Books Read

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Lolita – I read it many years ago and decided to check if my thoughts are fogged in nostalgia or whether it really is written as well as I remembered. The latter is true. It could never been written in this era but the wordplay, especially on such a subject, is truly dark, astonishing and poetic.

A History of London Life – a book bought for a few pounds in Oxford last summer, written by two female professors and containing immense detail and humour about the city going back a 1000 years.

Don Quixote – I decided to try and while it is amusing and clearly a hugely impressive work, its huge and uncarryable to Singapore. I’ll finish it later.

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Train Dreams – Denis Johnson’s study of a lonely, lost man is brilliant. A great writer.

Iran: A Revolutionary History – A lot of background information into a deeply complex country and culture. Iran is like very little else.

Caligula – Camus’ best play pushing existentialism and absurdity to logic levels with his portrait of power, grief and tragedy.

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2666 – Roberto Bolano’s final book confirming what we lost too soon. Grand, funny and poignant.

Greatpowers

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers – Paul Kennedy masterpiece of political history rounding out what we suspected that war, economy and destiny are intimately linked.

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Books Read

The Life You Can Save – Peter Singer

Philosopher Singer discusses how we should give to charity and breaks down the numbers rather than just rationalises. It really costs very little. Though strangely i would have preferred more rationalising as I give monthly anyway to Cancer Research.

The Plundered Planet – Paul Collier

Oxford don Collier delivers cost/benefit analysis of resource extraction taking into account the unknown future as well as the best ways to invest that bonus. Its a good book with solid argument against the exploitation of resources and the rabid talk of some environmental groups. However his anslysis still falls slightly down on the side of big business failing to grasp the all-mighty structural issues involved.

A Concise History of Bulgaria

I saw it in the library and thought why not. Interesting read. Constant revolutions, long Ottoman dominance and a picture of a rural country under constant stress.

The Soccer War – Rychard Kapuscinski

I love Kapuscinski’s cultural and politcial journies throughout the world. This book written when he was the sole Polish foreign correspondent in the 1960s/1070s involves the wars in Somalia, Togo and later Honduras. Not only does he writes with a constant cultural reference, his isnide track, bravery and lyricism conjures up the sweat and fear brilliantly.

Derrida – Key Concepts

Nonsense.

Books & Music

I’ve been darn busy of late, running North to Nottingham for friends and parties, East to London for book launches, gigs, conferences and catch-up and South to Brighton to see Anna and West to Devon and Cardiff. At the same time, I’m working options but more about that later. I’m waiting for a few things to come through so I’ll hold fire from here.

Before the below, I’d like to thank Tiara for the birthday present. It arrived this week, precisely one month late and is entirely appropriate. I’ll be reading that over the next few months. Thanks x 🙂

New Music

Feist – Metals – I like this album. She can play, sing and feel.

Talking Heads – Yeah its not new but I’m back into them.

Daniel Johnston – Crazy, mentally and musically, Johnston is hugely gifted, his lyrics and music should be grating but you keep listening.

Tom Waits – Bad Like Me – Its basically Tom all over.

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – Huge as ever.

Class Actress – more modern electronica a la Cults. Good though.

Books Read

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver – They just made a film of it. Like the Stranger by Camus, modern people can understand the feelings of alienation and ambiguity.

Life is Elsewhere – Milan Kundera’s characters yet again love, get confused, hope for control and muse over life.

History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith – Gilbert Rist is one of the major names in development and is particularly critical of the structure within which it operates. This is his only book in English and its a very wry historical talk.

King Leopold’s Ghost is a detailed account of King Leopold’s take-over and exploitation of Congo at the end of the nineteenth century. Pretty shocking and brutal stuff. From an unclaimed territory to political mess it is now.

Promises Not Kept is another account of the West’s failure to fulfil its promises.

Africa Today: Culture, Economics, Religion and Security – a statistical and anthropological overview of modern Africa.

The Bottom Billion – Paul Collier is an Oxford economist explaining development failures through the traps of conflict, resources, aid and governance. Its fairly enlightening, to the degree I bought it though it does tend to take the situation as it is, a la Jeffrey Sachs, ignoring the structural systems of neo-liberalism.

See a pattern! 🙂

Just finished

 

I think most journalists are pretty lazy, number one. A little lazy and also they’re spoon-fed information, such as the weapons of mass destruction back in 2003….you have these people who create a package of news, develop it as a story line, a scenario, and they find, as Mailer once said about the press, that they’re like a donkey. You have to feed the donkey. The donkey every day has to eat. So [special interests] throw information at this damn animal that eats everything. Tin cans, garbage. – Gay Talese

I’ve just finished Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, his exhaustive journalist book covering the execution of Gary Gilmore in 1977. Mailer, the man who brawled with actors over their credibility and the only white journalist allowed into Muhammad Ali’s training camps, took on unglamourous topics, researched and edited them thoroughly over many years and published the complete stories without thought for the casual reader.

Also finished:

Inherent Vice – Thomas Pynchon

A detective story set in California in the late 1960s with as stoned P.I. Doc Sportello investigates a missing billionaire and the murder of his bodyguard. Its cheesy, charming and for Pynchon pretty readable.

Unforgiveable Blackness – Geoffrey C. Ward

The story of Jack Johnson, the first Black Heavyweight champion of the world in an era of overt racism is an excellent historical study of Johnson’s pursuit of the title and the contrversy caused by his relationships with white women in turn of the century America.

Hands of Stone by Christian Guidice

A biography of Roberto Duran. Excellent details of the fights of Duran’s great career but lacking real insight into what made him tick. The lack of amateur psychology could be a credit but with such an emotional and angry boxer, some analysis would work.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

I didn’t know for a long while. A short ramble through the dreams of a dying priest. Hard to follow what is happening for a while but then suddenly, as the story races through Europe, Pinochet and his Generals and the ever-present poet Neruda, only the lack of sleep prevents you from finishing it on my sofa.

Next on the bedside table, on the bus or train..

Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden – the hunt for Pablo Escobar

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

The Savage Mind by Levi Strauss

The Human Stain by Philip Roth