AUTHOR GUY PORTMAN'S BLOG

PORTMAN'S PONDERINGS, PROCRASTINATIONS, PREAMBLES, PROGNOSES & PARODIES.

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Twitter post
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Blog Post 49
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Book Review: Sweet Thursday
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Book Review – Steppenwolf
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In Dubious Battle
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My favorite songs – spotify embed
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Christmas Book Quiz Results
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The Christmas Book Quiz
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December – New Follower Month
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The Road to Wigan Pier

Twitter post

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Blog Post 49

Though I am a prolific reader of both Fiction and Non-Fiction I rarely read short stories or novellas.  This week however I made an exception and read a novella for the Kindle called Texting Orwell, by Ian Little.

Texting Orwell by Ian Little

TextingOrwell

Daniel and Debbie are employed at the same delivery company, Daniel is a delivery driver and Debbie works in the depot.  Daniel really likes Debbie and is keen to start a relationship with her.  However Daniel is a timid creature and has to date been unable to express his feelings for Debbie.  On the day in which the story is set Debbie phones in sick.  Daniel sees this as an opportunity to show that he cares for Debbie and decides to text her.  However as Daniel goes about his rounds he realises that he is quite uncertain what to say.   The unfolding story narrated from the perspective of both Daniel and Debbie follows their procrastinating efforts to communicate with one another.

Texting Orwell is essentially a light-hearted and humorous love story, in which the author’s lavatorial sense of humour is in evidence throughout.   I look forward to reading the author’s second book, Hell in the Kitchen.

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If you haven’t already you might be interested in checking out the Book Review section of this website.  There are currently twenty-five reviews for a wide range of books by authors such as John Steinbeck, George Orwell, Bret Easton Ellis, Hilary Mantel, Gustave Flaubert and many others.

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Guy Portman is the author of Charles Middleworth,  a humorous tale of the unexpected.  Charles Middleworth is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both paperback and on the Kindle.

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The following is the blurb for Charles Middleworth:

What happens when Adrian, an actuary, has his banal and predictable existence turned upside down by sinister forces that he can neither understand nor control?  How will he react to a revelation that leaves his life in turmoil?  Will he surrender or strive for redemption in an altered world, where rationality, scientific logic and algorithms no longer provide the answers?

See what reviewers are saying about Charles Middleworth:

‘An insightful and humorous tale of the unexpected’

‘A sardonic delight.  If Thackeray had lived in the 21st century, then he might have written Charles Middleworth.’

‘Charles Middleworth is a literary masterpiece with a carefully woven plot.’

 

Book Review: Sweet Thursday

This week I read another Steinbeck book, Sweet Thursday, which I review below.

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Sweet Thursday

Set after the end of The War, Sweet Thursday is the sequel to the popular Cannery Row.  The nostalgic return to the setting of the first book finds Cannery Row, Monterrey, largely unchanged, with the Palace Flophouse, The Bear Flag, the store and Western Biological all still in existence; only the canneries have closed, a result of over-fishing.  Mack, Hazel, Whitey number one and the others still reside in the Flophouse; only Gay is missing, having perished in The War.  The new madam of The Bear Flag is the affable Fauna and an enterprising man named Joseph and Mary has replaced the departed Lee Chong as the owner of the store.

Doc, recently returned from war duty, finds that his marine specimen business, Western  Biological, has been so poorly managed in his absence that it is close to collapse. The generous and popular Doc is also depressed, lonely and struggling to find meaning in his life, much to the concern of his devoted friends, who are determined to do anything they can to help him.  Fauna makes the decision to match Doc with the latest addition to The Bear Flag, the attractive and argumentative Suzy.  The book follows the close-knit community’s well meaning, often humorous and sometimes disastrous efforts to get the two of them together.

