What Book Did You Read Last Night??? (2 Viewers)

Bernie Lomax

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Books read since last May(!):

Why Science Needs Art - Richard Roche, Francesca Farina and Seán Commins (2018)
A brief but wonderful book about the relationships between artistic representation and the sciences, particularly neuroscience.


Cold Hand in Mine - Robert Aickman (1975)
Dark Entries - Robert Aickman (1964)
The Wine-Dark Sea - Robert Aickman (1988)
Collections of stories by the absolute master of the "strange tale". These are in a genre of their own, somewhere between a traditional ghost story and existential absurdism. But wittier. Aickman has been someone I've been meaning to check out further (I've come across him in anthologies) and I'm going to buy the rest of his collections this year. Highly recommended, especially Dark Entries.




Seven Gothic Tales - Isla Dinesen (Karen Blixen; 1934)
This was in the horror section in Hodges Figgis and sounded interesting. It wasn't. I found it to be a real slog. The writing is dense if you're into that sort of thing but my concentration kept drifting throughout it, even though the stories are not exactly massive.


The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares - Joyce Carol Oates (2011)
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense - Joyce Carol Oates (2018)
Two collections of horror/psychological terror that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Corn Maiden in particular is amazing, I had actual anxiety sweats in at least two of the stories.



Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome (1889)
Pleasant little book that is fairly dated but still funny. Not one I'm likely to read again but one to cross off my list of classics.


The Psychobiotic Revolution - Scott C. Anderson with John F. Cryan & Ted Dinan (2017)
An overview of research on how bacteria in your gut can impact on your brain. The basic science is fairly robust (I'm familiar with the UCC group that does it) but the American journalist who writes the book pushes the case too far in my opinion. It comes across as a bit self-helpy and I was a bit disappointed.


Room to Dream - David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (2018)
A mixture of memoirs and biography, this was a savage read. One of the most interesting books on film or art that I've read in a long time. (Full disclosure: I could read about Lynch all day so I'm biased.)


Living Together - Matt Thomas (2018)
The Unwish - Claire Dean (2017)
The Hook - Florence Sunnen (2018)
The Automaton - David Wheldon (2017)
Bremen - Claire Dean (2017)
Five chapbooks published by Nightjar Press in the UK. One short story in each, very much in the weird/uncanny end of things. Like the Aickman books, these aren't so much tales of the supernatural but of a bending in reality. Unfortunately they all appear to be out of print now but I'm definitely going to order more of these from Nightjar.





Sparks from the Fire - Rosalie Parker (2018)
Rosalie Parker runs Tartarus Press with her husband but also publishes her own ghost stories. These are very traditional, all the trappings of 19th century/early 20th century supernatural fiction is there but it is done rather well. I'd be surprised if it wasn't given that Tartarus Press is probably the best publisher of gothic fiction around.
I've read a couple of Joyce Carol Oates and want to read more but never know where to start. I also love gothic and horror stories. Would you recommend one of these as an entry to her work?
 

_Katie_

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I find it really hard to sit with profoundly self absorbed protagonists, always have, I don't necessarily struggle with unlikeable narrators just unbelievably narcissistic ones. And being reminded of her being so thin and beautiful and rich every two pages was effective, I guess. All of that said, I know I was supposed to feel exactly as I did and I felt a kind of joy at my disgusting hatred for her, and the authors ability to pull it off. Something about how filthy and smelly and gross she was described as being was weirdly refreshing in a female narrator, it even nearly made me like her. Nearly :'D

What I could not stand and what I actually thought was just weak was the repetative therapy sessions. It was so boring and repetative it just annoyed me, it's like, ok really, another one after three pages? I don't know, it just irked me. I did LOVE Reba.

And again, I think sometimes an interesting book is one that challenges you, and sometimes repells you. I had serious issues with everyones problematic fave, a little life too, and some of the most interesting and divisive conversations I've had have been about my hatred of that book, so the challenge was reward enough.
See, I love repulsive female characters and want more of them. I feel like there's a massive human darkness in everyone and it wonderful to see that almost humorously celebrated in a book my a female author. Yes she's skinny, rich and gorgeous but her perfectly pedicured up bringing has left her empty and money can't buy her a soul. There's a deep, deep sadness in her that reminds me of Jean Rhys or Kathy Acker. A woman raised up with absolutely no ability to love or let love in. Only existing to be used and to hate and in competition.

