Friday, 23 March 2018
Lacking Character by Curtis White $38
The story begins when a masked man with “a message both obscure and appalling” appears at the door of the Marquis claiming a matter of life and death, declaring, “I stand falsely accused of an atrocity!”
Dispatched by the Queen of Spells from the Outer Hebrides, the Masked Man’s message was really just a polite request for the Marquis (a video game-playing burnout) to help him enroll in some community college vocational classes. But the exchange gets botched… badly. And our masked man is now lost in America, encountering its absurdities at every turn, and cursing the author that created him.
"A profane wrestling match between high style and low comedy." - Kirkus
“Curtis White is a master of the digressive, philosophical novel. His new work Lacking Character provides another excellent example of this tradition. Lacking Character is very funny, bursting with wit and generosity. It evokes Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, and the historical picaresque. There is Rabelais as well as the Soviet fairy tales of Kapek or Kharms, and the French symbolist films of Cocteau or Demy. Lacking Character is funny and heartbreaking.” — Entropy
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch $33
In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet's now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule - galvanised by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her.
"All my youth I gloried in the wild, exulting, rollercoaster prose and questing narratives of Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac, but cringed at the misogyny; couldn't we have the former without the latter? We can, because: Lidia Yuknavitch. Buckle your seat belts; it's gonna be a wild feminist ride." - Rebecca Solnit"A raucous celebration, a searing condemnation, and fiercely imaginative retelling of Joan of Arc's transcendent life." - Roxane Gay
>> This Joan's not for burning.
>> The Small Backs of Children is also excellent.
Borges in Sicily: Journey with a blind guide by Alejandro Luque $40
When Alejandro Luque received a set of photographs taken of Jorge Luis Borges on his visit to Sicily in 1984 (two years before his death) in the company of Maria Kodama (his PA and, eventually, wife and literary executor), he decided to trace Borges' steps, see the sights that Borges did not see due to his blindness, and discover what he could learn about his literary hero and about other literary visitors to Sicily. An interesting, very Borgesian travelogue (illustrated with the photographs). Includes a brief appearance by the Mediterranean's most slovenly gorilla.
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi $27
A monster created from human remains rampages around the streets of Baghdad. What qualifies as human in a city traumatised by war?
"An extraordinary piece of work. With uncompromising focus, Ahmed Saadawi takes you right to the wounded heart of war's absurd and tragic wreckage. A devastating but essential read." - Kevin Powers
"There is no shortage of wonderful, literate Frankenstein reimaginings but few so viscerally mine Shelley's story for its metaphoric riches." - Booklist
Things That Bother Me: Death, freedom, the self, etc. by Galen Strawson $38
A clear and enjoyable expression of Strawson's dismissal of free will, his avowal of the possibility of panpsychism and his consideration of the arbitrary and experiential characteristics of the self (so to call it).
White Girls by Hilton Als $28
"I see how we are all the same, that none of us are white women or black men; rather, we're a series of mouths, and that every mouth needs filling: with something wet or dry, like love, or unfamiliar and savoury, like love." Als traverses the last decades of the twentieth century, from Flannery O'Connor's rural South, through Michael Jackson in the Motown years, to Jean Michel Basquiat and the AIDS epidemic in nineties New York, in order to unravel the tangled notions of sexual and racial identity that have been so formative of contemporary culture
"White Girls is a book, a dream, an enemy, a friend, and, yes, the read of the year." - Junot Diaz
Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes $38
An aging member of the once-vibrant youth culture of the 1980s finds himself increasingly at a loss in a society moving at a different pace and a different direction.
"One of the books of the year, if not the decade. No review could do it justice. Seldom has a novel with so much vicious humour and political intent also included moments of beautifully choreographed, unexpected tragedy. Bold and sophisticated, this thrilling, magnificently audacious picaresque is about France and is also about all of us: how loudly we shout, how badly we hurt." - Irish Times
"This is not just a novel, it's an electrocardiogram." - Figaro
Long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.
>> On Despentes's 'hardcore feminism'.
Culture as Weapon: The art of influence in everyday life by Nato Thompson $38
The machinery of cultural production has been co-opted by institutions, corporations and governments in order to further their interests, maximise profits and suppress dissent. A perceptive account of how advertising, media and politics work today.
My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos $22
Zezé is Brazil’s naughtiest and most loveable boy. His talent for mischief matched only by his great kindness. When he grows up he wants to be a poet but for now he entertains himself playing pranks on the residents of his family’s poor Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood and inventing friends to play with. That is, until he meets a real friend, and his life begins to change.
