Man booker longlist announced

Author (nationality) – Title (imprint)

Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family(Jonathan Cape)            

Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road(Jonathan Cape)

Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Briefhttp://http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-announces-2015-longlist History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)

Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account(Periscope, Garnet Publishing)

Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen(ONE, Pushkin Press)

Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)

Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)            

Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter(MacLehose Press, Quercus)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways(Picador)

Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes(Sceptre)

Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

 
http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-announces-2015-longlist

I am going to read the longlist. I have several of the books on hold in the library. Two on pre-order from Amazon. Brought one. Have downloaded samples of some onto my kindle. Will you be reading

Review of “Don’t Try this at Home”. By Angela Readman Pigeonhole

Review of “Don’t Try this at Home”. By Angela Readman

Pigeonhole

A couple of blog posts ago, I reviewed Fables, a work published by Pigeonhole books. Since I liked that work, they emailed me asking if I would like to see more of their output. I chose to look at two works. The first, of which, Don’t Try this at home  will review in this post. The publishers kindly sent me a copy of the work in exchange for an honest review.

As I stated in the review of Fables, Pigeonhole Books release their work in a different manner to most other publishers. They release books in a serialized form, releasing “staves” of the work at regular intervals.

I believe that this publishing method may be a good model for short story collections like “Don’t Try This At Home”, works that have beautifully lyrical prose and/or an experimental structure/writing style. These books deserve time to percolate into the brain. If gorged in one single sitting: you will miss the nuance of the writing, each story will bleed into each other, they may seem repetitive, and you may feel bloated as if you have eaten too many rich chocolates. This method of slow release, almost rationed publishing slows the speed-reader, like me, down, making us take more time over each story.

These stories are linked by a shared writing style and language play.  The writing is at the same time sparse and lyrical. The following, from the story contextual, is a good example of this:

“My mother invited the kids to my birthday party. She shook hands with other parents from behind a canvas. We cut cake to throw at billboards. I blew out a candle and wished we could have normal parties. I wanted to wear Nike or Topshop like everyone else. But when the guests left and it was just us, we were happy. Never bored, we spent winter evenings catching the moon in a bucket a hundred times.” P8.

You get a very sparsely written, matter of fact description, of a party followed by the beautiful phrase “Never bored, we spent winter evenings catching the moon in a bucket a hundred times.” P8

 

The stories

The first, title story, of this collection has received a lot of attention from reviewers.  Therefore, I will focus on three other stories, starting with ‘Before the Song’.  This story puts the reader in the head of a young girl living on a rural semi-isolated farm. The character speaks in vernacular dialect.  Which, while distancing some readers from the story, actually works to put you squarely in the characters head;

“The mornin’ slipped by. Small flies floated in my eye, spottin’ the landscape. I looked towards the house and squished it between my fingers like a bug. The preacher crossed the plain on foot, waving thanks to the pick-up he’d got a ride from. Could only be the preacher – black cloth, a hole in the middle of the day. I watched him get smaller nearin’ the house, the black of his robe furred with dust. I wiped my brow and bent back to the cotton. Didn’t see him leave. Next time I looked to the house, Momma was a-hollerin’, leanin’ out the back door and wavin’ a pair of long johns up and down. Red on blue sky, red as a scratch on my leg, bloody enough to catch my eye. Suppertime. I walked up to the house, saw Pa go inside and Clift pass him.  ‘Y’all wipe your feet,’ Momma called, flies a-buzzin’ in and out her mouth. The closing back door made a rainbow of dirt on the floor. Everyone sat down. “       p.16

I love the line “the closing back door made a rainbow of dirt on the floor”. It speaks not only of the house in which the character lives with its dirt floor but, also, the poetic way that the young character sees the world.

In this work, we trace her; life in her socially conservative town/family, her sexual awakening and, the consequences of that sexual awakening. The story is heartbreakingly beautiful. It had me sniffing into a hankie at times

Like the earlier story, “Conceptually” is told from the point of view of a young girl. However, unlike the protagonist of the early story who lives in a conservative family, the main character of this story lives in an eccentric family of conceptual artists.  Here she describes her family

“We lived as conceptual artists. It’s what we were. If anyone wanted to know who we were, they had only to look. On special occasions, my family cut their clothes from paintings. Mum wore Botticelli. My sister wore Ophelia’s drowning dress, and Dad was the king some woman in a medieval painting swept around. I wore a smock from a haystack” p8

The story, heartbreakingly, speaks of; society’s cruel and officious reaction to this family, of the bullying from other children, and the officious meddling if the authorities. The narrator speaks of the effects that these outside agencies have on the family. The ending is once again heartrending.

