Monthly Archives: October 2011

My Rat’s Chance …

1. A book that has been previously abandoned
– this would have to be The Kindly Ones (GULP)!
2. A re-read. Didn’t quite get it/thought there was more/made promise to self to re-read? Time to make good.
– this is Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White … I am sure that I burned my old copy and the danced joyous jig around the flames.
3. A book that has sat on the shelf, like, forever. (Decades.)
4. A book that paralyses one with dread.
– Easy, Ulysses, James Joyce.
5. Investigate a canonical writer hitherto most shamefully overlooked.
– Kurt Vonnegut. Is he cannonical?
6. Seek out a book by an author who has earned ostracism by being so good that any further novel could surely never measure up…?
– This is terribly subjective. I am going to have to go with Lionel Shriver who I have personally ostracised based solely on the awe inspiring and terrifying We Need To Talk About Kevin, which, by the way, after all these years I still feel as though I really need to talk about!!!
7. And the opposite… That author who was supposed to be really good, but didn’t go down too well? Give him/her another go!
– huh hmmm. This will require some thought.
8. Take a chance. Read a book which you would rather not. For instance when the OH says ‘you’ll really like this’ and you’re thinking ‘no, I really won’t…’
– more thinking required …
9. A book from an unfamiliar genre.
– even more thinking needed …
10. Ask a friend (preferably a person of impeccable taste, and definitely not someone who might have an axe to grind) to choose a book that you will, in their opinion, like. (This does not mean ask a dozen people until you get the right answer!)
– ok, friends, help me out here?

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Now here’s a challenge that might unblock my read…

This from A Rat in the Bookpile: Ten books, one from each category. Some books would fit more than one category making it ridiculously easy: so no crossovers within the challenge! Ten unique and distinct books are required.

A book that has been previously abandoned

A re-read. Didn’t quite get it/thought there was more/made promise to self to re-read? Time to make good.

A book that has sat on the shelf, like, forever. (Decades.)

A book that paralyses one with dread.

Investigate a canonical writer hitherto most shamefully overlooked.

Seek out a book by an author who has earned ostracism by being so good that any further novel could surely never measure up…?

And the opposite… That author who was supposed to be really good, but didn’t go down too well? Give him/her another go!

Take a chance. Read a book which you would rather not. For instance when the OH says ‘you’ll really like this’ and you’re thinking ‘no, I really won’t…’

A book from an unfamiliar genre.

Ask a friend (preferably a person of impeccable taste, and definitely not someone who might have an axe to grind) to choose a book that you will, in their opinion, like. (This does not mean ask a dozen people until you get the right answer!)

Reader’s Block?

What do you do when you are half way through a book that you think might be very good but you just aren’t grabbed by it… Do you put it aside or perservere?

Just Like Someone With A Mental Illness Only More So, Mark Vonnegut

I can’t quite imagine being the child of someone famous, having to live in the shadow of huge achievement – in any field – always dwarfed by the mania created by greatness, and somehow still trying to seek approval from this parent who is so clearly sublime. It is even harder to imagine doing all of this under the cloud of any sort of mental illness or instability – how to deal with one’s own personal shame and then the broader communal shame that would surely be aroused by media gossip and the interest of those hunters of the famous.

This is what Mark Vonnegut faced. He has dealt with it before in a memoir which I have never read and I have to confess, that while I have heard much about Vonnegut senior and his contribution to literature, I have never actually read his work. What intrigued me most about Mark Vonnegut’s latest account of his life, challenges and achievements, was the great heights to which he himself soared and the manner in which he almost seems to dismiss these magnificent achievements.

Here is a man who despite having been institutionalised for a psychotic break at a young age and then being forced to exist on medication to cope with his bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, still manages to write a book, graduate from Harvard Medical School, become a successful paediatric specialist, recover from addiction to alcoholism and still be stoic enough to revisit his past in a second memoir. And, I haven’t mentioned that he bought a house, got married, had children, got divorced and then remarried later in life … clearly the younger Vonnegut is a man of significant substance on his own right!!

While it is interesting to read Vonnegut’s interpretations of his mania and how he deals with it, this is not the best account of mental illness that I have read. I think that Dr Cameron West’s memoir, First Person Plural, presents a clearer picture of what it is like to suffer with any sort of mental incapacity. What Vonnegut does present on the fringes of his memoir are allusions to his family and their life as a unit. I think that it is this subtext that is most interesting. From Mark’s account there is definitely a predisposition to mania in his family and he repeatedly points to those members of his clan who ‘heard voices’ or drank to escape those voices.

The writer himself is seemingly a likeable guy and like him I did. I wasn’t totally gripped by this book but I definitely thought it worth reading and would go so far as to recommend it to others.

An excerpt can be read here.

Escaping the Straightjacket‘ – Vonnegut’s struggle to stay sane.

Mark Vonnegut’s Sane Response to Psychosis.’

Father and son speak about mental illness here.

I Kill, Georgio Faletti

Out of sheer desperation to reignite my reading frenzy I picked up this book that someone once gave me and which I had abandoned on the bookshelf with a sour taste in my mouth.

Ironically, it proved to be a perfect antidote.

Meet FBI agent Frank Ottobre. He is defeated by personal tragedy and literally immobilised, trying to escape from the challenges of his reality by languishing in Monte Carlo – as you do. As far as characters go, Faletti has managed to do a reasonably convincing job of depicting him. At times I found myself wanting more from him, but on the whole he kept me captivated. As far as the other characters go, they were all reasonably well rounded. I particularly liked the way that Faletti managed to make some of them so intensely evil.

The plot was intriguing and I am not sure whether that was because it seemed so contrary to the setting or whether it was actually a good plot … you will have to decide that for yourself. I certainly enjoyed the journey and was gripped enough to keep reading.

Not mind blowing, but definitely entertaining.

Apologies…

… it’s that time of the year and I’ve fallen off the edge of the virtual universe.

A host of reviews coming soon.