June Reading Thread

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One of the problems with reading renowned authors that write in a language other than your own is that you are dependent upon translation. Leaving aside the issues of quality of translation one problem that I've come across is availability of translations. If an author becomes renowned early in their career then the translations come along early and you'll generally find all, or at least most, of their work in translation, but if it's later then typically only their best work is translated and, if that sells well, then their lesser work is gradually drip fed into the translation market.

When I first read Roberto Bolaño around 15 years ago it was mostly only his best work that was translated - 2666, The Savage Detectives, By Night in Chile and one or two others. I started with, arguably his greatest novel, 2666 and it was a staggeringly great novel. Some might say The Savage Detectives was his best, and this I read second and so on. So effectively I was cherry picking by availability of translations (even where other works might have already been translated they weren't necessarily still available). As his popularity increased so did the translations, always best works first, so that eventually they are scraping around in the back of his desk drawers and hidden corners of his old computer files. Many of these works are probably only of significant interest to academic scholars of Bolaño; there is usually a good reason why artists choose not to publish much of their work (Terry Pratchett famously told his family to run a steam roller over his hard drive after his death). Sadly I'm not an academic and, whilst I find some interest in these sort of recovered works, they generally end up disappointing. As is the case with my most recent read Cowboy Graves. It's interesting, but compared to his stuff I've read before it's is nowhere near as rewarding. Much of Bolaño's work tends to be more about the journey than the ending and his endings are frequently ambiguous; getting there is where all the fun is. That works fine with big novels like 2666 but it doesn't work so well with short stories and Cowboy Graves is essentially a collection of loosely linked short vignettes many of which are clearly sketches for characters and events that occurred in his later and more significant work. So sadly this was just an OK read.
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I finished the audio book of Revelation Space, by Alistair Reynolds and read by John Lee. Time had faded my memory of this somewhat and i enjoyed it immensely. It remains one of my favourites.

Now on to Chasm City, also read by John Lee.
So I just gobbled down David Gemmell's Rhyming Rings in a single sitting. It's normally referred to as a non-fantasy book and it is indeed 95% thriller, but the existence of effective psychics allows me to stick it in here.

There's a certain amount of primitiveness to the writing and storytelling but I think the unflinching way he looked at human weakness and joy just sucked me in. I had to know what those characters did.
'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner is a deep, complex, and ambiguous work. Reading it, navigating through the dense web of words and fragmented sentences, is not easy. However, this book always provides rich food for thought, and it's talented and original.
'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner is a deep, complex, and ambiguous work. Reading it, navigating through the dense web of words and fragmented sentences, is not easy. However, this book always provides rich food for thought, and it's talented and original.
A great novel.
Vincent Deary "How We Break"
Aimed at the general public, a discussion/survey of models for understanding human overload, fatigue and breakdown. At the time of writing the author worked as a health psychologist in an NHS "trans-diagnostic fatigue clinic" in Newcastle, while also having a clinical academic post as a Professor of Applied Health Psychology. So, this is his specialist area.
It's not a self-help book as such, though it is geared to getting the reader to think about him/herself. In some ways it's more of a riff on the author's own struggles with social anxiety and fatigue, as illustrated by his choice of the three main case histories as being his mother, his former partner (male), and a former client.
What I liked about it was the diverse quotations, some from unlikely sources, and the lack of instant solutions. The models used are all CBT derived and he clearly has a good grasp of them, having been a CBT therapist initially, and I found it all good solid unremarkable reading, though sadly, as ever, for me, CBT models either choose to ignore psychodynamic (object relations) theory or re-invent it using their own terminology.
I'm trying one today that's way outside my usual mil SF preferences.
Lula Dean's little library of banned books by Kirsten Miller.
I'm about a quarter way through it and enjoying it a lot.

Small town (American South) shenanigans when a local society lady decides that some books in the high and middle school should be banned, a local librarian and a rich old dowager join forces to take her on.
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
It ended up being a romance novel with the events of the last 50 pages spoiling what was up till then an ok (and not very romancey) novel. Rather short on horses. Thin on plot and character development. The ending makes me wonder if the author ran out of steam - it's all soooo convenient and the messy bits got sooooo neatly stomped on and made irrelevant. I'm also not sure how much research the author did, since I'm fairly sure a tranquilizer gun would have worked better than chasing a severely wounded and terrified horse around, or all the other crap that went on to inject the horse. I cannot believe that a large animal hospital and large animal vet does not have this equipment around (it is not a historical fiction!), even if they have to beg, borrow, steal or get the rich woman to buy it!
You haven't missed a lot, IMHO. A minor talent who tried to big himself up by scattering scathing remarks about other writers and playing the enfant terrible card whenever possible.

There's a previous discussion here:

Moorcock's exemplarily bad essay on Tolkien
I disagree about him being just a minor talent. He is very prolific, and some of his work is a bit pulpy ( but generally good for it). His essay on Tolkein is reactionary but should not be used to characterise his complete works. His best SF and fantasy is excellent, and has been influential. He is also important for his part in the New Wave, both as editor of New Worlds, and for his literary output, notably the Cornelius Quartet.
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