Book thread 2018 📚


i enjoyed it, it’s a pop history of 1917 written like a traditional narrative so it gets a thumbs-up from me. helps that CM knows his onions and obviously loves the dream and the promise of the revolution. mostly it’s written like an elegy (is that the right word?) for what could have been. he says a couple of times the purges, the trials, the gulags…none of that was set in stone, they weren’t encoded into the revolution’s DNA, it all could have been so different if key people had been brave, and taken the right stand at the right time. i found it quite inspiring in that regard.

he sometimes gets a bit bogged down in the minutiae of political meetings, who said what, who left in a huff, what they did, when they came back, what they said then, etc. :roll_eyes::sleeping: i’ve gone to enough of those IRL that i can promise you a brief overview of what the meetings were about and what the outcome was will almost always suffice in a narrative work

but there are some truly great descriptions of streets battles, riots, crowds, the original soviets and workers’ co-ops the bolsheviks would move against, etc etc.

also, i did get into an argument with a tankie on twitter who said CM was too harsh on big joe, so if you’re a fan of his you might wanna read something else :laughing:


FInished Annihilation (the Jeff Vandermeer book I mentioned upthread).

Thought it fell apart a bit at the end. I’m all for ambiguity and Lovecraftian weirdness, but it was basically just hard to tell what was going on. It felt like reading through a blurred lens while simultaneously being a bit overwrought, if that makes sense.

Going to persevere with the next two because there was definitely enough in there to like/admire. Hopefully they’ll link back in and shore up some of the oddness.


I can confirm they do not. They get vaguer if anything.


Annihilation was definitely effective in a way. I was reading it alone in a big house and it was eminently creepy. The abstract style and lack of things to hold onto were pretty effective in creating a sort of atmosphere of madness, but just in terms of personal taste I’d prefer something a little more solid.

The description of the Crawler felt a bit weak B-movie, too.


I’d be interested to see how you feel at the end.

After LP and Imperial Bedrooms, I think I’ll be avoiding anything he writes in future.


I have similar preferences. I don’t have a very visual way of thinking and I struggle to picture imagery from written description so I can really struggle with stuff like this. I remember reading Solaris and there are descriptions of forms on the planet that I just couldn’t wrap my head around.

Film adaptations actually really help me with this.


Big big Lunar Park spoiler:

When the narrator realises what Terby spelled backwards means I threw my copy across the room.
Fuck sake.


I finished Ablutions by Patrick de Witt last night. There are moments where you get a sense of a real story but it was a depressing series of cold and generally mean observations.

Bukowski did this kind of this so much better and with much more warmth.


I don’t really know anything about the revolution itself tbh, a reasonably straight-foward narrative would probably be alright by me.

I can’t really say I’m a particularly big fan of Stalin.


good to hear!


I’m currently reading Stalin, the court of the red star.
Yeah, he’s a bit of dick isn’t he?! :grimacing:



ROSCOE: On behalf of Mr. Manches, we would like to apologise to George Saunders for having earlier told him to steady on in referring to his short story ‘CivilWarLand in Bad Decline’ as a novella.

MARLON: Yes, ‘Bounty’ is the novella we now realise as we’re nearly finished the anthology

ROSCOE: Very good it is too


just finished Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor
one of the most remarkable (and funny and bleak) things i’ve ever read, already want to reread it and everything that’s been written about it and everything else she’s written

this article is real good too


One of the oddest books I’ve ever read. Read it again months after and still had a weird effect on me - really really strange atmosphere. Fully recommend the Complete Short Stories!


Made a start on Libra. It feels kind of dreamlike and strange at the moment; kind of like (bear in mind this is an insight coming off the top of my head and based on the first 70 or so pages), where Pynchon takes meticulous historical research and turns it into a fantastical kind-of-cartoon, DeLillo takes it and presents it back through a thick fog (which fog is the aspects that I presume are embellishments of characters’ thoughts and personal interpretations of events and whatnot).

There’s this one niggling thing where I’m not even sure if it’s a valid criticism, where everyone talks in a jarringly kind of “academic” way about everything. It was something I remember thinking about White Noise. I feel it’s a particular facet of his work that I need to get myself accustomed with, though.


I finished Educated by Tara Westover in a day (I think it’s the first time I’ve done that since The Music of Chance and that was in the previous millennium) and it’s astonishing. She grew up with a family of Mormon survivalists in Utah, home schooled and all, until books - and an innate hunger for knowledge - set her on the way to the wider world. There is so much in this about family, violence, women’s place in society, religion, social structure, education and work. In parts, her family is straight out of a horror. Fully expect it to appear on the end of year lists.


Libra is really good now I’m about 130 or so pages in


I find if I read a Don Delillo book I just have to accept most characters are going to talk in that ‘academic’ way - he’s not one for realistic dialogue!


Dipping into a few books at the moment, I think Emma Goldman’s ‘Living My Life’ seems to be one that’s kind of stuck, pretty much essential for anyone who’s interested in anarchism, social justice and revolution.


About to finish Exquisite by Sarah Stovell which is some good shit if you like lesbian thrillers.

Conversations with Friends, next.