She has no ability to love or be loved because of the deep emptiness of her childhood and the scarring lack of parental love. Reba can only love her conditionally, when she's "well", positive, happy, healthy. Much like her mother she's constantly trying to inch her towards the perfect, positive, meditation and healthy eating lifestyle she so believes in. Reba is a beautiful, at times, naïve and loving (though extremely smart and wonderful) presence that the protagonist wants to kill because she is a perfect mirror of what she can never be and is her deepest fear - someone not afraid. The two are bonded in deep love and trauma. Reba certainly has her own issues and struggles but she has an essential and life saving trait the protagonist is incapable of - hope, which only appears on the last page. I sobbed and held the book to my chest. Reba saves her life and humbles her beyond anything that ever could. The book is a masterpiece in my opinion.

THAT said there is a MASSIVE fetishisation of the skinny sad rich bitch and it is getting a little.....dull... Also why does Reba HAVE to die to save her!? Don't we want a more inclusive narrative? Bah! Many thoughts.
 
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travispickle

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Books read since last May(!):

Why Science Needs Art - Richard Roche, Francesca Farina and Seán Commins (2018)
A brief but wonderful book about the relationships between artistic representation and the sciences, particularly neuroscience.


Cold Hand in Mine - Robert Aickman (1975)
Dark Entries - Robert Aickman (1964)
The Wine-Dark Sea - Robert Aickman (1988)
Collections of stories by the absolute master of the "strange tale". These are in a genre of their own, somewhere between a traditional ghost story and existential absurdism. But wittier. Aickman has been someone I've been meaning to check out further (I've come across him in anthologies) and I'm going to buy the rest of his collections this year. Highly recommended, especially Dark Entries.




Seven Gothic Tales - Isla Dinesen (Karen Blixen; 1934)
This was in the horror section in Hodges Figgis and sounded interesting. It wasn't. I found it to be a real slog. The writing is dense if you're into that sort of thing but my concentration kept drifting throughout it, even though the stories are not exactly massive.


The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares - Joyce Carol Oates (2011)
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense - Joyce Carol Oates (2018)
Two collections of horror/psychological terror that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Corn Maiden in particular is amazing, I had actual anxiety sweats in at least two of the stories.



Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome (1889)
Pleasant little book that is fairly dated but still funny. Not one I'm likely to read again but one to cross off my list of classics.


The Psychobiotic Revolution - Scott C. Anderson with John F. Cryan & Ted Dinan (2017)
An overview of research on how bacteria in your gut can impact on your brain. The basic science is fairly robust (I'm familiar with the UCC group that does it) but the American journalist who writes the book pushes the case too far in my opinion. It comes across as a bit self-helpy and I was a bit disappointed.


Room to Dream - David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (2018)
A mixture of memoirs and biography, this was a savage read. One of the most interesting books on film or art that I've read in a long time. (Full disclosure: I could read about Lynch all day so I'm biased.)


Living Together - Matt Thomas (2018)
The Unwish - Claire Dean (2017)
The Hook - Florence Sunnen (2018)
The Automaton - David Wheldon (2017)
Bremen - Claire Dean (2017)
Five chapbooks published by Nightjar Press in the UK. One short story in each, very much in the weird/uncanny end of things. Like the Aickman books, these aren't so much tales of the supernatural but of a bending in reality. Unfortunately they all appear to be out of print now but I'm definitely going to order more of these from Nightjar.





Sparks from the Fire - Rosalie Parker (2018)
Rosalie Parker runs Tartarus Press with her husband but also publishes her own ghost stories. These are very traditional, all the trappings of 19th century/early 20th century supernatural fiction is there but it is done rather well. I'd be surprised if it wasn't given that Tartarus Press is probably the best publisher of gothic fiction around.
Some lovely covers in there too. That Night Gaunts cover is very Hopperesque.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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Bandit Poet - Jeremy Reed (2018)
Memoirs of the London underground (scene, not tubes though Picadilly Station features prominently as Reed was a sex worker around there) in the 70s and 80s. A LOT of name dropping and self-mythologising but endearing nonetheless. I largely bought it for the chapter on Coil but I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of it.


The Dummy & Other Uncanny Stories - Nicholas Royle (2018)
Collection of stories by the guy who runs Nightjar Press (see my last post). This is incredible, possibly my favourite book that I read last year. The moods and atmospheres he creates really get under the skin. Nearly all the stories are about dopplegangers or the uncanny valley but despite a narrow subject matter, the variety is actually pretty wide.


Voices of the Stones - A.E./George Russell (1925)
Small volume of poetry by George Russell, some of the poems I have in other collections of his but this was cheap enough and a nice copy so I had to have it.


The Erstwhile - B. Catling (2017)
The Cloven - B. Catling (2018)
While I did enjoy these in the end, I really wanted to love them and I couldn't. I think the ideas were larger than what Catling was able to manage and I feel the whole lot got away from him. Also, it read like someone imitating Alan Moore (they are besties) which was incredibly obvious given that I read Moore in between these two.



