Reading 2010: vol 2

Second installment. Will maybe aim to do these once every 6 weeks or so…

Primitive Magic – Ernesto de Martino

Italian scholar surveys anthropological and ethnological case for magic powers of shamans and sorcerors. Largely argues (convincingly) that we can’t understand it from a modern western perspective since we assume a fixed underlying reality of a different order which prevents us entering into the experience of magical reality. Dry in places but interesting.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Beautifully written, dark as all fuck. A man and his son walk through a grey post-apocalyptic America, struggling to survive in a savage emptiness. Bleak bleak bleak, but fundamentally about the enduring power of love. Really can’t imagine what they were thinking in adapting it into a movie, though kind of curious to see it.

The Orange Tree – Carlos Fuentes

Five thematically linked novellas. Incredibly well written. Dude is genius. He has one of Those minds. Epic, encompassing, humane.

Forty Stories – Donald Barthelme

Very odd, very experimental short stories. Pretty much always entertaining, even when they fail; and when they succeed they are awesome.

Death is not the end – Ian Rankin

Novella. Giving the guy a go based on a recommendation. Crime etc is not my genre, but the genre felt incidental to the people and the place. Grounded, straightforward, and better than I expected, without being stunning.

The Elements of Style – Strunk and White

Legendary brief style guide for the English language. I have written three 100K plus manuscripts, and I am learning stuff. Startled at how they lay bare the rules. In practice most of them I knew but didn’t know I knew. But yeah, recommended for anyone who uses the written word on a regular basis, as it will certainly tighten your typing.

Penny Dreadful – Will Christopher Baer

Followed up a recommendation on a whim; had never heard of the guy until a couple of days ago. Not quite sure what genre if any it is. Elements of gothery, fantasy, Philip K Dick reality warping going on. Sharply written. Enjoyable, twisted, cinematic; self-aware Cool, but not choking on it. Definitely managed to be about something beneath the weirdness; identity and the roles we play. Good shit, but won’t leave you with a happy vibe. Probably of special interest for role-players and drug users, and anyone attracted to losing themselves in illusion.


Reading has felt a bit unfocused of late; almost a reflex. Lacking motivation, or perhaps inspiration. Most things are research of a sort.

Care to recommend short brilliant novels of any type?

3 Responses to “Reading 2010: vol 2”

  1.   bradley
    April 5th, 2010 | 10:48 am

    A younger Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree is my recommendation to you.

    Harold Bloom referred to it as sub-Faulknerian. Bloom as mineralogist.

    It should appeal to you as an individual with a firsthand practice in the self-productive activity of writing. Not content with the given picture of ‘himself’ McCarthy describes the process by which he comes to stand opposite that picture, in full awareness. The kind of categorical imperatives that perplex Bloom are given up. In its place the Urphänomen of one’s self comes to be.

    Maybe, like Penny Dreadful, “of special interest for role-players and drug users, and anyone attracted to losing themselves in illusion” but as antidote rather than palliative.

  2.   billy
    April 5th, 2010 | 11:50 am

    Yeah, I remembered your earlier recommendation of Suttree. Saw it at the library the other day but wasn’t quite up for 450 close typed pages of McCarthy right then.

  3.   Sphen
    April 9th, 2010 | 12:14 am

    Have to agree with The Road. I thought it did everything it should perfectly. The sparseness, in prose, layout, and vision is superb. I haven’t seen the movie either, but was aiming to this weekend – possibly.

    I read most of it while travelling through ‘the north’ which was covered with snow at the time. Quite moving.