I’ve started on the later novellas of Tolstoy. I read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” yesterday, and I just now started “The Kreutzer Sonata”. (I’m not sure whether these are the exact titles in English.) Good stuff. Ivan Ilyich is a fairly dark meditation on shallow, meaningless lives. And I’m only ten pages into the second novella, but the question seems to be whether a marriage necessarily leads to the wish to murder one’s spouse.
(I’d like to add that I have as yet no wish to murder my spouse.)
I’m also reading Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng, which is a good popular introduction to the mathematics of infinity. Accessible, energetically written, I can understand why it was shortlisted for a UK popular science book prize.
For me personally reading this book is ‘research’, since I’m planning to write a popular book on infinity myself – though focusing on the philosophy, not so much the mathematics. I want to know how other authors approach these issues!
Hahaha!! Related to the release of my game, a new Douglas Adams book was released in memory of him and his work. Actually… it was also in memory of Terry Jones (“MY juniper bush!” Life of Brian, possibly one of the greatest films ever), since Terry Jones actually was the one who wrote it.
Basically, in Life, the Universe and Everything, Adams mentioned a great Starship Titanic which was built with improbability generators that would make anything bad that could happen to the ship be infinitely improbable. Unfortunately, due to the reciprocal nature of improbability, everything impossibly improbable was almost immediately likely to happen, and so almost immediately after it’s magnificent launch the ship underwent a total failure of existence.
After Douglas Adams made The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Bureaucracy, he split off and made his own company, and the first game was a game called Starship Titanic. Unfortunately, a book (for some reason) had to be written alongside it. So, in Adam’s procrastinatory style, he got Terry Jones to write the book.
And for some reason, although the game was released (and I plan on trying it, although you still have to pay for it after all this time), the book has only been released (I assume overall, not just on Kindle?) May this year.
Currently I’ve got A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James on the go. It’s a wonderful, evocative book covering music, pop culture and gang activity (and a whole lot else besides) in Jamaica through the sixties and beyond. It’s told by a rotating cast of innocent locals, gang members, CIA agents and politicians each offering complex and riveting “slice of life” chapters that coalesce into the broader narrative.
As no aspect of the title is correct (it’s certainly, certainly not brief and there’s a boatload more than seven killings) I last weekend fit in a smaller book as a quick read; Elena Knows by Claudia Pineir. It’s a fantastic, short literary mystery where an old, infirm woman journeys across town to collect on what she perceives to be an old debt. As she does so her recollections and assumptions about said debt, the role of women in society and her relationship with her own daughter are challenged. It feels deeply personal and moving as well as being a page turning mystery.
I’m reading Vurt by Jeff Noon (30th Anniversary Edition). I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this book. If I’d read it when it was published I’d have been the same age as its protagonists. I love it. I read the threequel, Automated Alice (also envisaged as the third book in the Alice in Wonderland series) many years ago and I was blown away by it.
I just finished Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea. Absolutely amazing. It’s got this atmosphere of unease and very slow-burn as Miri watches Leah’s body slowly turn into someone unrecognizable. At its core, it’s a story about processing grief and dealing with loss, but I found the slight horror elements to it were very effective. Plenty of heartbreaking moments and I was actually crying by the ending. One of my favorite books for sure.
I like my detective stories with some history. Ellis Peters’ Cadfael series, Steven Saylor’s Gordianus books.
While browsing the local library shelves, I came upon the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne (a pseudonym for historian Peter Berresford Ellis).
The series is set in the second half of the 7th century. The Romans have long left the British Isles, Christianity is slowly but surely driving away the older gods. The Irish island was a peculiar place at that time, having its own interpretation of the Christian rites. Monks and nuns lived together in dual houses, abbeys where they would work and pray together, but also marry and raise their children.
Women had as much freedom and responsibilities as men from before the rise of Christianity, allowing them to hold high offices in society.
Sister Fidelma is a Christian nun who follows the rites of Columba (which differ from those prescribed by Rome). She is also an Irish dalaigh, the second highest position in the Irish court of law, a combination of lawyer and detective.
I’v read the first of the series, Absolution by Murder. It’s a fine detective story, a pleasant distraction of about 250 pages. The details of the historical setting grabbed my attention more than the murder mystery though.