Voice of the Fire - Alan Moore (1996)
This was light years ahead of The Vorrh trilogy (though still feels like only a warm-up for Moore's Jerusalem) and acutely highlighted how much of Catling's voice sounds like Moore's. This deserves huge amounts of credit for having the most difficult opening chapter of any book this side of Finnegans Wake. The rest of the book is very readable but apparently Moore started with something incredibly experimental and challenging to "keep the riff-raff out".


Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology - Suzanne O’Sullivan (2018)
Case studies and stories explaining what can go wrong in the brain, mainly during epilepsy but there are bigger concepts at play too. It was nice to read but hasn't really stuck with me, possibly because a lot of it was stuff I already knew.


Modern Baptists - James Wilcox (1983)
Another of those "hilarious" books you hear about that are dull as fuck. For people who like A Confederacy of Dunces and shit like that.


Muladona - Eric Stener Carlson (2016)
Although not written for/marketed towards young adults, this felt more like a book for teenagers than Tartarus Press's usual clientele. It's a fun but not entirely original mix of folklore and cautionary tale set in the American south during the Spanish flu epidemic. I want to find some of Carlson's other books.


The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson Volume One: The Boats of the Glen Carrig and Other Nautical Adventures - William Hope Hodgson (2003)
Hodgson is a legend and if you haven't read The House on the Borderland (which I've posted about before), go read it now. I used to have all his novels in one collection but I lent it to a friend, never to see it again. So these reprints of all his work across five collections are very welcome. He worked as a sailor for years and thus adds a layer of realism to these far fetched adventure tales. The main novel (The Boats of the Glen Carrig) is terrific but I finished the short stories for completion's sake, a lot of the same ideas rehashed and recycled. One or two of each type (giant sea monster, smuggling, lost at sea, etc.) would have made for a better book but I'd probably be moaning that they didn't include the rest if that was the case.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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I've read a couple of Joyce Carol Oates and want to read more but never know where to start. I also love gothic and horror stories. Would you recommend one of these as an entry to her work?
Yes but The Corn Maiden is definitely the best of the two.

Some lovely covers in there too. That Night Gaunts cover is very Hopperesque.
The photographer did a series of photos based on Hopper's paintings so you're bang on the money. One of the stories is based on the same painting, hence it being used.
 

jonah

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See, I love repulsive female characters and want more of them. I feel like there's a massive human darkness in everyone and it wonderful to see that almost humorously celebrated in a book my a female author. Yes she's skinny, rich and gorgeous but her perfectly pedicured up bringing has left her empty and money can't buy her a soul. There's a deep, deep sadness in her that reminds me of Jean Rhys or Kathy Acker. A woman raised up with absolutely no ability to love or let love in. Only existing to be used and to hate and in competition.

She has no ability to love or be loved because of the deep emptiness of her childhood and the scarring lack of parental love. Reba can only love her conditionally, when she's "well", positive, happy, healthy. Much like her mother she's constantly trying to inch her towards the perfect, positive, meditation and healthy eating lifestyle she so believes in. Reba is a beautiful, at times, naïve and loving (though extremely smart and wonderful) presence that the protagonist wants to kill because she is a perfect mirror of what she can never be and is her deepest fear - someone not afraid. The two are bonded in deep love and trauma. Reba certainly has her own issues and struggles but she has an essential and life saving trait the protagonist is incapable of - hope, which only appears on the last page. I sobbed and held the book to my chest. Reba saves her life and humbles her beyond anything that ever could. The book is a masterpiece in my opinion.

THAT said there is a MASSIVE fetishisation of the skinny sad rich bitch and it is getting a little.....dull... Also why does Reba HAVE to die to save her!? Don't we want a more inclusive narrative? Bah! Many thoughts.
I think all of this is absolutely true, and I can see from your review there how this book really works for a lot of people. I think the cause and effect of "she is this way because X" just annoyed me, and I couldn't get past that. I also think the ending, which I won't go into, though definitely foreshadowed, was cheap.

But like you said, I love a repulsive female narrator, too, and I think the way she was written was fantastic, specifically the physical descriptions really worked for me. Like, overall, I still gave the book a daycent review, because her writing is fantastic. I think the main thing is that if you don't make that emotional connection - if you're the kind of person that needs one, which I am, to a fault - then it can bleed into tedium.
 

jonah

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From "The White Album" to "The White Book". Loved "The Vegetarian" so really excited to get stuck into this.

 

ilovehoovering

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Back From The Brink - Paul McGrath's autobiography from 2006. This was great. I'm totally going to smash the 50 book challenge this year because books about wrestling and football are definitely real books and do count towards it.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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Der Orchideengarten - Various authors (1919/translated 2017 by Helen Grant)
Technically a magazine rather than a book, this is a facsimile of the first issue of the world’s first fantasy/horror fiction magazine. Originally in German, it features an English translation bound alongside the stories. It's definitely more of a curiosity piece but between the illustrations and the out of print stories, it's worth picking up.


