, and would have to change them to Tyrean coins (presumably free from the forbidden images), and that they needed to purchase animals for sacrifice. This story in the Bible, while essentially the same, makes a note of mentioning levies and usury, but Archer just leaves it at that, resulting in yet another blow to his prophet's credibility. It's almost like Proff. Francis J. Moloney (SDB, AM, DPHIL (Oxon), and Archer's co-author) realizes the foolishness of Archer's effort and sits on the sideline taking idle theological pot-shots.

Really, if you feel the urge to read this, just go watch Life of Brian instead. Much more interesting.

Verdict: Not Worth A Read.

1 Naturally, my schools always put Teen Study Bibles and Standard Student editions on the frikkin' book list, and none of my school bibles ever had the Word of the Saviour in Vivid Bloody Scarlett. Bastards.
2Along with Brutus and Nero. Nero, sure, he did a lot of dreadful things, but Brutus? He stabbed Cesar. People stabbed Cesar all the time. Practically a hobby in ancient Rome, assassinating Emperors.

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: 2007: The List 26-51

Posted on 2008.01.13 at 00:38
Here, for your delectation, is the second half of my 50 Books list:

The Final HalfCollapse )

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: 2007: The List 1-25

Posted on 2008.01.12 at 21:47
So, I more or less completely neglected to review my books as I went this year. Pretty slack, huh? I guess the prospect of getting through both of the piles overwhelmed me, and so I've decided to just write the lot off. Below you'll find the first half of this year's list, with a paragraph's worth of review.

Onwards to the ListCollapse )

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: The List Thus Far

Posted on 2007.10.02 at 22:57
So, this is what is currently sitting in a stack next to my desk. I've had to go and put it on a shelf so it didn't crush me horribly. Stuff was also threatening to fall into my fishtank and crush EmoTep.

In no real order:


  1. Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Humans, by Gaby Wood;

  2. Negotiating with the Dead, by Margaret Atwood;

  3. Pagan Visions of a Sustainable Future, edited by Ly de Angeles, Emma Restall Or and Thom van Dooren;

  4. Anatomy of a Rose: Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers, by Sharman Apt Russell;

  5. The Devil, by Amelia Wilson;

  6. Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, by Paul Carter;

  7. Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, by Bettany Hughes;

  8. Public Executions, by Nigel Cawthorne;

  9. Werewolves, by Nigel Suckling;

  10. Fiction - Novels:

  11. Amnesia Moon, by Jonathan Lethem;

  12. Rant, by Chuck Palahnuik;

  13. The Algebraist, by Iain M. Rankin;

  14. The Ghost's Child, by Sonya Harnett;

  15. Little People, by Tom Holt;

  16. I am Legend, by Richard Matheson;

  17. Undead and Unemployed, by Mary Janice Davidson;

  18. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman;

  19. Farienheit 451, by Ray Bradbury;

  20. Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sader-Masoch (trans. Joachim Neugroschel);

  21. Cupid and Psyche, by Apuleius (trans. E. J. Kenney);

  22. Sleeping Dogs, by Sonya Harnett;

  23. Undead and Unwed, by Mary Janice Davidson;

  24. Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay;

  25. The Dark Half, by Stephen King;

  26. Making Money, by Terry Pratchett;

  27. Spook Country, by William Gibson;

  28. Fiction - Short Stories:

  29. Dark Alchemy: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozios;

  30. Men and Cartoons, by Jonathan Lethem;

  31. The Tent, by Margaret Atwood;

  32. The Birthday of the World, by Ursula le Guin;

  33. In Pursuit of Hygiene, by Helen Razer;

  34. Role-Play Supplements:

  35. Clanbook: Nosferatu (1st ed.), by White Wolf Gaming Studio;

  36. Clanbook: Toreador (1st ed.), by White Wolf Gaming Studio;

  37. Clanbook: Setite (1st ed.), by White Wolf Gaming Studio;

  38. Liber des Ghoules: The Book of Ghouls, by White Wolf Gaming Studio.

You can see why reviewing them all is a bit daunting. It also takes my total for the year up to 36, since Nothing but Blue Skies is already reviewed and off the pile.

jilder's 50 books

1) Tom Holt: Nothing But Blue Skies

Posted on 2007.04.24 at 17:54
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I started the year off with one of the Big Three, the always amusing Tom Holt. A shady little stall at the Valley Markets lead me to acquire a couple of Holts of dubious provenance, including Nothing but Blue Skies. It's one of his better books, using the fantasy+reality=hilarity trope that has worked so well for him in the past.

