Archive - February 2018

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8 Dark Humour Books
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15 Banned Books
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20 Quotes About Writing

8 Dark Humour Books

As followers of this blog know I am a big fan of dark humour. This week’s post is dedicated to 8 books containing dark humour – six that I have read and two that I have written. They are presented in no particular order. Click on the links to read my reviews.

 

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk 

Choke is in essence a social commentary about our innate craving for attention and the fundamental nature of addiction. The episodic narrative is rife with humour of the darkest sort.

My Review: The protagonist, Victor Mancini, is a sex addict employed at an eighteenth-century historical re-enactment park. Victor attends various sexual addiction support groups, where he meets many of his sex partners. It was at one …(more)

 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22

Based on Heller’s own experiences as a bombardier in WWII, this best-selling and controversial satirical anti-war novel is brimming with absurdist humour.

My Review: Set on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during WWII, Catch-22 is about the exploits of the fictitious 256th Squadron. We follow protagonist Yossarian and his comrades’ farcical attempts to be declared mentally unfit in order …(more)

 

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

This fast-paced, iconic work is about the banality, hardship and dehumanisation of unskilled drudgery. The brutal and blunt narrative is replete with dark humour.

My Review: Henry Chinaski is a heavy drinking, womanising, race track frequenting low-life, who works at the post office. The story follows his menial existence of twelve-hour night shifts, sorting post, delivering mail, observing his fellow colleagues …(more)

 

Necropolis by Guy Portman

Brutal, bleak and darkly comical, Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety obsessed public sector.

Dyson Devereux’s life appears to be on track. He has a way with the ladies, impeccable good taste, and as the recently promoted head of Burials and Cemeteries at Newton Borough Council, a job that demands respect. But Dyson is becoming annoyed with …(more)

 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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 seeking an explanation for his non-attendance at work …(more)

 

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk 

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 down the highway. Shannon is left horribly disfigured and incapable of …(more)

 

Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas is a humorous, ludicrous and on occasion repellent social commentary about the demise of the psychedelic, free loving dream of the sixties.

My Review: Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego, journalist Raoul Duke, and his gargantuan Samoan attorney, Dr Gonzo, are on a drug-fuelled road trip through the desert, destination Las Vegas and the forthcoming Mint 400 desert motorbike race  …(more)

 

Sepultura by Guy Portman

Compulsive and brimming with satirical wit, Sepultura is a caustic black comedy featuring an unforgettable sociopath. It was released last month (Jan 18).

Dyson Devereux is a busy man, with a challenging new job at Paleham Council and a young son. He would be coping just fine were it not for crass colleagues, banal bureaucracy and contemptible clothes. He is not going to take it lying down …(more)

15 Banned Books

‘Few things in life seem more sexy than a banned book.’ — Chuck Palahniuk

Back when this blog was in its infancy I dedicated a post to 10 banned books. Today, we revisit this fascinating topic with this expanded post.

In chronological order here are 15 famous books that have been banned:

 

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (1877)

This best-selling didactic story is narrated by its protagonist, the horse Black Beauty. The book emphasises the importance of animal welfare, in addition to lessons pertaining to kindness and sympathy.

Why Banned: Black Beauty was allegedly banned by the white apartheid government in South Africa because it contained the word ‘black’ in its title. It was assumed that the book was a black rights novel.

 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915) 

The Metamorphosis

Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. To compound matters Gregor’s family now see no use for him. Click here to read my review.

Why Banned: Kafka’s books were banned in Czechoslovakia because he refused to write in Czech (Kafka wrote in German). The author’s works were also banned during the Nazi occupation and later by the communist regime.

 

Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)

Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel chronicles a day in the life of Leopold Bloom. The day in question is 16th June 1904. Ulysses is regarded as one of the most important works of modernist literature.

Why Banned: Joyce’s seminal work was declared obscene at trial in 1921 in America due to its sexual descriptions. Throughout the 1920s the book was burned by United States Post Office department.

 

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)

This novel is about a homosexual upper-class Englishwoman. The book argued that ‘inversion’ is a natural state and that people should be left to their own choices.

Why Banned: The editor of the UK newspaper the ‘Sunday Express’ was so disgusted by the book’s subject matter he campaigned against it. It was judged to be obscene by a British court but survived legal challenges in the US.

 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1928)

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a fictional account of an aristocrat’s clandestine love affair with the family gamekeeper. The book details their erotic meetings.

Why Banned: Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s perceived pornographic content resulted in the original version being banned in the UK. Penguin published the book in its entirety when the decision was overturned in 1960.

