Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland26 Sep 2013 04:10:23
Douglas Coupland is not a terribly careful writer, though in the more compassionate Generation X, published back in 1991, he coined some good terms, including "McJobs". One must assume his stance is still vaguely honourable and that he intends Worst. Person. Ever. to be some sort of critique of mass culture. But if this book is satirical, it hides it well. An ironic hamburger is still (usually) a hamburger.
Through total immersion in the banality it purports to expose, his new novel out-sarcasm... Read Full Story
The Manager by Mike Carson24 Sep 2013 03:19:27
If you're looking for salacious gossip or locker-room humour, you'll be disappointed. Carson's tone throughout is impeccably high-minded, which stands in contrast to the earthier public expressions of some of his interviewees. There is an over-emphasis on the sort of jargon beloved by management consultants – we are told of José Mourinho that "Mourinho doesn't just embrace expectation – he deliberately goes out to create it" – and the frequent comparisons between football teams and FTSE companie... Read Full Story
Carolyn Cassady died24 Sep 2013 03:16:18
In her book Off the Road (1990), Carolyn Cassady, who has died aged 90, charted her extraordinary life with the Beat writers Neal Cassady, her husband, and Jack Kerouac, her lover. Carolyn was an unlikely, and in many ways an unwilling, Beat icon herself. When she met Neal in Colorado in 1947, Carolyn was a student of theatre design at the University of Denver, having attended a smart east coast ladies' college; he was a car thief, an energetic seducer of women and occasionally men, and possesse... Read Full Story
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan24 Sep 2013 03:15:12
A "Denn" is a prison, and Bunyan wrote most of the book in Bedford county gaol, having been arrested for his beliefs during the "Great Persecution" of 1660-1690. He shares the experience of prison with Cervantes, who had the idea for Don Quixote while incarcerated in La Mancha. Like so many novels that follow in this list, The Pilgrim's Progress blends fact and fiction. As well as being the record of Bunyan's dream, a well-known fictional device, it is also an archetypal tale – a quest, fraught ... Read Full Story
Catastrophe by Max Hastings19 Sep 2013 04:43:41
These days, anniversaries come early. The centenary of the outbreak of the first world war is still a year off, but already we are knee-deep in books on the subject. So far they have come in three main varieties: lively portraits of the world avant le déluge by Florian Illies and Charles Emerson; new interpretations of how the disaster came about by Margaret MacMillan and Christopher Clark; and military narratives repackaged for a younger generation of readers. Max Hastings's Catastrophe goes on... Read Full Story
The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud19 Sep 2013 04:40:02
It has taken a while for my health board to realise the benefits of bibiliotherapy, but the idea is an old one. Seneca wrote his Consolation to Marcia almost two thousand years ago, but it is still powerful advice for a mother mourning the death of her son. Robert Burton's sprawling Anatomy of Melancholy is an intermittently helpful, but always involving, series of meditations on sadness and its alleviations. Absurd as it sounds, books like these would now be crammed into a lumpy genre called "l... Read Full Story
Difficult Men by Brett Martin19 Sep 2013 04:37:19
Brett Martin's Difficult Men does for the outstanding American TV dramas of recent years what Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls did for the great US movies of the 1970s: it's an entertaining and insightful history of how they came to be made. The title refers not just to the new breed of televisual anti-hero that emerged from 1999 onwards, when Tony Soprano debuted on HBO, but also to the "showrunners", the "all-powerful" writer-producers behind them: The Wire's David Simon, Deadwood's D... Read Full Story
The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor 17 Sep 2013 21:09:50
In 1962, a US magazine asked him to write about walking – a 5,000-word commission that spawned a trilogy. A Time of Gifts was published in 1977. Between the Woods and the Water, which appeared in 1986, ended with the promise that the story would be continued. Rumours as to whether Leigh Fermor had managed to complete his trilogy, or whether he had even started the conclusion, have circulated for the past couple of decades.
It turns out there was a manuscript and it picks up where the previous o... Read Full Story
Catastrophe by Max Hastings 17 Sep 2013 21:09:06
It's hardly surprising that historians keep returning to the war's origins. A century after the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie near the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, we still don't really know why that single act of terrorism plunged Europe into a war that cost the lives of more than 15 million people and toppled four empires. Of course, the basic narrative has long been agreed. Austria, with the back... Read Full Story
The Coincidence Authority by JW Ironmonger 17 Sep 2013 04:53:05
Those are pretty short odds. If you want long odds, try writing a novel that abounds in probabilities without critics cracking some kind of joke about how likely you are to get away with it. It isn't simply that Thomas Post, a lecturer in applied philosophy at the University of London, is frequently shown working through similar statistical puzzles and reducing synchronicity to a series of mathematical certainties; it's that the plot hinges on chance – or the lack of it.
Post's abstract thought... Read Full Story
Making It Happen by Iain Martin 17 Sep 2013 04:51:06
The star of the show, the pantomime villain, is Fred Goodwin, aka Fred the Shred (a nickname he apparently quite liked), a man who made up for his ignorance about the complexities of banking with hubris and bullying.
His story (in a nutshell): modest home in Paisley (although not nearly as "salt of the earth" as he would have people believe), trains as accountant, moves into banking, takes over the Clydesdale, is head-hunted for RBS… and the rest is opprobrium.
The bank's story (in a nutshell)... Read Full Story
Four Fields by Tim Dee17 Sep 2013 04:30:21
Sometimes the accounts are harrowing, as when we are initially charmed by the clever honeyguide bird in Zambia shouting "chakka chakka chakka chakka" to summon Dee and his guide, Lazaro, to a bees' nest and waiting for them to retrieve and share the honeycomb, only to learn about the honeyguide's demon chick. Laid in another bird's nest, it massacres the rightful chicks as soon as they hatch: "The honeyguide pursued its half-siblings in a frenzy of killing, puncturing their bodies, dragging them... Read Full Story