@vivdunstan, I’ve played your Border Reivers, and a few years ago I read your article on the 17th century Melrose Court. I know Sister Fidelma is Irish, not Scottish, and that she lived about a thousand years prior to your period of historical interest.
Still, the details of the judicial system and the position of dalaigh reminded me of you. Perhaps you’d also enjoy a bit of light Irish 7th century murdering on the side?
Many thanks! I’ve added the first Sister Fidelma book to my Kindle wishlist, so may pick it up in future.
The premise slightly reminds of a book I plan to read very soon. Columba’s Bones by David Greig, set on 9th century Iona, and retelling the theft of St Columba’s bones. It is the latest in a series of short historical retellings, all about novella length. All Scottish based. The series is called Darkland Tales. Others include Denise Mina’s Rizzio, retelling the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’s Italian secretary; Jenni Fagan’s Hex about the 16th century North Berwick witch trials; and Nothing Left to Fear from Hell by Alan Warner, retelling the flight across the Highlands by Bonnie Prince Charlie after defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
Both Tom and I are big readers, and we each came into the relationship 22 years ago with a truckload of books, which for years we mostly kept separate in our own offices. When we moved to our current house, we converted the garage into a library, which was the thing both of us had always wanted, and then we put all the books in it. Tom has more international and eclectic taste than I do, so he has a lot of books I’ve never read.
So I decided to start at the As and work my way through all the books we have but that I haven’t read. So far, I’ve read Kobo Abe, Kathy Acker, Paul Auster, James Agee, and am currently on Martin Amis. I’d only ever read London Fields by Amis, many years ago, and it’s delightful to rediscover him: I’m partway through The Information right now.
Ooh, fun project! My wife and I kind of did that when we merged libraries after moving in together, and it helped broaden both of our tastes (I got pretty into Forster, she really liked Nixonland).
Re M. Amis, I’ve only read London Fields and Pregnant Widow, but despite cordially disliking the former I really enjoyed the latter; dunno if it’s in your stacks but would recommend it if so!
(Edit: I should say, a major strand is Martin Amis Has Thoughts About Feminism. But if you liked London Fields I suspect that wouldn’t be too big an issue; I don’t think you need to take his ideas especially seriously to enjoy the story he constructs around them).
Yeah, he’s typical of the breed of writers for whom female characters don’t appear to be real people, and I know he was in hot water a lot back in his heyday and did some lashing back. But if I let unrealistic portrayals of woman and a misogynistic streak bother me, I’d probably not finish too many books.
Sitting on my nightstand is a stack of books
A couple of Dashiel Hammet paperbacks - currently unread.
‘The Warded Man’ by Peter Brett
‘The Medieval Fortress’ which is a treasure of photos and diagrams.
‘The Age of Wood’ - too deep to read while falling asleep.
‘Human Action’ by Ludvig von Mises
I read Bill Bryson’s At Home; A Short History of Private Life, in which he recounts stories, anecdotes and events from the Victorian age and how they relate to modern life. (He sometimes jumps back further to the 16th, 17th, and 18th century. That’s about it though, no Middle Ages or Roman Rule in this book.)
The “hook” of the book is that the writer takes the reader on a guided tour through the 1850s anglican parsonage he inhabits. Each room ties into the history of human activity most associated with that room.
Bryson has a knack for revealing the bigger picture through a detailed look at the small things of life, and their web of connections to large-scale societal evolutions. (Some guy from Boston named Fredric Tudor who got it in his head to cut blocks of ice out of the nearby lake Wenham plays a big part in completely overturning local chains of production for food, wreaking havoc on smaller traditional vegetable and meat/dairy farms, for example)
Three days ago I’ve started The Passage by Justin Cronin. It took me a few dozen pages before I realised I had seen this story on TV. Parts I and II of the book (about 250 pages together) were televised as season one (and only) by Fox. The series wasn’t bad, but hardly memorable.
The novel goes much deeper into the characters’ personalities and motivations. And after the escalating tension of the horror thriller that is Pt I&II, the book skips ahead a hundred years to a post-apocalyptic setting with new characters.
Enjoying it very much so far.
Dang I forgot to post a bunch here… Mainly read French stuff lately tho…
Last finished: Empire Star by Delany. Short Novella, reminded me of Dahlgren quite a bit, but less confusing and more sci-fi. My version of Empire Star came with Babel-17, which I had read before, and will re-read again, because it’s a GREAT book!