Culture Club: Episode 2

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October 15, 2014 by Wayne.

Previous Culture Club episodes can be found here

This episode, we’re doing books!

Kevin Crossley-Holland – The Seeing Stone

A fascinating – although initially confusing – retelling of the Arthurian legends through a parallel universe. Nominally a children’s storybook, The Seeing Stone weaves an enthralling enough story for readers of all ages.

Very much deserving of its numerous awards and shortlistings. For some reason, this retelling reminded me a lot of the Young Merlin series, which I enjoyed immensely as a kid.

Michel Faber – Under the Skin

Bonkers. Brilliant. Chilling. Abrasive.

These are all words that can and do describe it. But the only one that matters is: masterpiece.

David Mitchell – Black Swan Green

Most authors have a distinctive tone to their prose. Palahniuk, Diaz, Ishiguro, you name them: a couple pages in and it’s usually fairly obvious who wrote it. Not so with Mitchell. Literary genius that he is, he writes in every style and voice imaginable and kills it every damn time. He slips in and out of said voices with disgusting ease, painting gloriously detailed backgrounds of suffering, insecurity, and the human condition, all through nuanced slang and mannerisms.

What Black Swan Green is: An exploration of adolescence, war, secrets – in 13 months of a 13 year old’s life. It’s breathtaking in both its deceptive innocence and the depth within. Top grade stuff, this.

Alice Munro – Too Much Happiness

A shockingly good collection of stories, often based around a single momentous event in life without the event having much effect in terms of plot. Instead, the event helps you see the rest of the story-world through a different lens, with subtle thematic implications that ripple throughout the entire piece.

Munro is just as rebellious against conventional narrative structure as her characters often are against societal and authoritative structure – stories often begin and end in medias res, using fiction simultaneously as a world-building effort and a subversive platform for exploring power dynamics, the banality of evil, duplicity and violence, murder, adultery, everything.

Very reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s “Henry Sugar” collection in the sense that the titular short story is almost as long as a novella and comes at the very end. Although this particular one is based on a true story.

Terry Pratchett – Pyramids

Typical Pratchett. Irreverent, hilarious, and endlessly inventive. Not the best Pratchett effort, though I’d be hard-pressed to point out anything particularly wrong with it.

Robin Sloan – Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

A book about the many, many forms of immortality. An engaging read. Although I recommended this book to someone who apparently hated it, so yeah. It’s only “fluff” if you can’t look past the outermost veneer, you know.

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