Archive for Books


Graham pointed me at BloGTK so I’m trying it with this entry.

Last night I finished one of Graham’s birthday books: A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Colour of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield. The history of cochineal is revealed in this excellent and highly readable account. Now where did Graham put his cochineal beetles?

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Yes, it’s Sunday today, but I’ve just finished reading Saturday by Ian McEwan. Overall I enjoyed it, but… Superbly written, very compelling, fine characterisation, thought provoking, so what’s the problem? In common with Enduring Love I felt that there was an element of artifice which wasn’t quite dispelled for me.

You should read it, though, if you haven’t already.

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A day ill in bed let me consume ‘Memoirs of a Geisha‘ in under three days. The downside to such intense reading whilst under the weather was a night of half-waking dreams fuelled by 1930’s Kyoto intrigue. This book is mostly excellent, and very compelling. The closing tenth is rather too much of an easy resolution, in my opinion, with difficult situations left unclosed and key characters dropped. But don’t let that stop you reading and enjoying it.

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Close Range

What a beautiful day! We spent all afternoon at the Riverbank, giving me the opportunity to finish Annie Proulx’s superb collection of short stories, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories. Unremittingly bleak but shot through with human strength. My favourites included A Lonely Ghost, The Governors of Wyoming and Brokeback Mountain.

The latter is very moving, much more concise than the film of course, but I think the film captures the spirit of the story and of the Wyoming depicted in the whole collection.

Reality’s never been of much use out here – Retired Wyoming rancher

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Don Quixote

What a story! I started Edith Grossman’s superb translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote at the end of February on the way to Thailand. I finished, some 940 pages later, on Thursday morning, and finally put down the book after reading the introduction this morning.

Her translation is into modern English which fizzes with life. Now I’d like to get hold of a decent Spanish version to do some side-by-side comparison, though I suspect the Spanish will be quite tough, when you consider how much concentration is required for a native English speaker to read the contemporaneous Shakespeare.

Grossman refers to Martín de Riquer’s version so maybe I should look out for that.

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Just finished Wicked by Gregory Maguire, which Graham bought at the airport. I don’t think the general-release paperback has been published in the UK yet – presumably awaiting the opening of Wicked The Musical.

Anyway, I found it intriguing and fabulous and increasingly disturbing as the story progressed. Worth looking out for, and I can’t wait to see the show.

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On holiday I devoured Alan Hollinghurst’s prize-winning novel The Line of Beauty. Somehow, it manages to combine a page-turning story line, an evocation of the height of 80’s Thatcherism, and some wonderful prose into a satisfyingly integrated whole.

I’d like to re-read parts of it, as inevitably my holiday reading was rather interrupted and often the book only had part of my attention. The trouble, as always, is that there are too many other books to read first…

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I’ve just finished reading – and not long before time given that it was a 2004 Christmas present from my mother – Dirk Bogarde, The Authorised Biography, by John Coldstream. It is a superb biography, and I enjoyed almost every page. It even made me cry at one point. Bogarde was a complex man of many contrasts. It’s very sad that he never felt able to fully acknowledge the core relationship in his life.

I’m enthused now to search out his films, especially the ones he made after moving on from Rank. Maybe I should set up an Amazon wishlist for Christmas? I’d also like to read (re-read in some cases) his autobiographical and fictional writing.

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Out of sight

Another late night so another late start and a leisurely final Big Dutch Breakfast. We packed our bags and headed over to De Appel to see an excellent exhibition of installation and video art by contemporary Chinese artists: Out Of Sight. It’s worth exploring the web site, or visiting if you get the chance.

Our journey home was smooth as far as Stansted, where we just missed one of the rail replacement buses and had to wait 70 minutes for the next one.

During our stay I read The Warlock In Spite Of Himself by Christopher Stasheff. Very trashy but very entertaining fantasy science fiction from 1969.

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Deep Water

Tonight I finished reading Deep Water – A Sailor’s Passage by E. M. Kahn. I found it in Gay’s the Word bookshop in London. It is an affecting combination of love story, sailing and dealing with AIDS and loss, set in and around New York and Long Island. Although there were brief occasions where I had a sense of ‘Creative Writing 101’ over-work, I enjoyed the book very much. Find details via the publisher or at Amazon.

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