The third tale, which I shall explore, is, once again, told from the perspective of a young child speaking of her parents. At the beginning of the tale, she speaks of her mother in the following manner;

“My mother was like a Custard Cream, nothing special, an ordinary sort of nice enough. She was just there, like gravity. There was no need to think about her. She was Mam- shaped, bits of her flattened under a white overall with pearly buttons.”

Isn’t that, sadly, how many of us see our mothers.  But, she then goes onto state how her mom changed.

“Then, one summer, she became Elvis. She was yawning, frying chips, and worried if there’d be enough hot water for a bath when she got in, then BAM! She was Elvis, hips a-gogo, rocking onto the balls of her feet with only the counter between her and lasses screaming and promising to love her forever. Maybe she just thought, ‘Sod it. I’d make as good an Elvis as anyone.’ Who doesn’t want to be Elvis now and then? The funny thing is” ibid

This is the story of a woman who takes on a celebrity identity to, temporarily, break out of the roles that have been ascribed to her. She challenges; her role as a mother, her role as a mundane worker, her gender identity, and her sexuality. These challenges allow both; the writer, and the reader to play with these concepts. In fact, the stories I selected for review, and many others in this collection, deal with; ascribed roles and the consequences when we break, or do not conform to those identities.

 The collection

 

The experimental nature of some of these stories heightens our exploration of both the world and character. For example, the use of dialect in ‘before song’ heightens the atmosphere of the story and enhances our understanding of both the main character and her world.  I really loved this collection.   It takes snapshots of life and makes us examine them in more detail

I’m Bored

 

You may have noticed, and let us face it you wouldn’t have to be a brilliant detective to notice, that I haven’t posted very much lately. There are various reasons for this; ill health, family issues, and the fact that my works been appearing elsewhere on web. But, the main reason is boredom. I am bored of the standard five paragraph blog review: the one’s in which you; briefly describe the plot, spend one paragraph describing what you like, then another paragraph describing what you don’t like, then the final paragraph concluding with a recommendation. I am bored of reading them and I am bored of writing them. In addition, in a crowded field of book reviewers, all of whom are doing similar things; it is very difficult to get your voice heard.

Therefore, recently, I have been asking; what is so special about me and what unique skills do I have to offer the book reviewing community. There’s no getting away from my background, I am an ex-academic, that’s the mode of writing that’s the most comfortable for me. Therefore, that is how I am going to write.

So, what does that mean in practice?  Basically my reviews will be longer. They will be more in depth. They may contain spoilers. They may include references to other works. In addition, I may include other more experimental ideas, such as annotating my old posts. If I re-think a review, or simply find more info/another way of understanding a work, I will amend past post in such a manner that you can see what I am doing.

Moreover, I will try to review different types of books. Of course, I will try to review books by a diverse array of authors, especially those authors who do not receive much critical attention, and books that include characters that you do not normally see represented in books. However, in addition to the normal faire of fiction, I will try to review; political, non-fiction and academic works. I will also be reviewing live performances that I attend.  I am looking forward to my blogging journey.  I hope you will come along with me.

In between reviews, I will post more personal posts reading journals; informing what I am reading, what I am about to read, what books I have acquired and shorter reviews of those books which, I like but don’t have much to say about.

So, that’s where my newly named blog will be going from here. I’m excited, I hope that you are too.

Ables by Jeremy scott

Ables by Jeremy Scott

I received this work from the author, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Recently, diversity has become a key word, and concept, within any discussion of; writing, publishing, reviewing or reading. Concerned individuals have lamented the absence of; women, members of other cultures/countries, and members of the quiltbag communities, from our books and stories. There have been calls, and active moves, for these groups to get more attention from; publishers, editors, reviewers, and readers. But, one group remains in the shadows of these debates, continually delegated to the end of that list of oppressions/inequalities. Disabled people, people with disabilities, have been underrepresented within discussions of underrepresentation. However, this situation is gradually changing. Publishers, such as Twelfth Planet Press are beginning to produce works that incorporate disabled characters. Ables is another of those works that have actively brought disabled characters to the forefront of the story.

Like most superheroes, the protagonist of this story has super powers. But, unlike most of those heroes he also has a disability/impairment. He is blind. One of the main storylines of this work concerns his attempts to prove himself, and his friends, worthy to be included within his new school. We see him on his first day at his new school. We see his excitement at being at a school especially designed for kids with superpowers. We share his confusion at trying to navigate a new world that he cannot see. We see his disappointment when he finds out that he has been placed within a segregated unit for people with disabilities. We see his trepidation about being with other disabled individuals. But, we, also, see him forming friendships with his class. Then we follow their united struggle to justify their place within this unique environment. This ultimately leads them to fight the school authorities for the right to compete in a school contest, from which they have been excluded. They win and they begin to learn how to combine their special skills to beat, both; their disabilities, and the tasks set for them as part of the competition.

