Archive - June 2017

The 9 Books I’ve Read in 2017
20 of Literature’s Funniest Quotes III
6 More Works of Dark Fiction
My Favourite Books (Part III)
20 of Literature’s Funniest Quotes II

The 9 Books I’ve Read in 2017

We are half way through 2017 already. Time flies. As is my habit at the half-way point, I am dedicating this blog post to the books that I have read so far this year. The following 9 books are presented in the order in which I read them. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess

Genre: Non Fiction

This biography of the notorious spy Guy Burgess recounts his life from birth through to premature death in Moscow, aged fifty-two in 1963. After spending his formative years at the naval college Dartmouth…(more)

My Rating: Absorbing


Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

Genre: Non Fiction

This award winning account of America’s opiate epidemic asserts that its origins are two-fold — the pharmaceutical industry and Mexican importation. In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced its new opiate-containing…(more)

My Rating: Compelling


Cold Comfort Farm

Genre: Satire

Although harbouring concerns about countryside living, recently orphaned, 19-year-old Flora Poste decides to go and live with relatives in rural Sussex. Her destination, the ramshackle and backward Cold Comfort…(more)

My Rating: Repetitive & somewhat overrated


On the Beach

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

World War III has culminated in atomic bombs being dropped on the northern hemisphere. The radiation is spreading steadily southwards on the winds, decimating populations in its wake. Stationed in Australia is American…(more)

My Rating: Excellent


I Am Charlotte Simmons

Genre: Satire

Appalachian wunderkind Charlotte Simmons has been awarded a scholarship to Dupont, an elite fictional university, steeped in tradition. Living amongst the cream of America’s youth is set to be a big change for a prudish girl, hailing…(more)

My Rating: Amusing but turgid


Newspaper Diapers

Genre: Transgressive

Newspaper Diapers consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes about child abuse and group homes being recounted by various perverse and narcissistic narrators. The line between abuser and victim is blurred in these traumatic...(more)

My Rating: Deeply disturbing


Race To The Bottom

Genre: Transgressive

Roy is a degenerate and borderline alcoholic with a menial job at retailer Bullseye that pays less than Walmart. Roy’s precarious existence takes a turn for the worse when his overweight girlfriend, fed up with him living on her couch…(more)

My Rating: A relatively entertaining light read


Tortilla Flat

Genre: General

Danny is an unemployed alcoholic, leading a transient existence in Monterrey, California. When Danny inherits two houses in the shabby district of Tortilla Flat, he invites a hobo friend and fellow paisano…(more)

My Rating: Good



Genre: Mystery/Crime/Romance

Our young, unnamed narrator is working as an assistant for a rich American woman in Monte Carlo. It is here that she meets recently widowed, forty-two-year-old Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter. Maxim is the proprietor of Manderley…(more)

My Rating: Excellent






20 of Literature’s Funniest Quotes III

This week sees the third and most likely final instalment in my Literature’s Funniest Quotes series. Here are 20 humorous quotes from literature.

A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle. — The Man Upstairs and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse

Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others. — The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce 

It’s safe to assume that by 2085 guns will be sold in vending machines but you won’t be able to smoke anywhere in America. — When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris 

Colin is a professional gamer, who also mourns part-time to help with the bills. — Necropolis by Guy Portman

I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it. — The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor

Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh? — Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

I don’t know how other men feel about their wives walking out on them, but I helped mine pack. — Breaking Up by Bill Manville

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. — Waiting by Ha Jin

‘How do you know about Megadeth anyway Percy?’
‘My daughter Beatrice listens to them,’ says Percy, his voice now taking a sombre tone. ‘She only wears black now and she’s umm well, she’s threatening to become a vampire.’ — Charles Middleworth by Guy Portman

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world. And there’s nothing wrong with my skills. — Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. — Matilda by Roald Dahl

A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience. —  Strictly Business by O. Henry

From politics, it was an easy step to silence. — Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.  The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. —  Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Alice, not his real name, works in the mailroom. I call him Alice because he looks just like the ageing rocker, Alice Cooper. Like the real Alice he sports a mane of black hair and wizened, heavily lined features, but for record sales read envelopes. — Necropolis by Guy Portman

Success in this world depends on knowing exactly how little effort each job is worth…distribution of energy… — Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh 

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. — The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams 

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now. — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them. — While Rome Burns by Dorothy Parker


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A Black Comedy of True Distinction





6 More Works of Dark Fiction

Dark Fiction is concerned with the sinister side of human nature. It is often distinguished from the mainstream horror genre in that it tends not to be fantasy-orientated. Dark fiction may contain elements of black or satirical humour.

Here are six works of dark fiction, some of which are humorous, some of which are anything but. They are presented in the order in which they were published. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)

Heart of Darkness is a disturbing, multi-layered story about what can occur when man exists outside of civilisation’s constraints. Readers are challenged to question the existence of being.

My Review: Heart of Darkness is a novella about a steamship sailing up a river through the jungles of The Congo, in search of Mr Kurtz, a mysterious ivory trader, who has reportedly turned native…(more)


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)

The Metamorphosis is a bleak, existential nihilistic tale that comments on the human condition and the futility of life. This reader appreciated its dark humour.