It follows the story of Karen, a Chinese water-dragon who has fallen in love with a mortal man. Trouble is (and there's always trouble) that she has little to no idea how to express this affection, competition in the form of the much bubblier Susan, and the tendency to cause massive involuntary rain storms every time she gets a bit tetchy. Given that she works at a realtor and is largely despised by her co-workers, she's tetchy a lot. Her attempts at romance are not working too well for her, but it gets worse once the news of her father's kidnap finally filters through from the cloudy peaks of the stratosphere. Bad enough that Daddy's missing; worse when he's the Adjunct-General to the Dragon King of the North-West being held captive by a troupe of pissed-off weathermen for crimes against meteorology, further complicated by the machinations of a media baron who resembles one of Australia's ex-pats rather a lot.

This is not an unremarkable book. It has some of the best leading ladies in Holt's work - not quite a Hildy, by any means, but all the same they read as real people. Karen's quiet desperation at the limitations thrust on her by the much clumsier human form are sharp and well-defined, likewise the anguish suffered in the courts of love are cleverly executed. And of course the usual Holt randomness creeps in too - goldfish, long lost cousins and a whole lotta rain. But there's no great and glorious streak of brilliance, and by the end all the twists and turns in the villainous Gordon's plans become exasperating, and when the other characters are exasperated by the antagonist's plans, rather than fleeing from them or trying to thwart them, you've got problems. The narrative also got quite convoluted by the end, a problem exacerbated by the plethora of high-powered characters. When all the leads are kick-arse immortal dragons of Doom you wind up blowing threats all out of proportion in order to get to them, and in the process wind up ducking as many little fragments made of suspension of disbelief go flying apart. It becomes increasingly hard to believe that one human being, even one with an army, can keep captive no less than six ageless water-dragons, some of them disturbingly high up in the dragon hierarchy. But given that we're talking about narky lizards anyway it's not difficult to put that aside and just enjoy the ride.

Verdict:Worth a Read.

Nunquam procrastinandum

Sidenote: All Alive-o

Posted on 2007.04.24 at 14:15
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Well, I'm still doing this.

This may be surprising given the long delay in reviews for the last half of last year. Regular readers, however, may remember the Pile. The Pile has a desk of its own at the new house, neatly divided into to heaps to prevent Death by Literature (though to be honest, it's more likely Death by Role-Play supplements, a far geekier death indeed). This year, I have developed yet another pile, which I have taken to referring to as Son of Pile:

Son of PileCollapse )

Son of Pile is much less ambitious than Pile the First; it only takes up quarter of the free room and is in no way likely to crush me to death any time soon. But there's a whole honkin' heap of review to do.

There are a multitude of reasons why the the Piles have come into being. Pile the First was mostly borne out of September's six-day weeks, whereby I lost the time to play catch-up against the protopile. Son of Pile is the product of my habit of reviewing oldest book first, compounded by the sheer horror of actually starting on those reviews. The oldest book on the Pile is at least six months old. Six months! I cannot recall what I had for breakfast most days, let alone what happened in a novel I read six months ago. The enormity of that feat often overwhelms me, to the point where reviewing the thing is just a task beyond comprehension. But I still want to, and when I do pull the finger out and go for it, I am usually pretty satisfied with the results.

So, in order to kill both of the bastards at once, I'm going to alternate reviewing a book from the Pile, then from Son of Pile, and so forth. This way I kill two birds with one hamfistedly-thrown stone.

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: A Glum Summary

Posted on 2007.01.25 at 01:01
So...it's three weeks into the new year. I haven't told you all how I managed over '06.

Here's the definitive list:

