reading 2012: volume 3

Chug chug chug. Not including a bunch of non-fiction that got skimmed.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Like (I presume) most people, I always thought this was the story of a mild mannered doctor who drank a potion and turned into a monstrous beast.

It’s not. I had recently been tipped to that, which is why I read it.

Turns out Jekyll is indeed an upright Victorian doctor. Hyde, however, is a part of him; Jekyll’s baser instincts and desires that he has shut away; and when the transformation occurs, Hyde himself is a weedy, vile little man everyone instinctively loathes. Jekyll is completely aware of what Hyde does, though not in control. (And what Hyde does is less than one might imagine.)

A very odd little fable, told in very roundabout fashion, among honourable men of the time.

Blood of Elves – Andrzej Sapkowski

Polish fantasy author who came on my radar; the series the Witcher game derives from. Definitely a different feel and focus than usual in fantasy; a very peculiar analog of the contemporary world, and commentary on ethnic and political complexity. Was the only one the library had; may have lost a bit as it is an episode in a longer series.

Selected Poems – Jorge Luis Borges

Jesus fucking christ Borges is better than everyone else.

I mean really.

He is in my top three all time, one of the bare handful of writers who palpably changed the way I wrote – or at least, how I thought about writing, and what I realised was possible – after I encountered him. Hadn’t read anything of his in years. Picked this up by chance secondhand, the largest collection of his poetry in english.


His short stories are incredible, his essays are extraordinary, but he regarded himself primarily as a poet.

I don’t really read poetry, but he is a pretty damn amazing poet. Really, it is just funnelling that exemplary mind and exquisite linguistic framing into another form, and yes, it really does suit him.

If you haven’t read Borges, why the hell haven’t you read Borges?

Korero Tahi: Talking Together

Book on Maori protocols around oral discussion.

The Islanders – Christopher Priest

Priest’s latest won the BSFA this year. Pretty remarkable. Takes the form of a travelogue of an unmappable series of islands by an exceptionally unreliable narrator, yet weaves a story or three by implication. Very weird, highly enjoyable. Most reminds me of Stanislaw Lem level weirdness.

How Fiction Works – James Wood

Literary critic renders a book length examination of the novel. Pretty interesting, and made me think a bit about how words work and why. Found the tracing of the historic development of prose style particularly valuable since I have no formal background in literature studies.

Mysteries – Knut Hamsun

Hamsun won the Nobel prize in 1920. This is his masterpiece, and, along with Hunger, probably what he is best known for.

Extraordinarily energetic, even manic, presentation of a person losing their mind. Very entertaining, very striking, hard to believe something this stream-of-consciousness and bizarre was published in 1892. It has the traditional framings of the era – parties and society and conversation – but extended passages of dizzying associativity and moments of sublime beauty. A little exhausting, somehow, for something so easy to read, but quite wonderful.


3 Responses to “reading 2012: volume 3”

  1.   Pearce
    October 19th, 2012 | 12:35 pm

    I’ve always wondered what the original version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde would have been like. His wife read the first draft and told him he had written a story when it should have been an allegory; he then burnt the first draft and wrote it again completely from scratch, following her suggestions.

    I think that The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde is a better story of similar vintage & theme, especially in the first 1890 version before Wilde lengthened it & toned it down.

    In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, there’s a great moment where Jekyll says, “Did you know I used to be taller than him?”

    There’s very good BBC adaptation/update/sequel called Jekyll, starring James Nesbitt, which has a unique interpretation of what Hyde really represents. I’d highly recommend watching it, and not spoiling it; the revelation of Hyde’s true nature is dramatically brilliant.

    Or you could watch 1976’s Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde, in which a brilliant black scientist (actually called Dr. Pryde) accidentally transforms himself into a white monster. Genius.

  2.   billy
    October 19th, 2012 | 5:42 pm

    How much of that was off the top of your head and how much did you look up?

    Pearce Reply:

    I looked up Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. Everything else was off the top of my head.