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath

Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath is about a poor family from Oklahoma who trek to California to start a new life.

Why Banned: This Pullitzer Prize winner was banned from many libraries in the US, and was even burned due to peoples outrage at its controversial depiction of the poor.

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) 

Animal Farm

This dystopian novel about animals living on a farm is an allegory about the Russian Revolution and Stalinist rule in the Soviet Union.

Why Banned: So controversial was the subject matter that the book was not published until more than a year after its completion. Animal Farm was banned in the Soviet bloc because of its political content.

 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951) 

the Catcher in the Rye

Protagonist Holden Caulfield recounts his two day trip to New York following expulsion from his private school for fighting with his roommate.

Why Banned: Between 1966 and 1975 the book was the most frequently banned book in schools due to its profanity, sexual references and the relentless negativity of its protagonist.

 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955) 

Lolita

The story is about a man named Humbert Humbert, who falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl, Lolita, the daughter of his landlady. Click here to read my review.

Why Banned: Citing the book’s controversial subject matter and perceived pornographic content, the UK Home Office confiscated all copies of the book in 1955. Lolita was banned in France the following year, but never in the US.

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)

This science fantasy novel is the first book in a quintet. It has spawned two film adaptations. The book has won numerous prizes.

Why Banned: A Winkle in Time is listed at number 23 on the American Library Association Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Criticisms include references to crystal balls and witches, and concerns that it ‘challenges religious beliefs.’

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

 This is the autobiography of the early years of iconic African American poet and writer Maya Angelou. It recounts racism, trauma and above all her burgeoning love of literature.

Why Banned: The book has been challenged by 15 US states. Issues of contention have been its inclusion of rude words, perceived disrespectful religious depictions and what some have regarded as sexually explicit scenes.

 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Slaughterhouse 5

The story follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a married optometrist and a survivor of the notorious firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Click here to read my review.

Why Banned: Slaughterhouse-Five’s anti-war rhetoric has resulted in it being banned from numerous US schools and libraries. It is one of the American Library Association’s 100 most frequently challenged books.

 

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988)

Satanic Verses

Having survived a plane crash a Bollywood superstar has to rebuild his life, while the other survivor, an emigrant, finds his life in disarray.

Why Banned: Many Muslims were offended by a number of allegedly pagan verses, which were included in the Qur’an, but later removed. It has been banned in Japan, Venezuela, and due to death threats, taken off the shelves of several US bookshops.

 

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991) 

American Psycho

The book is written from the perspective of a young Wall Street financier, Patrick Bateman. Patrick is an intelligent, well-educated, wealthy, good looking psychopath. Click here to read my review.

Why Banned: American Psycho’s graphic violent and sexual content resulted in it being banned in Canada and Queensland (Australia). In the rest of Australia and New Zealand its sale remains restricted to those over eighteen.

 

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)

FightClub

The book’s nameless narrator starts a fight club with charismatic anarchist Tyler Durden. Their fight club concept soon becomes very popular and spreads across the nation. Click here to read my review.

Why banned: Despite its violent content and anarchist philosophy, Fight Club was not widely banned. In 1999 the Chinese authorities prohibited the sale of the book due to it containing instructions on how to make explosives.

 

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A sociopath can only keep up a façade for so long.

20 Quotes About Writing

Here are 20 writing-related quotes. I hope these will amuse and/or inspire my fellow writers.

You know you should be writing. Get off Twitter – Yvette Kate Willemse

Grammar, you’re the pickiest noun I know – Buffy Andrews

Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders – Walter Bagehot

Pen-bereavement is a serious matter – Anne Fadiman 

Discipline is the bridge between a great idea and a completed novel – T. N. Suarez

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. I say its closer to 675 or 700 – A. E. Samaan

He carried a pencil that put a camera to shame – E. B. White

I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind —Patrick Dennis

You cannot write unless you write much  – W. Somerset Maugham

Those who write are writers. Those who wait are waiters – A. Lee Martinez

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in – Henry Green

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress — Philip Roth

Before publishers’ blurbs were invented, authors had to make their reputations by writing – Laurence J. Peter

Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard – Daphne du Maurier

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life —Hunter S. Thompson

An autobiography usually reveals nothing bad about its writer except his memory – Franklin P. Jones

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair –  Mary Heaton Vorse

Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write –  Norman Mailer

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write – Saul Bellow

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good – Dr. Samuel Johnson, to an aspiring writer

 

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