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Smart Reads

I read voraciously, whatever I can get my hands on, but never in a car.

Currently reading

The Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud
The Dream Songs
John Berryman
Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness
Carolyn Forché

A wild linguistic ride

City of Bohane - Kevin Barry

To read Kevin Barry's "City of Bohane" is to experience a verbal cross of Joyce and Burgess, with perhaps a bit of Russell Hoban's "RIdley Walker" in the background. Joyce of course is no surprise -- this is Irish writing, after all -- and I am referring to the "Clockwork Orange" style of Anthony Burgess, with all the appropriate violence and mayhem in content and in style. Hoban I think of for the somewhat futuristic additions in this novel. At points I wondered if this could in fact be described as fantasy, but that would be stretching things unnecessarily.

There's humour here, to be sure, and a lovely quirk of describing what everyone looked like in a repeated refrain that runs throughout the book and finally becomes a little comfort in the midst of despair.

I won't talk about plot but do want to say this: it's clearly a man's fiction, with most of the characters male, and it could have used more character reveal, to my view. But that is clearly not the intent with this novel. It's something else. A real linguistic hurly burly, and well worth a look.

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds - Lyndall Gordon Fascinating history of the Dickinson family and the feuds following her death. If this were fiction it would be hard to believe. What a superb film this would make!

The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds - Kevin Powers One of the most outstanding, beautiful and memorable books I've read in a long time, and it is a book about the Iraq war written by a veteran of that war. It stands alongside "Matterhorn" and "The Things They Carried" for me, and that is high praise. Superb writing: poetic and surprising and challenging. Difficult at times, too. Beware and be warned.

Tenth of December: Stories

Tenth of December - George Saunders I cannot say enough about how good this book is. What a writer. Read it.

Gulag: A History

Gulag - Anne Applebaum Exhaustive and fascinating study of the history of the Gulag.

Dear Life

Dear Life: Stories - Alice Munro This book is so good I wished it would never end.

Y [Hardcover]

Y - Marjorie Celona Inasmuch as I admired sections of this, and the very end is great, I found it felt too much like short stories forced into the novel form. Marjorie is a talented writer and I look forward eagerly to what she writes next.

Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell

Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell - Gitta Sereny What a powerful book this is. So important on many levels and deeply moving. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the psychology of the outsider.