47) Camilla de la Bedoyere: The World's Greatest Art: Art Deco
46) Camilla de la Bedoyere: The World's Greatest Art: Art Nouveau
45) Margaret Atwood: Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Liturature
44) Michael Wood: In Search of Myths and Heroes
43) Sabine Baring-Gould: The Book of Werewolves
42) Susanna Clarke: The Ladies of Grace Adieu
41) Terry Pratchett: Wintersmith
40) Hot Iron Corrugated Sky: 100 Years of Queensland Writing, Ed. by Robyn Seahan-Bright and Stuart Glover
39) John Birmingham: Weapon of Choice
38) Sergei Lukyanenko: The Night Watch
37) Tradition Book: Sons of Ether
36) Tradition Book: Dreamspeakers
35) Tradition Book: Cult of Ecstacy
34) The Book of Crafts
33) The Traditions Gathered III: Swords of Faith
32) Mage: The Ascension
31) Will Elliot: The Pilo Family Circus.
30) Neil Gaiman: Anansi Boys
29) Chuck Palahniuk: Survivor
28)Pamela Todd: The Pre-Raphaelites at Home
27) Jan Bondeson: Freaks: The Pig-Faced Lady of Manchester and Other Medical Marvels
26) Lauren Weisberger: The Devil Wears Prada
25) Raymond E. Feist: Magician
24) Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian
23) Stephen King: Bag of Bones
22) Mario Acevedo: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
21) Simon Brown: Troy
20) Augusten Burroughs: Running with Scissors.
19) Henry Barbatus: X-Treme Latin
18) Ian Banks: Dead Air
17) Christopher Brookmyre: Quite Ugly One Morning
16) Jessica Amanda Salmonson: A Silver Thread of Madness
15) Mitch Albom: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
14) Tom Holt: Only Human.
13) Tracy Ryan: Vamp
12) David Rosenberg: Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah
11) Margaret Atwood: The Penelopiad
10) Anne Rice: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
9) Sonya Hartnett: Of a Boy
8) Gregory Macquire: Son of a Witch
7) John Birmingham: Leviathan
6) Tom Reynolds: I Hate Myself And I Want To Die
5) Tom Holt: Faust Among Equals
4) Steve Lowe & Alan McArthur: Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?
3) David Rose: Guantanamo: America's War of Human Rights.
2) Karen Armstrong: A Short History of Myth.
1) Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle

That's the list. I'm three off the desired total. I'm okay with this.

Now to the fun stuff - the Award Program!
Pretend this is red carpetCollapse )

jilder's 50 books

Sidenote: The List (Unreviewed)

Posted on 2006.12.29 at 14:21
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
This is what I have read, roughly in order, and am yet to review:

Mage: The Ascension rulebooks (All by various authors):
32)Mage: The Ascension;
33)The Traditions Gathered III: Swords of Faith
; (which I am counting as one book, even though it's an anthology of three full-sized tradition books,)
34)The Book of Crafts;
35)Tradition Book: Cult of Ecstacy;
36)Tradition Book: Dreamspeakers;
and lastly 37) Tradition Book: Sons of Ether

And books with no relation to the World of Darkness:
38)The Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko;
39)Weapon of Choice, by John Birmingham;
40)Hot Iron Corrugated Sky: 100 Years of Queensland Writing, Ed. by Robyn Seahan-Bright and Stuart Glover;
41)Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett;
42)The Ladies of Grace Adieu, by Susanna Clarke;
43)The Book of Werewolves, by Sabine Baring-Gould;
and 44)In Search of Myths and Heroes, by Michael Wood, a book I haven't strictly speaking finished yet, but that I have no doubt will be done by this evening.

- which is, if you've been paying attention, leaves me with six books to go and two days to do it in. I'm not too concerned, however. In the finest tradition of bibliophiles everywhere, I'm also reading Tracy Ryan's Hothouse, a slender but devastating collection of poems, Tom Holt's Nothing but Blue Skies, The World's Greatest Art: Art Nouveau and The World's Greatest Art: Art Deco both by Camilla de la Bedoyere, and Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future ed. by Ly de Angeles, Emma Restall Orr and Thom van Dooren. I also have Saturday off.

This only takes me to 49. I think I can become comfortable with this score. It's pretty damn close to 50, and while it's a significantly lower number of books than I was expecting to read, there are two huge factors at play -

1) The no rereads rule. I have only re-read a single book this year, and that's a huge change in my reading patterns. Usually if I'm bored but feeling uninspired, I'd tear through a Pratchett or one of my YA books for something to do. With the rule in play, I've instead spent that time online puttering around.

2) No reading before bed. I share a bed these days, and since the other occupant regularly turns in a bit earlier than I do, I'm not comfortable turning the lights back on. I don't want to wake him up, so I've given up my two hour pre-sleep reading sessions.

I'd be cool with a list in the high forties. I'm not certain I'll finish Pagan Visions, since it suffers from a really huge difference in quality from one essay to the next. Some of the ones I've read thus far have been brilliant; others were a trial to finish. But we'll see.

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