Archive - April 2016

1
My Favourite Books I
2
7 Dystopian Novels
3
5 Good Books You Probably Haven’t Read
4
Symbiosis Sale Ends Today
5
Controversial Authors Part II

My Favourite Books I

This week’s blog post is dedicated to 6 books that I would recommend. The choices reflect my eclectic reading tastes. Click on the links to read my reviews.

 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar

Protagonist Esther Greenwood’s year in the ‘bell jar’ as she describes it, culminates in her being institutionalised in a mental health facility. This erudite and humorous semi-autobiographical novel adeptly explores an emotionally disturbed mind. Click here to read my review.

Genre: Semi-Autobiographical

 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is a former POW serving a 10 year term in a Gulag on the Kazakh steppe for being a spy. He is innocent. The book chronicles a single day of his existence, beginning with a 5 a.m. reveille. Our protagonist, having been deemed not to have risen from bed on time…(more)

Type: Novella

 

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

TheRadetzkyMarch

Joseph Roth’s most famous and acclaimed novel is in essence a meditation on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The author successfully captures the pomp, pageantry and formality of the dwindling years of the Habsburg dynasty. The story follows three generations of the Trottas(more)

Genre: Foreign-Language Classic

 

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Post Office

This darkly humorous, semi-autobiographical work is about Charles Bukowski’s years spent working for the United States Postal Service. It describes the banality, dehumanisation and hardship of unskilled drudgery. Henry Chinaski is a heavy drinking, womanising, race track frequenting low-life…(more)

Genre: Transgressive

 

Necropolis by Guy Portman

Necropolis

Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council. Dyson is intelligent, incisive and informed. He is also a sociopath. Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct world in which we live. ‘The book is full of razor-sharp satire.’…(more) Crime Fiction Lover (Britain’s Biggest Crime Fiction review website)

Genre: Black Comedy

 

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter is a very detailed, six hundred and sixty page true crime classic, complete with photographs, that leaves the reader feeling that they have lived through the Charles Manson murder trial. The book provides an insight into the mind of a cult leader, his followers and the workings of the California legal system of the time…(more)

Genre: True Crime

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. There are likely to be further instalments at some point in the not too distant future.

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7 Dystopian Novels

As I have read a fair bit of dystopian literature of late, I am devoting this week’s blog post to the subject.

Definition: Dystopian literature is a genre of fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world.’…(more)

Here are 7 dystopian novels by 7 different authors, all of which I have read. They are presented in chronological order.

 

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (1895)

The Time Machine

H. G. Wells’s seminal work is about a man who builds himself a time machine, and then travels over 800,000 years into the future. At first it appears this world is a wonderful place, but the Traveller soon discovers that there is a sinister, hidden subterranean class. This bestseller is credited with launching the time-travel genre.

My Review: N/A

Rating: Good

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World

Brave New World utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient in its prediction of a science-controlled, consumer culture.

My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma. Helicopters serve as the primary mode of transport. Entertainment takes…(more)

My Rating: Good

 

1984 by George Orwell (1949)

1984

This dystopian classic is set in a world of constant war, government surveillance and manipulation. The novel’s protagonist works for the Ministry of Truth, which is responsible for historical revisionism and propaganda. 1984 warns of totalitarian censorship. It has been viewed as controversial since its publication due to its themes of nationalism and censorship.

My Review: N/A

My Rating: Excellent

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

Fahrenheit 451

There is much to ponder in this satirical book whose motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. Bradbury’s seminal work predicts our increasing obsession with mass media.

My Review: Books are banned in this dystopian world, where firemen are employed to burn them. Guy Montag is a fireman, who lives an unfulfilling existence with Mildred, his sedentary, parlour-consuming wife: parlours being an in-house form of entertainment…(more)

My Rating: Quite Good

 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a controversial book whose themes include behaviourism, free will and the role of the state. It employs an imaginary teenage dialect called ‘nadsat’.

