Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wordy Mid-Year Retrospective Hoedown

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention and while I feel that’s true I maintain that Boredom is easily Necessities slightly younger and probably much kinkier sister, because no one ever invented the flying lotus position out of necessity. Since practically everything I do is done to light a candle in the shire to her great goddess Boredom I’ve decided to hold a half-yearly retrospective, counting down the first six books of the year and how, if at all, have my feelings on them have changed with the ever persistent march of time. Will they be remembered fondly in the soft hue of rose petals like the first tender kiss of a former love or will they be pushed into the darkest corners of the conscious mind like the first stubbly gin-soaked kiss of a gym teacher?

#6. Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho

If I’ve learned one thing while looking back it’s that I should have been meaner to this book at the time I wrote it’s review. In the months since I keep thinking I must have forgotten something about this book because what I remember is as thin and unappealing as a vanilla wafer under Rosie O’Donnell’s bum. But no, it turns out that I remember it quite accurately and the whole thing is just unimpressive, posing with pretention claiming to be about the sanctity of sacred sex and the diminishing effect on the spirit its absence has but practically has nothing to say about it, less a journey through a young woman’s awakening and more the story about a girl who gets feelings for anyone who gives her an orgasm and even that makes it sound more interesting than it deserves. When cunnilingus could solve your plots major complication you have a stupid plot unless you’re writing Fifty Shades More: Even Shadier.

#5. The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

Maybe it doesn’t belong this far down the list but while I didn’t actually dislike my first outing with Mrs. Christie I still come back to the point that it’s most noteworthy attribute is its big plot reveal which basically ruins it as a mystery to begin with. It’s one thing to misdirect by sleight of hand it’s another entirely to misdirect by misinformation and then yell ‘gotcha’. Afterward I found that the twist reveal was really the only thing I thought about, the rest a stock standard mystery that quickly faded away like time on a summer’s afternoon or a fart in a wind tunnel and if all I have to think about is a plot twist I didn’t much care for then maybe MRA does deserve it’s #5 rank after all.

#4. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

I’ve put this at the midway point because that’s honestly how I feel about it, not that it’s better than The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd but that I feel totally neutral about it. I neither loved nor hated it, like nor dislike, I feel the same towards ACoD as I do towards Adelaide or a child’s laughter. The only real feeling associated with it is the fact that I think my review of it is the worst one I’ve done here. In it I tried to rationalise that the humour may have been lost on me because while the ‘hilariously inappropriate man does hilariously inappropriate things’ motif might have been new and exciting at its time it’s something I’ve seen quite a few times before and thus I don’t find much humour in Ignatius’ supposedly shocking shenanigans (dibs on the a band name). Maybe it’s me and I’m missing something but I’m pretty certain that it’s just everyone else, because it usually is.
Actually if I have any other feelings on this book it’s good ol’ contempt towards all those fans who pretend they’ve actually read Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy upon which the book is based.
Because they didn’t.
No, you didn’t.

#3. A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick

Gaining buckets of hate from Shayna and saucepans full of like from me A Scanner Darkly is easily the most unusual and contested books at this halfway point. Its thick and murky writing style makes it the jawbreaker of fiction; difficult but satisfying, ungainly but engaging which is exactly how the story of a stoned undercover narcotics agent losing his identity and sanity should be. It’s a novel that creates character connection with immersion and confusion rather than empathy, even if that immersion is difficult. Sure it’s not for everyone but then again what is?
The Muppets, I guess, everyone loves the Muppets. And Batman.

#2. The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

I may rip on our inaugural book The Luminaries a lot but it’s only because its few shitty bits stand out like drops of bird poop on an otherwise superb diamond sculpture of a nude Milla Jovovich. Actually that might be too high a praise for anything, let alone something I’m giving the runner-up prize so let’s change that to a sapphire sculpture of a bikini clad Anna Kendrick, its writing polished to a mirror shine which is tarnished only by the stains of a pointless and constrictive narrative device and the sudden use of magic in an otherwise excellent period drama mystery which set the high benchmark for every other book to follow and was only surpassed by…

Honourable Mention: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

This is currently the best book I’ve read independently of the book club this year, unless you count the series Locke & Key which concluded this year. The sole reason I didn’t chose something else by Shirley Jackson for my selection is because none of her books are more than a few hundred pages. Haunting of Hill House is eerie, immersive and thankfully having little in common with its movie adaptation this is character driven horror with just the right kind of ambiguity to make me want to stop an unrelated article to mention it. Anyway…

#1 Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood

And so we come to Orange and Cake, a classic post apocalypse story told with a great deal of humanity with which I only have some minor issues and is otherwise a great read. I still stand by what I said in my original review though, the third acts a bit rushed and there are certain elements that never felt fleshed out but consider everything else praise by exception and thus makes Oryx and Crake the winner of this half-year round-up, so basically winner of half a trophy, let’s say the base half with the ruby statue of Eva Green in a negligee to come, assuming that it’s still at the top of the pile at the end of the year and I can find a sculptor who specialises in pagan idols of Hollywood actresses.

Written by lead guitarist of Shocking Shenanigans, B.T. Calloway