Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2019 books, #11-15

California Fire and Life by Don Winslow [audiobook]. Read by Jon Lindstrom. Audible edition.

Jack Wade is an arson investigator; he prides himself on his "just the facts" approach and lack of emotional engagement in the fires he looks at for California Fire and Life, under his boss, Goddamn Billy. When a woman is found burned in the remains of her house, and everything seems to be wrong, he breaks his rules and throws himself into the case. This has wonderful elements of the classic hard-boiled detective story; extremely enjoyable, with the requisite deadpan delivery from the reader.

Milkman, by Anna Burns. Kindle edition.

"The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the day the milkman died. He had been shot by one of the state hit squads and I did not care about the shooting of this man". This beginning is pretty arresting; and I loved this book. It had elements of Joyce in the wandering, dazzling, circling prose, but then brought right back to earth with something very ordinary. I found elements of it hilariously funny, and a lot of it heartbreaking. It's set in the Troubles, and the everyday breathtaking absurdity of living in a divided community is everywhere, characterised by "the renouncers" and "the defenders". Wonderful. (I'm not sure everyone in my book group will agree - I know a couple of people were finding it quite heavy going so we're going to talk about it next month instead...)

Collected poems, by Isaac Rosenberg. Amazon: [s. l.], 2013.

This is an Amazon-printed edition compiled by a fan of Rosenberg's work; and the first collected edition of his poems.  Rosenberg's Break of day in the trenches is well-known and a staple of anthologies,  but this has all the war poems, and the pre-war poems. Unlike many of the war poets, Rosenberg was working-class, Jewish and had never had patriotic feelings about the war.  "I never joined the army for patriotic reasons. Nothing can justify war. I suppose we must all fight to get the trouble over."  The whole book runs to 72 pages, but there are some beautiful things in here. I think my favourite of those I hadn't read before is My days. Appropriate, too. (Apologies in advance if this link starts blaring sound at you - it was the only online source I could find.)

A study in Sherlock: stories inspired by the Holmes canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger. London: Titan, 2011.

These are fun. Some are intended to be straightforward additions to the Holmes canon, but more are a sideways glance, and even more are pretty self-referential along the lines of the Sherlock TV series. There are stories from Lee Child, Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, Dana Stabenow, Jacqueline Winspear and many more, all taken into different environments, and sometimes into the world of the characters the authors usually write (Dana Stabenow's is a Kate Shugak short story)... Really enjoyable; and some of them, like the best fanfiction, make you think back to canon. (I have to confess that the one I didn't finish was the story written as a graphic novel - much more my fault than the author's...)

The cycling podcast: a journey through the cycling year, by Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe. London: Yellow Jersey, 2018.

This is fun. I started reading this very shortly after it came out, and after I went to the launch event; and then somehow I lost it in the pile of unread books, after reading as far as halfway through the 2017 Tour.  There are some great bits in this book - an account of the cycling world in 2017 - not least the parts I love about the Cycling Podcast. Yes, they know a lot about cycling, and things like the finances surrounding cycling, the history of particular stages, and they're prepared to discuss things like doping, the history of the sport, the precarious financial situation of a sport which relies 100% on sponsorship... But there's also a lot on the love of the thing, and the beauty of Italy, France and Spain during the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta. And the food. Lots of stuff on the food. And it's mostly also really funny.  There are also lovely guest contributions from Seb Piquet (the Voice of Race Radio), journnalists Orla Chennouai, Fran Reyes, Ciro Scognamiglio and Fran├žois Thomazeau, along with riders Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Joe Dombrowski. While it's now approaching 2 years out of date, if you're interested in reading about the loveliness of following road racing, you might still want to get hold of this book. You'll have to buy your own copy though; I'm keeping mine.