Thursday, 11 August 2011

Half Read Round Up

There've been a few interesting and not so interesting books I've made a stab at in the past month or two.

Somersault by Kenzaburo Oe - I made it to page 70, when two characters started to disect the work of an obscure Welsh poet.  No.  Pretentious and dull.

Man Without a Face by Markus Wolf - The memoirs of East Germany's legendary spy-master.  A fascinating and well written account by a man clearly still wrestling with his conscience.  Turns out they never even told him the Berlin Wall was going up.  Plays havoc with your spy network, that kind of thing.


 Byzantium by Judith Herrin - Right up my street, but never grabbed me for some reason.  I can recommend a book I read a year or two back called Justinian's Flea, which looks more closely at that Emperor's reign, and the devastating impact of the Black Death.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville - Alright, I've thrown in the towel on this one.  Brilliant first half - grimy fantasy steampunk with sentient beetles and cacti.  A wonderfully realised world with lots of colour.  Unfortunately half way through all the plot lines seem to be abandoned while everyone looks for a monster.  Lost interest.

Mao's Last Revolution by Roderick McFarquhar and Michael Shoenhals - A fascinating period of history.  It takes balls to start a revolution.  It takes massive swinging counterintuitive balls to start a revolution in a country you're already in charge of.  This is a very well researched and detailed account of who did what, when.  But I think the problem is, not of that really mattered.   None of the cultural revolution made any sense, so the maneuverings of various loathsome apparatchiks (with names which are way too similar) became depressing and repetitive.

The Man Who Ate Bluebottles by Catherine Caufield - A list of first class weirdos, from psychopathic duelists to rich tramps and from hermits and misers to clergymen who decided to eat everything on Earth (William Buckland of the title - bluebottles and moles came bottom of his list.)  I also liked the first entry - John Alington, who made his estate workers build replicas of the streets of London, the Battle of Sebastapol and even the British Isles in the duck pond.  He performed religious ceremonies on a four wheel bike, while wearing a leopard skin and shoving snuff in people's faces.  Alington also enjoyed being carried around his estate in an open coffin.  Proper bonkers.

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