Sweet Thursday is in essence a love story, in which the author’s wisdom and humanity is in evidence throughout.  This is one of Steinbeck’s lighter and more optimistic novels; less disturbing than the epic Grapes of Wrath or the political novel, In Dubious Battle, for example, but none the less a profound work in its own right.  Whilst the reader would undoubtedly enjoy this book more having read the prequel Cannery Row first, it is not essential to do so.

Book Review – Steppenwolf

This week’s blog post takes the form of a review of Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, a fascinating and insightful book that I was given for christmas.

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Steppenwolf

Published in 1927, Steppenwolf is a complex and influential book that achieved cult status in the 1960’s when it was embraced by the counter-culture as a reaction against the modern world. The psychological impact of this highly original and thought provoking work continues to resonate even to this day.

The book’s central character is a reclusive intellectual by the name of Harry Haller. Harry, who is in the midst of a prolonged and severe mid-life crisis, not only despises his bourgeois existence, but is also afflicted by physical ailments including gout, in addition to suffering from a mental illness that has tarnished his very soul. So incapable is Harry of embracing all that life has to offer that he is continually deliberating on the potential benefits of suicide.

Ever obsessed with his condition, the introverted academic has surmised that his character is made up of two separate and non-reconcilable parts, one of which is human and the other wolf. Harry believes that the human elements of his psyche consist of the aesthetic and intellectual attributes, whilst the wolf, which he names Steppenwolf is responsible for the uncontrollable part of his nature; his impulses, instincts and urges. This conclusion causes Harry great distress and contributes to his overwhelming sense of self-loathing and increasing disdain for life.

One night after a solitary visit to a drinking establishment, Harry comes across a lengthy pamphlet that refutes his theory as being oversimplified, stating that in reality an individual is made up of a multiplicity of souls, a concept incidentally embraced by Nietzsche. In typical fashion Harry deliberates upon the pamphlet’s theory before rejecting its contents. The course of Harry’s life is set for change however when shortly thereafter he meets the mysterious Hermione, who introduces him to dancing. A belated sexual education through a girl named Maria follows, before events culminate in a masked ball and a trip to a magic theatre, where sequentially Harry is confronted with his various selves. These selves connect with his memories from childhood, sexual inhibitions and even his reaction against a modern world in a scene where he finds himself shooting at cars.

Steppenwolf is essentially an autobiographical account of the examination of the development of a character. It has been argued that the author wrote this narrative for self-therapeutic purposes, in order to rid his soul of the negativity that had blighted it and that one of the book’s characters, a non-judgmental and liberal musician by the name of Pablo is in essence a psychotherapist. Certainly there is an existential philosophical aspect to the book, both in the manner in which Haller probes his psyche and the role of ‘the immortals’, the author Goethe and Haller’s own hero Mozart, whom he meets in one of the sequences at the magic theatre, when a relaxed, benign and accepting Mozart is soaring contentedly through the sky, Haller clutching to his hair; surely symbolic of freedom in a timeless reality, a world that has transcended our own.

The book has been compared to a sonata, not only because it consists of three distinct parts, but also because the prose is flowing, rhythmic and poetic, giving Steppenwolf an almost magical quality. Though there are many aspects of this diverse, profound and intellectual book that can be deliberated upon, it is above all the fact that people have been able to identify with the main character’s self-hatred and inability to accept life that is the reason for Steppenwolf’s lasting legacy.

In Dubious Battle

My introductory blog post of 2013 takes the form of a review for the first book that I have read this year, In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck.

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

InDubiousBattle

In Dubious Battle is a politically engaged novel that was, at the time of its publication at the height of the 1930’s Depression, highly controversial.  The book follows Jim Nolan, a young man from poverty stricken circumstances, who is disillusioned with a system that he perceives as unjust, in which his father fought a losing battle for justice all his life, while his mother futilely sought salvation in a God that does not exist.  Joining a group of communists determined to bring about a new world order, Jim is desperate to prove his devotion to their ideals and an opportunity soon presents itself.  It has been announced that pay rates have been reduced for the apple pickers in the orchards that year, this after the arrival of itinerant workers at the site.  The organisation decides to manipulate this disharmony to bring about a general strike amongst the workers.  Jim is to serve as an apprentice to the experienced Mac McLeod, a shrewd, idealistic and courageous labor organiser and campaigner.