My Review: Alex is an eccentric 15-year-old delinquent with a penchant for classical music and drinking milk. He and his fellow ‘droogs’ assault, rob and rape with impunity, that is until a serious incident sees him arrested and incarcerated…(more)

My Rating: Good

 

The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)

Man in High Castle

This alternative history dystopia is set in a world in which the allies lost The War. It is a somewhat chaotic work containing many intrigues.

My Review: After the allies lost World War II America was divided in half. The Germans occupied the east, the Japanese the west. It is now 1962. Robert Childan is the owner of an Americana antiques shop in San Francisco…(more)

My Rating: Okay but convoluted.

 

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (1975)

High-Rise

High-Rise is a tale about how the social order can fragment. Tense, bleak and satirical, it explores the connection between technology and the human condition.

My Review: Set in an apartment tower block in London, High-Rise is a dystopian tale about the intense animosity that develops between the building’s various floors. The story centres around three main characters – Robert Laing, an instructor at…(more)

My Rating: Quite Good

 

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5 Good Books You Probably Haven’t Read

This week’s blog post is dedicated to 5 good books that you probably haven’t read. Perhaps I am being presumptuous and you have read them. Anyway here they are:

 

The Legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth (1939)

The Legend of the Holy Drinker

Genre: General Fiction

This compact and wistful novella is a great introduction to Joseph Roth’s writing. The Austro Hungarian author succumbed to a premature alcohol related death shortly after finishing this allegorical tale about seeking redemption.

My Review: The story is about an alcoholic tramp by the name of Andreas, who lives under bridges of the river Seine in Paris.  Andreas finds himself in luck when he is given two hundred francs by a stranger, which allows him to recapture something of his pre-tramp existence… (More)

 

Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac (1959)

Maggie Cassidy

Genre: Semi Autobiographical

Maggie Cassidy is a meditation on being in love and youthful innocence. Unlike Kerouac’s seminal work, On the Road, it has a more conventional prose style. This is a captivating book full of profound insights.

My Review: Set in the close-knit working-class French-Canadian community of Lowell, Massachusetts, Maggie Cassidy is a semi-autobiographical account of Kerouac’s adolescence. The story is recounted through the teenage mind of the author’s alter ego, Jack Duluoz…(More)

 

Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev (1934)

Novel with Cocaine

Genre: Transgressive

This is a nihilistic and philosophical novel about adolescence and addiction that could be described as Dostoyevskian. Since the time of its publication in book form there has been intense speculation over who wrote it.

My Review: Set in the years immediately before and after the Russian Revolution, Novel with Cocaine follows the life of Vadim, a Moscow adolescent and student. Vadim is prone to self-loathing and disdainful of others, none more so than his mother, whose… (More)

 

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck (1947)

The Wayward Bus

Genre: General Fiction

Although The Wayward Bus is one of Steinbeck’s lesser known novels, it is in this reader’s opinion one of his best. The author’s deep understanding of human nature is in evidence throughout.

My Review: An unlikely group of characters are travelling through rural South California by bus.  In his unique style Steinbeck proceeds to explore each personality in intricate detail; their inhibitions, motivations, intimate thoughts and hopes for the future… (More)

 

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (1939)

the Day of the Locust

Genre: Modernist

The Day of the Locust is a short, plotless and poignant novel with a surreal aspect that is prescient in its prediction of the Hollywood-obsessed society of today, with its fixation on celebrity and image.

My Review: Talented artist Tod Hackett has relocated to Los Angeles where he is working as a movie set designer. Tod develops an infatuation for Faye – a beautiful, blonde and brazen aspiring actress, and sometime call girl. When her father, a vaudevillian…(More)

 

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Symbiosis Sale Ends Today

Get my Psychological Thriller Symbiosis today for only 99c/99p (Usual Price: $3.99/£2.86). Available from Amazon (US & UK).

Symbiosis

Perceptive and poignant, Symbiosis explores our enduring fascination with twins and the complexities of twinship.