A Fiery and Furious People: A history of English violence by James Sharpe $30
How has society's attitude to violence changed through history? Why are some activities frowned upon in some ages and lauded in others? Does a turbulent history make a people more violent or less so?
"Wonderfully entertaining, comprehensive and astute." - The Times
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton $45
Fleeing his abusive father across the desert towards the only person he thinks will understand him, Jaxie comes across an old recluse living in an abandoned shepherd's hut and begins to re-examine the trajectory of his young life.
"Austere, beautiful and compelling, brilliant and uncomfortable." - Sydney Morning Herald
Tane's War by Brendaniel Weir $30
1953. In order to help protect two shearers whose relationship is exposed, will their foreman be forced to come out about his relationship with a fellow soldier in World War One?
The Book Thieves: The Nazi looting of European libraries and the race to return a literary inheritance by Anders Rydell $35
"An erudite exploration of the systematic plundering of libraries and book collections by Nazi invaders. Looting books by mainly Jewish owners, collections, and libraries was an effective way of stealing Jewish memory and history, as this thorough work of research by Swedish journalist and editor Rydell attests. An Engrossing, haunting journey for bibliophiles and World War II historians alike." - Kirkus
In Search of Mary Shelley, The girl who wrote Frankenstein by Fiona Simpson $40
"We all know the life, but what do we know of the woman who lived it?" The story of a the teenager who eloped with a poet and wrote a book that brought into existence a modern archetype.
>> Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's own hand.
The Sea Takes No Prisoners: Offshore voyages in an open dinghy by Peter Clutterbuck $33
Calypso was a Wayfarer, a small and very popular class of open dinghy, a boat designed for pottering around coastlines and estuaries during the day. But along with the occasional brave crewmate, Clutterbuck managed to sail her across the English Channel, through the Bay of Biscay, down the French canals and into the Mediterranean, then up into the North Sea and the Baltic to Oslo, living aboard for three months at a time. A real-life Swallows and Amazons.
Earth Verse: Haiku from the ground up by Sally Walker and William Grill $30
Fossilisation, rocks, the water cycle, volcanoes, glaciers, thunderstorms, geology, ecology - a beautifully illustrated introduction to earth science.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans $38
"A novel that lays bare the normality of black family life in suburban London, while revealing its deepest psyche, its tragedies, its hopes and its magic. A wondrous book." - Afua Hirsch
>> The author on losing her twin.
In the Shadows of the American Century: The rise and decline of US global power by Alfred W. McCoy $38
As the dust settled after World War II, America controlled half the world's manufacturing capacity. By the end of the Cold War it possessed nearly half the planet's military forces, spread across eight hundred bases, and much of its wealth. Beyond what was on display, the United States had also built a formidable diplomatic and clandestine apparatus. Indeed, more than anything else, it is this secretive tier of global surveillance and covert operations that distinguishes the US from the great empires of the past. But recent years have seen America's share of the global economy diminish, its diplomatic alliances falter and its claim to moral leadership abandoned. Will China become the dominant nation this century?
Vonney Ball Ceramics by Helen Schamroth $45
The work of the leading contemporary ceramicist, resident in New Zealand since 1995, displays a breadth of influence, from the Bloomsbury Group's Omega Workshop, old English pottery, Memphis and Wedgewood to New Zealand and Pacific indigenous and traditional aesthetics.
>> Visit Vonney Ball's website.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi $20
Zelie remembers when the soil of Orisha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie's Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zelie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zelie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. YA fantasy steeped in Nigerian folklore.
"The best sort of book: a hugely enjoyable escapist story that makes you re-examine the world around you. It is a miraculous achievement." - The Guardian
Rust by Jean-Michel Rabate $22
Rust never sleeps, it is working away all the time, converting what we though was solid and permanent into something organic and mutable. Rabate's exploration of the meanings of rust ranges from science into psychology, from investigations of the rust belts in China and the US to the use of rust by artists and architects, to strange ruminations on the connections between rust and blood.
Luggage by Susan Harlan $22
What we carry about with us when every gram counts are carefully curated portraits of the selves we want to be and of the selves we are anxious to escape.
Souvenir by Rolf Potts $22
A souvenir certifies a journey but also distorts our memory of it. What has been the changing nature of travel relics, and how do they reflect the traveller more than the place in which it was acquired?
Burger by Carol J. Adams $22
The burger, long the All-American meal, is undergoing an identity crisis. From its shifting place in popular culture to efforts by investors such as Bill Gates to create the non-animal burger that can feed the world, the burger's identity has become as malleable as that patty of protein itself, before it is thrown on a grill.