As the ensuing strike develops it becomes apparent that the radicals are less interested in whether the strike is successful and more in mobilising support for the ongoing war that lies ahead. Steinbeck is adept at capturing the turmoil of the times in his description of the escalating hardships of the disenfranchised migrant workers; the poverty, hunger, the fear of the police and the ever present threat of vigilantes, as the strike rises in intensity, destruction and ultimately ends in tragedy.  The worker versus capital confrontation is described in great depth from the tactics deployed by both sides to the psychology of manipulation, the importance of gathering public support and the significance played by propaganda, factors that have lost none of their relevance today.

This thought provoking novel is perhaps one of Steinbeck’s most compelling works, in which the author skillfully resists the temptation for commentary, leaving the reader to reach their own conclusion on where the real exploitation lies and whether its deployment is justifiable as a means to an end.

My favorite songs – spotify embed

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Christmas Book Quiz Results

Cup

Thank you to everyone who took my Christmas Book Quiz.  The winners are as follows:

First Prize – (£20 Amazon Gift Certificate) – Yukio Yamashita

Runner-Up – (£10 Amazon Gift Certificate) – Claudia Reiss

Ben Falkner, Sandra Edwards and Aravind Singh each receive a Kindle copy of Charles Middleworth.

The correct answers are marked below in bold.

1). Who is the main character in Charles Dickens’s novella The Christmas Carol?

       a). Elijah Stingy

       b). Ebenezer Scrooge

       c). Elisha Scrimp

2). Who wrote the Christmas themed novels Finding Noel and The Gift?

      a). Richard Paul Evans

      b). Mark Haddon

      c). Agatha Christie

3).  Who wrote the best selling novel Skipping Christmas?

      a). John Grisham

      b). Dan Brown

      c). Bret Easton Ellis

Happy New Year!

See what reviewers are saying about Charles Middleworth:

‘A sardonic delight.  If Thackeray had lived in the 21st century, then he might have written Charles Middleworth.’

‘A wonderfully funny, dark and sardonic snapshot into the world of the much maligned actuary.’

Available in Paperback and on the Kindle (£1.96/$3.14)

The Christmas Book Quiz

In keeping with the season for sharing and giving, I, Guy Portman, the author of Charles Middleworth, am having a Christmas Book Quiz.


Take part in the fun Christmas Book Quiz for a chance to win a prize:

First Prize: £20/$33 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Second Prize: £10/$16 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Three Runners Up: Each get a copy of the Kindle version of Charles Middleworth, a humorous and insightful tale of the unexpected.

(Winners will be announced next Friday – 28/12/12)

To take part click on the link below.

Take The Christmas Book Quiz!

Good Luck and Happy Christmas

Xmas Holly

See what reviewers are saying about Charles Middleworth:

‘A sardonic delight.  If Thackeray had lived in the 21st century, then he might have written Charles Middleworth.’

‘A wonderfully funny, dark and sardonic snapshot into the world of the much maligned actuary.’

‘Charles Middleworth is a literary masterpiece with a carefully woven plot.’

Available in Paperback and on the Kindle (£1.96/$3.14)

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(Please note: competitors are eligible from any country that has the Amazon Email Gift Certificate scheme.  Prizes will be sent in the given winner’s currency and will be rounded up to one decimal place.  Any currency conversions will be computed using the rates published on the currency converter www.xe.com on 28/12/12 – the day the winners are announced).

December – New Follower Month

Xmas Holly

Christmas is nearly upon us and in keeping with the season for sharing I would love for more of you to follow my blog.  I currently follow dozens of interesting blogs on a whole range of subjects and would very much like to find out more about your blogs.  I post about a diverse range of subjects ranging from travel experiences, social media and even London 2012.  The only thing all my blog posts have in common is that they are lighthearted, informative and hopefully humorous.