Identical twins Talulah and Taliah have never been apart. Viewed as curiosities by children and adults alike, they coexist in an insular world with their own secret language. But being identical doesn’t necessarily mean being equal…

Soon a series of momentous events will send Talulah and Taliah spiralling out of control, setting them on a collision course with a society that views them as two parts of a whole. Will their symbiotic relationship survive?

Symbiosis was released at the end of January.

Symbiosis

Sale ends today Tuesday April 12th.

Amazon US (99c) & Amazon UK (99p) — also available in paperback.

 

 

Controversial Authors Part II

2 weeks ago I wrote a blog post about history’s most controversial authors. Part 2 is devoted to 8 more recent/contemporary controversial authors. They are presented in the order in which they were born.

 

John SteinbeckJohnSteinbeck(February 27th 1902 – December 20th 1968)

John Steinbeck is one of the most acclaimed literary figures America has ever produced. His accolades include The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1940) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1962). He was highly critical of America’s economic policies, and a fervent supporter of unionisation. These views made him a reviled figure in some circles. His seminal work, The Grapes of Wrath, was burned on 2 separate occasions in his hometown of Salinas.

 

George OrwellGeorgeOrwell(June 25th 1903 – January 21st 1950)

George Orwell was opposed to totalitarianism and committed to democratic socialism, ideals that resulted in the author often courting controversy. His allegorical novella, Animal Farm, was seen as being highly critical of Stalin’s rule. Animal Farm and his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, were banned in the USSR. Orwell’s  accounts of poverty in The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London did not endear him to all in his home country.

 

William S. BurroughsWilliamBurroughs(February 5th 1914 – August 2nd 1997)

William S. Burroughs was at forefront of the Beat generation, influencing the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs was a controversial character with a penchant for rent boys and heroin. His writing is characterised as being sardonic, dark and often humorous. Arguably his most famous book, the non-linear Naked Lunch was viewed as so scandalous at the time of its publication that it underwent a court case under U.S. obscenity laws.

 

Alexsandr SolzhenitsynSolzhenitsyn(December 11th 1918 – August 3rd 2008)

Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, whose accolades included winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. His novella, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is widely considered the most powerful indictment of the USSR’s gulag system ever written. In 1973 the first of his three-volume account about life in the gulags, The Gulag Archipelago, caused such outrage in the Soviet Union that he was expelled from the country.

 

Salman RushdieSalmanRushdie(Born: June 19th 1947)

Rushdie’s second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981. His fourth book, The Satanic Verses, was deemed offensive by many Muslims, as it refers to a number of allegedly pagan verses, temporarily included in the Qur’an and later removed. When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa against the author in 1989, Rushdie was rushed into protective custody, as rioting, book burnings and fire-bombings raged through the Muslim world.

 

Chuck PalahniukChuckPalahniuk(Born: February 21st 1962)

Palahniuk has constantly courted controversy with the content of his books; no mean feat in today’s era of tolerance. His short story, Guts, about masturbation accidents, contained in his book, Haunted, was met with such shock that people even passed out at public readings. Haunted is often voted in polls as one of the most disturbing books ever written. It has been banned along with the author’s other works in many schools.

 

Taslima NasrinTaslima Nasreen(Born: 25 August 1962)

Themes in controversial Bangladeshi author and poet Taslima Nasreen’s writing include female oppression and graphic language. When she criticised Islamic philosophy in her book Lajja (1993), a radical fundamentalist organisation called the Council of Islamic Soldiers offered a bounty for her head. The following year she fled Bangladesh to West Bengal. Concerns for her safety culminated in the author going into hiding in New Delhi. In 2015 she moved to the US.

 

Bret Easton EllisEaston-Ellis(Born: March 7th 1964)

Bret Easton Ellis’s third novel, the infamous American Psycho, caused uproar even before its release date. The book was viewed by many in the literary establishment as scandalous, due to its explicit violent sexual content, and its perceived misogynistic elements. Easton-Ellis has continued to court controversy ever since, not only through his books, but also with his incendiary Tweeting habits, which have included Tweets on such sensitive subjects as HIV and Aids.

 

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