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Old 01 December 2011, 10:37 PM
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Richard W Richard W is offline
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 26,436
Icon24 What books are you reading?

Good lord, it seems to be new thread time. Just as I went to write up my November books, too:

Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. As I said in the old thread, everybody, in the UK at least, should probably read this.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carré. I was sure I'd read this before, but didn't remember it. It's very good, though, which is why it's a classic, I suppose. I read it because of the new film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which I've not seen, but the book is also on my pile.

Fremde by Russell Hoban. I'm never quite sure what I think of Russell Hoban. He's technically a very good writer, and he has some interesting ideas, but I'm often not sure what he's getting at. It's the kind of book where the ending could be "and it was all a dream", and even though that's not the ending, it's often very dreamlike. Not that this is a bad thing; it's a real skill to capture that, and there are also some proper self-identity questions in it; he's kind of a "writer's writer" in that his ideas might inspire other people to write stuff based on them. ImNotDedalus might like his stuff... ironically, his most famous book, Riddley Walker, is probably the most accessible of his that I've read, even though it's all written in a made-up dialect. He's a bit like Anthony Burgess, I suppose.

The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. I think I mentioned in another thread that I had "women issues" surrounding this, in that I read half of it, met some women at a party and told them that I very much liked Maugham as a writer (having read Cakes and Ale and half of this) and perhaps identified with his main characters more than I should. The women were both former literature students and this conversation wasn't as much of a random drunken rant as it might sound; it followed naturally in the circumstances. I later read further and found that, when Maugham tries to imagine what "women" might be thinking (as opposed to observing what particular women did when he / his fictional proxies behaved in a particular way towards them) then yes, he probably did have lots of problems with women. But he's at least honest enough to spell them out very clearly in books, and he's a very good writer, and in most other ways his observations are great, and he's still almost shockingly frank about some things. Child death, for example. If you can read Of Human Bondage and still defend religions for opposing contraception, then you're a worse man than I am, Gunga Din.

... Anyway, I'm now reading The City And The City by China Miéville, which as Embra said in the previous thread is very good. Without saying too much, I thought it would be to do with a multidimensional or hidden city along the lines of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It's a far better and more interesting idea than that. It's like something that Italo Calvino missed from Invisible Cities, or that Jorge Luís Borges didn't quite think of. And it's got a murder mystery on top. China Miéville is good.
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