I haven’t seen Arrival, but I wanted to read the book because the story as told to me by someone who had seen the film interested me greatly. I spotted the book in the bookshop because of the Amy-Adams-in-a-spacesuit cover, and was surprised to see that a whole film had been based on a short … Continue reading Ted Chiang’s polymathic story bombs
Some years ago I wrote a scholarly chapter on how clothes were used as social indicators in the fiction of P G Wodehouse and Dornford Yates. This was for Middlebrow Wodehouse (ed. Ann Rea), and was a thoroughly enjoyable chapter to research. Costume history is one of my favourite branches of history, and I've been … Continue reading Bertie Wodehouse’s socks and spats
As regular readers will recall, I bought this book on spec before Christmas from a wily book catalogue. Reading it - it is a long essay on why people hate poetry - is an unfolding sequence of stimulants, a nuggetty book about what poetry is and does, from the perspective of those who hate it. Lerner, … Continue reading When is poetry bad? Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry
I've wielded the hatchet over at Vulpes Libris, on a biography of William Wilberforce. Great subject, awful execution.
This podcast scripts catch-up from Really Like This Book is on the first of Gene Wolfe’s epic science-fiction & fantasy tetralogy The Book of the New Sun, The Shadow of the Torturer (1981), the only one of the four I have been able to finish. It is EPIC, a tremendous, sprawling feast of fantastical invention slathered over … Continue reading Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer
In this week's Really Like This book podcast scripts catch-up, I’m in the English Renaissance, pricking across the plain with the Red-Crosse Knight, in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. This is the biggest and most elaborate courtly flattery ever written, and it’s not even complete. Edmund Spenser was a subject of Queen Elizabeth, the first of that … Continue reading The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser
I don’t usually write negative reviews of books, because (1) it’s usually not fair on a writer to pillory them in public, (2) why waste the reader’s time? But sometimes writing a reasoned critical appraisal for the record can be a public service. For those searching online to find out if anyone else hated this book … Continue reading Sorrow and anger: Books I couldn’t finish or wished I hadn’t started