If that had been the entire story, and if the author had let the characters focus on the competition and continue growing into their special powers, then this book would have been almost perfect. However, the author diverts the characters, as well as the readers, attention into a rather over dramatic fight against a cartoon villain for the Future of the world. This turned what could have been a new take on the superhero story into; a well written, but overly busy, and somewhat clichéd tale of the chosen one. This, and the lack of really strong female characters, limits the work.

But, having said that, this, with its band of disabled characters, is still an interesting, exciting, and important work. It is an exciting adventure story that would be a very pleasant summer read. Check out the publisher’s website

Fable Review

Please note that the publisher sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book is slightly different to those that I usually review on this site. In that, the publishers are releasing it to their subscribers in a serialised format. I think that this is an interesting idea. Since, it mirrors the way that authors like Dickens brought out their manuscripts. The publisher describe their method in the following manner;

“We publish books serially to give you space to absorb and discuss the books with The Pigeonhole community. Our belief is that reading should be thrilling, communal and an event not to be missed.

Why the word stave?

When Charles Dickens published his beloved classic A Christmas Carol, he called the individual instalments ‘staves’ – a musical term which encapsulated the idea that the whole novel was more than the sum of its parts. We are bringing back this great word as a tribute to the father of serial publishing.” https://thepigeonhole.com/about

As I said earlier, the publishers were kind enough to send me the complete work in exchange for an honest review. Therefore, I was able to see the way that these chunks (or staves) worked as a whole. This was quite interesting.
As the title suggests the stories in this work are either; fables, works based on these stories, or works influenced by their tropes. The work includes a variety of takes on the fable. There are stories that are in the form of traditional fairy tales. There are tales that, while still inspired by Fable, subvert the; structure, setting and era of the form. These stories; urbanise and modernise the world of the fable. The publisher tells us that ;

“Talking badgers and salacious pixies. Impossible promises and broken hope. Exploring the fairy-tale evolution, Fable brings new tales formed from old skin with original inventions to boot. Spanning across three continents, Fable draws together some of the most beloved, or even feared, fairy tales while bringing to light those lesser known.” https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable”

It begins with two original fairy tales by the Brothers Grim and Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid and Ashenputtel. The two stories, which follow on from the two originals, penned by Kate Forsythe, are traditional fables. They follow closely to the original form, and worlds, of the fairy tale, while playing with some of the tropes.

The next story written by Lucy Balmer Hooft, probably one of my favourites, takes us to, what seems like, an African tribe and focuses on a pregnant woman. The story is a very poignant tale of motherhood and a mother’s sadness/joy as their children grow into men.

The following stories take us further and further into the modern era. These tales look at; the modern family, childhood, adolescence capitalism, exploitation, and redemption. One story The Farmer and the Badger by J.L. Baldock, , a good example of how these works seek to modernise the fable, is from the point of view of a child who opposes the way that her father, who is actively involved in the badger culls that are taking place within her community, earns his living. The story explores the rights and wrongs of the practice, and other solutions, but, also, explores; love and loyalty, revolution and rebellion, experience and inexperience, and family love and obligation.
Another story, The Organiser by Gareth Brierley, is set in a small town quite literally ruled by their local business owners. This couple shape; the inhabitant’s lives and deaths, where they work, the colour of their house, who can speak and what they can say;

“They could decide what school you would go to, what job you could have and even what colour your house would be.” P.125

The couple take on an almost godlike significance in the community and they demand that their child receive the same godlike devotion from the town’s inhabitants. The story follows their much loved, and much despised child, and her attempts to atone for the cruelty of her parents. This story movingly, and funnily, explores the issues of; power, corruption, love and redemption.

Many people, including this writer, are calling for the diversification of the story. We call for stories; that are by and about women (and other underrepresented groups), and for stories set in a plurality of settings. This book meets that call with stories that are written by women and that represent young women who have agency. In addition, there are stories set in a variety of cultures. Although, it might have been nice to see a few more stories that show non-heterosexual relationships.
These stories call themselves fables but they are more than that. They use the familiar form of the fable to explore the issues that face us today, whether those issues be; capitalism, exploitation, family or children fighting to understand and improve their world. I really liked this book. I highly recommend that you look at the publisher’s website’ (https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable)

Japaneses June/july and other plans

Little ghost Creations, over at YouTube (BookTube) has laid down a challenge to her viewers and other BookTubers. She has challenged us to read Japanese literature in June.  Since,  I have a lot of work, fitting that description, on my TBR, I will be joining the challenge.  However,   given the number of works and their length,  this project will spill into July.  Here is my reading list.

