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Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.
Oreo is a lost novel from 1975 novel by Fran Ross. Reedist says it deserves to be rediscovered:
Incredibly vital, clever writing about family, identity and race, also laugh-out-loud funny and profoundly erudite and incidentally allegorical. A real find, thank you library. Can’t believe this book is so little-known, though it’s very plain that it was years ahead of its time. Highly recommended.
And it’s a great read! The hook is supposed to be Arthur’s sword, Excalibur (Caledfwlch here) but in fact this is a family history through the 20th century, starting with the sinking of the Titanic and encompassing the first, second and (to a lesser extent) the cold wars, all seen through the eyes of a Russian/Welsh family. There’s Welsh Revolutionaries as well as the usual Russian ones, and first world war antics from someone who almost never gets to the front. A gorgeous percussionist allows Burgess to show off his knowledge and love of music (he composed, too). And the second world war is viewed from the story of a POW who has to walk across a shattered Europe when the war ends.
Is it all a bit too much, and is Burgess trying too hard at times? Well yes, but I’d rather read an author who makes an effort to entertain while telling his story. The characters are well drawn and the whole is great fun. I’m glad I stumbled upon it.
A powerful and frightening novel of Trump’s America and its problematic relationship with firearms. In one of the book’s many memorable scenes young Pearl, whose home for her first 14 years has been a wrecked car on a seedy Florida trailer park, is smuggled across the Mexican border hidden in the backseat of a car with guns covering her; the border guards will turn a blind eye to the guns, but not to a child.
For me, as a professional scientist, this was a fascinating insight into the earliest origins of what became the scientific movement in Europe. Bruno, who lived shortly after Copernicus, is probably most famous today for having proposed that the stars were distant suns surrounded by their own planets, and raising the possibility that these planets might foster life. However, if you thought that what prompted Bruno in these notions was anything we might recognise as “scientific thinking” you would be quite wrong. Bruno was a renaissance Magus and his thought was heavily informed by the Egyptian-Greek wisdom texts ascribed to Hermes Trimegistus. So Yates’ book describes, to some extent, how science developed out of (or transcended) magic. The Holy Inquisition was unimpressed and Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori in 1600.
It’s written like the recollection of a scene observed from a distance on a misty day decades ago, or a half-forgotten dream that nevertheless left an indelible imprint on you for reasons not quite known; it’s very short and the prose is written in what feels like a carefully calibrated metre to give the reading a palpable poetic rhythm; it’s stunning, really.
It’s a short novel, translated from Japanese, about a homeless man who narrates to us from beyond the grave the story of his life and his death. It’s a lot about the treatment of homelessness, the gap between rich and poor, and the paralysing effects of grief on a person. It’s told in kind of non-linear fragments, as our narrator both sees the present and seems to inhabit the past simultaneously, and so the story is sort of pieced together and filled out gradually as the book moves on. I thought it was marvellous.
Kennedy has been assassinated and Frank Guidry knows a little about the guys who did it. Problem is, knowing just a little is enough to get you whacked. So Guidry hits the road, headed for Las Vegas, his former mob boss’s goon on his tail.
Charlotte is sick of her life – small town, bland, with a drunk asshole husband to boot. One night she summons up the courage to bolt. She packs up her daughters and the dog and splits, heading west.
The funniest book ever written. Funnier than Don Quixote and Oliver Hardy. Finished it, went straight back to start and read it again. Ignatius Reilly. Just the name is enough to get me grinning now.
“Hugo cherishes the sky-scraping side of Gothic because it represents the opening of men’s minds…” John Sturrock on Victor Hugo and Notre Dame de Paris.
“So much survives, so much is lost.” Shakespeare and Company Paris have also honoured their neighbouring cathedral. (Scroll down.)
Persephone Books is 20.
Ian McEwan talks about machines in Edge.