There is also a book review section on this website, where you’ll find a whole host of reviews, including titles by iconic authors such as Orwell, Steinbeck and Brett Easton Ellis, in addition to books by up and coming authors you may not have heard of such as Stuart Ayris and Leon Puissegur.

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If you are looking for something to read you might be interested in Charles Middleworth, a humorous tale of the unexpected.

The following is the blurb for Charles Middleworth:

What happens when Adrian, an actuary, has his banal and predictable existence turned upside down by sinister forces that he can neither understand nor control?  How will he react to a revelation that leaves his life in turmoil?  Will he surrender or strive for redemption in an altered world, where rationality, scientific logic and algorithms no longer provide the answers?

Charles Middleworth is available from all regional Amazons in both paperback and on the Kindle (only £1.96/$3.14).

See what reviewers are saying about Charles Middleworth:

‘An insightful and humorous tale of the unexpected’

‘A sardonic delight.  If Thackeray had lived in the 21st century, then he might have written Charles Middleworth.’

‘A wonderfully funny, dark and sardonic snapshot into the world of the much maligned actuary.’

‘Charles Middleworth is a literary masterpiece with a carefully woven plot.’

Hope to see you here next Friday for the Christmas quiz, there will be a range of prizes including Amazon vouchers and free copies of Charles Middleworth.

The Road to Wigan Pier

This week’s blog post takes the form of a review of The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell.

The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

This highly acclaimed and controversial book came into existence as a result of a left-wing publisher by the name of Victor Gollancz commissioning Orwell to make a contribution to what he described as the ‘condition of England’.  Gollancz later decided to include the resulting work in his Left Book Club series.

The first half of the book sees Orwell traveling through industrial Northern Britain, detailing and commenting on the working-class life that he comes across, beginning with his experiences in a squalid boarding house.  In typical Orwellian fashion the prose abounds with vivid descriptions, such as a bedroom smelling like a ferret cage, a full chamber pot under a dining table, the event which finally leads the author to find new lodgings, and a room ‘festooned in grimy blankets’.  A poverty stricken woman struggling to clear a blocked pipe with a stick is one image that is particularly poignant.

Orwell outlines in minutest detail the conditions of the houses that he visits, including the degree of rot, the state of the living rooms, sleeping quarters, sanitation, which is universally outdoors, and even the cooking facilities.  The author’s visits to the coal mines, the cornerstone of industrial England at the time, are not without difficulty as he discovers that his unusually tall frame is ill-suited to the low mine shafts.  Orwell’s fascination with his fellow man is prevalent throughout as he analyses the distance the miners travel each day, their wages, washing facilities and eating habits.  He is very particular and fastidious in this regard, as the detailed tables that are included will testify.  There is even an assortment of photographs inserted in the middle of the book, which capture the essence of working class conditions of the time.

The second half of the book takes the form of a highly critical and opinionated commentary in which Orwell’s Socialist leanings are in evidence throughout, as he argues eloquently about everything from the inevitability of our increased dependence on machinery, to attacking assumptions and prejudices about Socialism and his loathing of Fascism. The author was so opposed to this growing global threat that shortly after writing the book he headed to Catalonia to participate in the Spanish Civil War, in a losing effort against the Fascists.  Despite the assertive and judgmental nature of the text, examples of Orwell’s sense of humor can be found in abundance.

This eloquent commentary, which continues to have political relevance even today, will not be to everyone’s liking, due to the detailed numerical data and relentless opinion.  Those with left wing tendencies, the most ardent Orwell fans and anyone interested to discover more about the working conditions of the day will no doubt embrace this valuable literary contribution wholeheartedly.

There are many more reviews in the Book Review section of this website, including a review of another Orwell book, Down and Out in Paris and London.

Copyright © 2015. Guyportman's Blog

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