Wind-up bird Chronicles Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Piercing Ryu Murakami

Popular Hits of the Showa Era  Ryu Murakami

Coin Locker Babies  Ryu Murakami

The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki,

Strangers by Taichi Yamada

The Box Man Kobo

Abe

Forbidden Colours Yukio Mishima

Strange Weather in Tokyo Hiromi Kawakami

I will review each of these at my Blog (here and you can follow my progress at @vikzwrites on twitter. In addition, I have  two books that I have received from publishers for review.  Fable From PigeonHole and Jeremy Scot’s Ables.  So, a review of those two works will go up here some time in June

ReviewThe Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy

The Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy
Sam Moggs
Quirk Books
UK Publication Date 12 May (E-book and Hard back)
This is an e-arc kindly given to me by the publisher, Via Netgalley, for an honest review

What’s this book about?

The title says it all. It is a Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy of Fandom. It takes the reader on a journey through the various locations of Fandom, exploring media franchises that include; Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Twilight. The book examines the fandom that surrounds these media franchises; the language they use to express their fanship and the activities that arise from their fandom. It shows the various ways in which the Fan girl may engage and connect with the various fandoms. Sam Moggs gives a detailed exploration of physical sites of community such as; Comic shops, game shops, reading groups, courses and conventions. She explores; what happens in these arenas, what they offer, and how to find them. She then explores the virtual worlds of fandom. Moggs explores the variety of ways that fans connect online, including, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and other Fan forums. She explores what these various platforms offer and the etiquette involved when using these sites. Moggs then looks at the ways that fans creatively engage with the things they love, exploring cos play and fanfic. It, also, includes interviews with Famous fan girls, such as Erin Morgenstern

What’s so good/bad about this book?

This work acknowledges and celebrates the existence of Fangirls. It offers new Fangirls a guide to these wonderful fan communities. The section on fanfic is interesting and would offer great advice for any new writer, fanfic writer or otherwise. If I have a criticism, it concerns the works limited scope. It mainly focuses on mainstream media. It ignores the small media outlets and publishers. In addition, books don’t seem to get much of a look in. Even when looking at fandoms surrounding books, like Harry Potter, I feel that she gives greater attention to the films that they spawned than the books themselves.

Should I read these works?

If you’re a new fan this would be a great introduction to the world of fandom. If you know a young new Fangirl, then this would make a great gift. If you’re an older, more established Fangirl, then this could act as a refresher course on the new developments in our community. But, it is only an introduction and offers no in depth analysis. If you want to go further into an exploration of fandom, then check out the offerings of Mad Norwegian Frog media group, or podcasts such as; Doctor who, Verity or Galactic suburbia podcast. But, on the whole, this was a useful read,

The Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy Sam Moggs Quirk Books UK Publication Date 12 May (E-book and Hard back)

My belated Janus post

My Janus Post

 

I know that this post is late and that I have been silent;   no apologises, no promises, just more posts. Therefore, here is my 2014 in books.  My top book of this year were;-

  1. BItterwood Bible Angela Slatter

  2.  Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett

  1. Stone Boatman Sarah Tolmie
  2. Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
  3. Dust devils on a quiet street Richards Bowes
  4. The Race Nina Allan
  5. Earth Flight Janet Edwards
  6. Trucksong Andrew Macrae
  7. We are all completely beside ourselves Karen Joy Fowler
  8. Larissa Teresa Milbrodt

My top Podcasts were;

  1. The writer and the Critic
  2. Galactic Suburbia
  3. Coodestreet
  4. Outer alliance
  5. Rachel and Miles explain the X-Men
  6. Verity

My Fave Vlogs were;

  1. Amy Dallen (Comics)
  2. Becca Conote (LGBT geekdom)
  3. Books and Pieces (Books)
  4. Frenchiedee (Books
  5. We Live for books

Top January Reading

  1. Ali smith How to be both
  2. Murakani’s After the quake and Sputnik Swethear
  3. Ben Okri Starbook

Challenges

#yearofmurakani  http://youtu.be/HRqVz2omsEQu

Australian women’s writers challenge 2015 http://australianwomenwriters.com/

Here’s to some great reading, listening and Blogging in 2015