Saturday 28 September 2019

What I've Been Reading Recently

The world turns and a lot of politics happen, yet there are some constants. Boris Johnson scandals. Michael Barrymore comebacks. My nose in books. It's now time for our three-monthly pause to consider what has got read and discarded like so many used batteries.

Marx at the Arcade by Jamie Woodcock
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
Conspiracy Theories by Mark Fenster
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The State in Capitalist Society by Ralph Miliband
Capitalist Democracy in Britain by Ralph Miliband
Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
A Quiet Life by Beryl Bainbridge
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
Political Parties and the Concept of Power by Danny Rye
High-Rise by JG Ballard
Fever City by Tim Baker
The Making of the Indebted Man by Maurizio Lazzarato
Thatcher and Friends by John Ross
All the Truth Is Out by Matt Bai
The Accusation by Bandi
The Body edited by Mike Featherstone, Mike Hepworth, and Bryan S Turner
A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
Eclipse by John Banville
Political Parties in Britain, 1783-1867 by Eric J Evans
H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker
Antwerp by Roberto BolaƱo
Tories, Conservatives, and Unionists 1815-1914 by Duncan Watts
The Crow Road by Iain Banks
Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation by Dorothea Olkowski

Plenty to talk about, but it's late. But some very good stuff here. Three recommendations, if I may. Auster's 4 3 2 1 is as good as it is chunky. If you're a fan of his writer-writing-about-writers shtick, you'll lap it up. If you're not, then still give it a stab. His work tends to drift between the self-consciously arty and postmodern and the straightforwardly literary. This manages to be as accessible as The Brooklyn Follies but as complexly plotted as anything else he has done. In my opinion, the crowning achievement of his career. Jo Baker's A Country Road, A Tree is a studied and exquisitely written imagining of Samuel Beckett's life in Occupied France, his participation in resistance activities and the creeping sense of dread as his friends and acquaintances are swallowed up by the Gestapo. And lastly, I don't know why and I can't put my finger on it, but ever since reading Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea I've acquired a thing for novels set in mouldy old houses. For that reason alone John Banville's Eclipse gets the nod.

What have you been reading lately?

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mikenotts said...

"the deluge" Adam Tooze (v.good, "The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy" was superb);

"Stoner" John Williams; bought on fervent twitter recommendations; no; I see its appeal but it didn't "answer" for me (copyright Beatrice Webb's Scottish housekeeper re. BW's return from Stalin's Russia - "did it answer?")

"The Thirties" Malcolm Muggeridge (a re-read - bought on Abebooks, publ. 1940 "slightly foxed" - copyright Pr.Eye - surprisingly good, his one good book);

"Momento Mori", Muriel Spark - a small masterpiece and very very funny (sitting-on-your-own laugh out loud funny); and psychologically spot-on about old age and extreme old age; She was such a tory as well as an old-style catholic but this works for her in books like this.

"The Gettysburg Campaign", Edwin B. Coddington publ. 1968. Old fashioned (an academic describing eye-watering mass slaughter - pre-anesthetic - and handing out moral judgement on backbone etc) but pretty good.

Only the first two were newly bought. I've reached the stage identified by E. Waugh to A. Powell (he could reread "Dance" every few years with ever fresh enjoyment as it dropped out of memory).

Looking forward to your book.

asquith said...

Banks is a fine author, I haven't read the Crow Road but I did enjoy his tour of whisky distilleries, Raw Spirit, during my trip to Scotland. My Edinburgh and Glen Affric reading was as follows.

RLS- Jekyll & Hyde
James Hogg- Justified Sinner (the ultimate Edinburgh book imho)
Ian Rankin- The Naming of the Dead
Andy Wightman- The Poor Had No Lawyers
Samuel Johnson & James Boswell books about their journey to the Highlands & Islands in 1773 (can be bought as one volume)
Boswell- Edinburgh Journals
George Monbiot- Feral (the whole reason I was in Glen Affric in the first place)
Graham Harvey- The Forgiveness of Nature
RLS- Kidnapped

Now looking forward to the new Bernard Cornwell & Dominic Sandbrook!

Anonymous said...

Liked The Crow Road and The Year of the Flood, though I wouldn't call either of them the writers' best works. I found 4321 slow, uninspiring and paint-by-numbers, and less than brilliantly written.

I've been reading Kathleen Winter's Boundless and Matt Taibbi's Insane Clown President. The former is very inspiring, and the latter . . . well . . .