My Review: Protagonist Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. This awkward situation is exacerbated when Gregor’s boss turns up at his house…(more)


Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940) 

Koestler’s seminal work is a powerful and poignant political novel that examines issues of morality, particularly that of justifying the means by the end.

My Review: Darkness At Noon is dedicated to the victims of ‘The Moscow Trials’, several of whom the author Arthur Koestler knew. Though the characters in the book are fictitious, the historical circumstances…(more)


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

This satire of the yuppy culture of the 1980s comments on our obsession with the meaningless and trivial, and questions the inherent value of capitalist society.

My Review: American Psycho is a highly controversial novel that brought its young author Bret Easton Ellis instant fame. The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street…(more)


Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (1999)

The book’s premise, the superficial vanity of the beauty industry, is used both to explore the unattractive side of human nature and, in customary Palahniuk fashion, to satirise society.

My Review: Shannon McFarland is a catwalk model, who is the centre of attention wherever she goes. That is until she ‘accidentally’ blasts her jaw shot off with a gun whilst driving…(more)


Newspaper Diapers by M. T. Johnson (2012)

What this book lacks in length, it more than compensates for in disturbing, child abuse themed content. This harrowing work is one of the darkest books I have read to date.

My Review: Newspaper Diapers consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes about child abuse and group homes being recounted by various perverse and narcissistic narrators…(more)


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A Black Comedy of True Distinction

My Favourite Books (Part III)

This week sees the third instalment in my favourite books series. Click on the links to read my reviews.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 

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…(more)

Genre: Dystopia


On the Beach by Nevil Shute 

Published in 1957 On the Beach is a cautionary and timeless post-apocalyptic novel whose central theme is an exploration of how people confront imminent death.

My Review: World War III has culminated in atomic bombs being dropped on the northern hemisphere. The radiation is spreading steadily southwards on the winds, decimating populations in its wake. Stationed in Australia is American submarine captain Dwight Towers…(more)

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451’s motif is a warning about the threat posed by state censorship. It could be argued to be prescient in its prediction of 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)

Genre: Dystopia



Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 

Cancer Ward

Set in the post-Stalin era, Cancer Ward is an allegorical, semi-autobiographical novel, in which the cancer ward serves as a microcosm of Soviet society.

My Review: Oleg Kostoglotov, whose last name translates as ‘bone-chewer’, has been exiled in perpetuity to a village by the name of Ush-Terek, located on the steppe in Kazakhstan, a long way from home. Kostoglotov’s bad luck does not end there…(more)

Genre: Political Fiction


Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 

Easton Ellis’s debut novel is a nihilistic account of life in 1980s L.A. Utilising social commentary and plotless realism, Less Than Zero is a graphic and disturbing novel that is unrelenting in its bleakness.

My Review: Set in nineteen-eighties Los Angeles, the story follows eighteen-year-old Clay, returned home for Christmas from college in New Hampshire. Clay immediately falls back into the L.A. social scene, spending his time hanging-out with various wealthy teenagers who include…(more)

Genre: Transgressive


Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick 

Providing fascinating insights into North Korea, Nothing To Envy is an engrossing text that effortlessly captures the lives of its interviewed North Korean defector subjects.

My Review: Published in 2009, Nothing To Envy is a novelisation of interviews with various North Korean defectors, hailing from Chongjin, a bleak, northern industrial city, far from the country’s Potemkin village capital, Pyongyang. There is particular emphasis on the famine…(more)

Genre: Non Fiction


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20 of Literature’s Funniest Quotes II

Last week’s post was devoted to 20 of literature’s funniest quotes. This week sees the second instalment. Here are 20 more quotes from books that I think are amusing, and I hope you will too.

If you’re going to read this, dont bother. After a couple pages, you won’t want to be here. — Choke (opening line) by Chuck Palahniuk

It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard. — The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker 

And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need. — Mostly Sally by P.G. Wodehouse 

O God, make me good, but not yet. — Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 

Oh you exquisite little tart — Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

To my left a Lithuanian gravedigger idly picks his nose. To my right a mortician plays Sonic on his iPhone … In the row in front a morgue rat, his head resting against his shoulder, snores loudly, a stream of drool hanging from the corner of his mouth. — Necropolis by Guy Portman

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. — The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce 

If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? — Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris 

Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, ‘So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?’ — Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. — The Algonquin Wits by Dorothy Parker 

Balloon Tying For Christ was the cheapest balloon manual I could find. — Clown Girl by Monica Drake

Waterless embalming baby, it’s the future. — Necropolis by Guy Portman

The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number. — Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse

If you’re looking for sympathy you’ll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary. — Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris 

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. — The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

Free as air; that’s what they say- “free as air”. Now they bring me my air in an iron barrel. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 

A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience. —  Strictly Business by O. Henry

For the better part of my childhood, my professional aspirations were simple–I wanted to be an intergalactic princess. — Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

To look upon Irene is to stare into a looking glass, into a world of cheap retail outlets, suburban cul-de-sacs, Sky television itineraries, frozen Iceland trifles and Co-operative Funeralcare plans. — Necropolis by Guy Portman

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. — The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce 










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