How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics - Michael Pollan (2018)
This is a brilliant book covering the culture, history, neuroscience, and first-hand experience of psychedelics as therapeutic compounds/aids. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror - Darryl Jones (2018)
A short overview of horror as a literary genre and a summing up of where it is now. Very interesting, though also very short. The book itself is beautiful.


Of Kings and Things - Count Stenbock (2018)
Omnibus of stories and poems by Count Stenbock, a decadent writer who died young and seemed to live a particularly eccentric life (though the introduction disputes the claims that he brought around a life-sized doll of a child and called it his son). It's fairly niche stuff and your tolerance for overblown symbolism needs to be high but I like it. There's a sexy hardback version too but it was too expensive for me.


Innate - Kevin J. Mitchell (2018)
Covering the processes by which we go from a genetic code to a fully functioning brain, and what exactly is going on during development to make us who we are. This is a fascinating, complex but highly readable book that really shows off what modern neuroscience is.


Virtue in Danger - Reggie Oliver (2013)
Oliver is best known for ghost stories but this is a novel about an actor who ends up at the centre of a cult (similar to Scientology) and about the petty rivalries and banal politicking that go along with being in a cult. It was nothing like I expected it to be and I flew through it.


Under the Skin - Michel Faber (2000)
I absolutely loved the film of this and everyone who read the book seemed to say that the film butchered the book. Honestly, they're insane. The book is fairly crap compared to the lean and genuinely unsettling movie (which might be the best sci fi/horror of the 20th century). The book is heavy-handed ("MAYBE WE'RE THE REAL MONSTERS!?!?") and dull where the movie is subtle and captivating.


Special Deluxe - Neil Young (2014)
I put off buying this for years despite my love of Neil Young because the thoughts of him going on about cars put me off. My mistake, this was great! It's funnier and better written than Waging Heavy Peace, it feels more off the cuff which works really well.


The Return - Walter de la Mare (1910)
This suede-covered, gilt-edged beauty (with its own box) was so gorgeous I just had to have it. The novel itself is so-so, a guy falls asleep by a grave and becomes slowly possessed by the spirit of a ne'er-do-well buried beside him. Not much happens from there.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Süskind (1985)
I read this years ago and didn't like it. I'm constantly told I'm wrong and it's great so I decided to read it again before deciding on including it in the next bag of books to dropped into the second hand shop. It's grand, better than I remember but it sags in the middle and the descriptions of the scents are so one-dimensional considering how smelling is his world.


The Friendly Examiner: Episode I - Louis Marvick (2018)
A ridiculous story about a sceptical young man working for an encyclopedia publisher as a fact checker. The twist? He's arachnophobic and is sent to find out about a giant spider... Brilliant little book, can't wait for the second and third parts this year!


The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
Weirdly, I've never read any Sherlock Holmes (I had kids versions as a child and have seen millions of films/TV versions) so I started with the one I bought years ago and shelved. I will probably end up reading them all now.


From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds - Daniel C. Dennett (2017)
This is a serious piece of work as Dennett synthesises pretty much every book he's written on evolution and neuroscience. It's dense and there's a lot going on conceptually but he is excellent at helping you along and explaining things really clearly. It's taking me a while to read this (I'm about halfway through) but it is wonderful.


Flowers of the Sea by Reggie Oliver (2013)
Two novellas and a bunch of short stories. I'm about two stories from the end but I can safely say that this is fantastic. Tartarus have thankfully made some of their out of print hardbacks available as paperbacks and this is well worth checking out.
 

_Katie_

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I think all of this is absolutely true, and I can see from your review there how this book really works for a lot of people. I think the cause and effect of "she is this way because X" just annoyed me, and I couldn't get past that. I also think the ending, which I won't go into, though definitely foreshadowed, was cheap.

But like you said, I love a repulsive female narrator, too, and I think the way she was written was fantastic, specifically the physical descriptions really worked for me. Like, overall, I still gave the book a daycent review, because her writing is fantastic. I think the main thing is that if you don't make that emotional connection - if you're the kind of person that needs one, which I am, to a fault - then it can bleed into tedium.
<3 Excellent review!
 

Lili Marlene

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This thread inspired me to do some counting and I realised I pretty much know what the next 18 fiction books i'm going to read are.

+ whatever comes up in my book club

+ whatever non-fiction i'm going to read.

+ a kind of children's fiction project that I don't really count

+ whatever extra stuff gets added


see y'all in 2020
 

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