Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Making of Hitchcock's the Birds by Tony Lee Moral

"But first they had to catch the birds - and that was far from easy".

While this attempts to distance itself from some of the more outlandish stories that abound regarding the making of this unforgettable Hitchcock classic ( see for a sample). It remains an utterly compelling read and possibly more so for its less salacious stand point.

There is something about the combination of a Daphne du Maurier source work ( Rebecca being one of my faves) and the mastery of Hitchcock that combine for cinematic brilliance. That being said the almost complete re-write carried out by Evan Hunter can’t be discounted and his tales of serfdom are an essential element of the book’s charm.

My favourite character in the Hitchcock team is, apart from Alma, the always amazing Edith Head. Her creations were always revelatory and the thought process behind them fascinating. Tony Lee Moral provides delightful insights into the production that make you feel almost part of it, although thankfully not literally part of it- some of those trained birds could still be intimidating.

5 out of 5 murders of crows.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau

“The Antiquarian is a personage cloistered in a tower of books and sun-faded bundles of paper, ever a stranger to the world around him.”

The first thing that struck me about this novel is the savage beauty of the words on the page. There is something otherworldly and amazing about the way it is written and I wonder whether that reflects the native novel or can be, in part perhaps, attributable to the work of the translator. In a similar vein, this novel is chock full of violence and death and darkness and yet it retains this air of seductive mystery which draws you into its dreamlike pages.

The quote I've posted above really struck a chord, it reminded me of being lost in a sea of books to lock out the real life horrors of the world, and if you watch the news there are more and more each day.

On a more positive note, it is a rare work that really surprises. I had no idea where this was going and the combination of madness and suspense is intoxicating for the reader. Plot wise however, the novel did not  fully imprint on my memory - perhaps a re-read is in order.

4 out of 5 psychiatric wards contain nutters.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ethics by Benedict De Spinoza

"Anything whatever can be the accidental cause of hope or fear"

Well I struggled through this one. I would love to share some enlightening and erudite thoughts but my mind was taxed by the less than secular aspects of this well known work.
The central premise seems to be to link everything back to because god is x, then y is z. 
Spinoza goes on and on and on and on and it seems there was not a thought he didn't feel like sharing.
Perhaps I was not in the mood to interrogate the text too closely, it has, after all been a long week.

1 out of 5 philosophers engage in navel gazing.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Requiem for a dream by Hubert Selby Jnr

"The red dress fits, her hair is like Rita Hayworth, her gold shoes sparkle and she was going to be on the television, a dream, a dream and she should be happy, she should be happy!!!!"

Things not to read when you’re under a lot of stress and living on long blacks, I present exhibit A. I was compelled to throw myself into the mire of despair that is this novel on my never-ending quest to complete the 1001 novels to read before you die list and also despite having seen the unforgettable film version.

Anyone who has seen the film, or read the novel, will tell you that this is a story you will find difficult to erase from your mind. It feels strangely contemporary, given its vintage, it was first published in 1978. Certainly some of the drug parlance might have changed, but the circumstances remain the same, heroin is a fair weather friend and diet pills line the path to madness.

For some interesting insight into the author see
The novel has a somewhat addictive voice, it draws you in, and before you know it you’re hooked – bang on given the subject matter. 

5 out of 5 highs come down low.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq

"He had been car­ry­ing con­doms around for years and had never used one of them—after all, whores al­ways had their own."

I'm pretty sure I once swore off reading any more Houellebecq after The Possibility of an Island,  but my commitment to making  a dent into the 1001 novel list meant that wasn't on the cards. How to summarise this book, hmm.... sex and death.
I finished it more depressed than when I opened it and I'd had a pretty ordinary day at work.

Here is a novel that explores the endless possibility ignited by sexual awakening, the guilt, the weirdness and it's inevitable climax in the loss of fecundity, and the rot of old age. Disease, flabby skin and inability to perform set the horrendous scene of the outlook of post middle age. Perhaps if I was younger I would look more favourably on this book given that it is written with dexterous skill; but man, it was just a major buzz kill.

Houellebecq does have an amazing and visceral way with words, I think I just needed something a little bit more upbeat this week, something happier than loose lady bits, ineffectual orgies and messed up relationships - I'm talking about the book people - minds out of the gutter. That being said, if any of these subjects appeal, then knock yourself out reading this one.

3 out of 5 things get worse with age apparently

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

“He stomps out of the shed and comes back with a wild eyed sheep, the one with black spots on her nose.”

This winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin award ( and apparently a raft of other accolades) is a strange beastie that took me a little longer to finish than I would anticipate of a 240 page novel. This is a novel of mutilated sheep, upset birds and misery drifting back and forward in a non-lineal fashion to potentially reveal the sources of Jake Whyte’s (the girl with the boy’s name) torments.

Definitely a good book club choice as it is strange and unusual enough to foster discussion – as the publishers have hit on .

There are some harrowing scenes, incrementally revealed which go some way to explain Jake's flight to a remote island on the other side of the world. As a moody thriller, it is certainly sure to capture your attention, if you're like me, it just might not deliver the resolution you seek.

4 out of 5 lamb chops.