The OF Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finally updated the reading poll

It had been over five months since the last month, so I added a new list of 16 likely future reviews (and a silly choice) for your consideration.  You can vote for as many of these as you like.  Almost all will be reviewed in the next month or so, but it'd be nice to see which ones pique your interests the most.

May you choose wisely and be guided by the spirit of the rabid Serbian reading squirrels!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It is always nice to see squirrels getting their due

A few people a week ago or so made me aware of this new comic series, Squarriors, but I forgot to blog about it until now.  So yes, there's yet one more reason to fear the squirrels :D

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Richard House, The Kills

'Monkey, Paul.  Think monkey.  Change the codes, those codes are yours, no one else will notice.  That's the first step.  Second – and this is important – I want you to erase all of the personnel information you have on Stephen Sutler, anything non-financial, anything extra-curricular, private emails, anything like that, and when he comes in tomorrow, I want you to follow his instructions and divide the funds marked for his project into four new operational accounts.  Sutler has the details for the new accounts.  He has it all worked out.  Do exactly what he asks.  Make those transfers, and make sure the full amount assigned to HOSCO for the Massive leaves your holdings.  Divide it however he tells you into the four new accounts:  one, two, three, four.  Load them up.  In addition, he has a secured junk account, and I want you to attach that junk account to your dummy highway project.  Fatten it up with two-fifty, let him see the amount.  Show him the transfer.  That's five accounts, Paul.  Four accounts attached to Stephen Sutler, and one to the highways.  I want all five of them loaded.  Do you understand me?' (p. 11)

Richard House's 2013 Booker Prize-longlisted The Kills (2014 US release) is a strange sort of book.  It walks (struts?) like a thriller, has a few non-quack-like staccato bursts like one, yet it is something more and less than the sum of its four book-length parts.  It is a tale of a series of shady operations that take place in Iraq after the American occupation and there are a number of mini-mysteries that transpire over its 1000+ pages.  Yet the order of the presentation of these four parts can have an affect on how the reader understands what exactly is happening behind (and in front of) the scenes.

The Kills centers around a man who is now known as Stephen Sutler.  Receiving codes that will provide him access to over $50 million, he manages to elude discovery by law enforcement and those with whom he had conducted some shady business.  Just who is/was Sutler?  How was this heist pulled off and just who has an interest in finding him, dead or alive?

At first, these questions would seem to lie at the heart of an expansive thriller, yet House makes some curious decisions that undermines this premise.  His four narrative parts play fast and loose with narrative time and character presentation.  On the whole, his jumpstart, flashback, seen through another camera lens/angle approach makes the reader pause in her consideration of what she has just read.  His layering of perspectives does add to the character depth, although for those readers who expect a more "traditional" thriller that requires little more than just anticipating ahead a handful of pages instead of digesting what might not have really happened a hundred before, it initially can be a rough adjustment.  Yet by the end of the fourth part, if read in order that is (House has constructed this book so readers can read any of the four sections in an order of their choosing), there are some intriguing revelations...and more than a handful of continued mysteries.

Structurally, I was reminded of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, not just in the number of interconnected sections, but also in how some of these parts interact with each other.  From Russian gangsters to a more stylized look at Sutler's character, to a fictitious book, also called "The Kill," from which a movie has been derived, there are layers of commentary on contemporary society and its pop cultures that House explores to some depth.  For the most part, these commentaries heighten the narrative's pull, making it easier to read through the sometimes dense descriptions, as the reader wants to learn more about these possible connections between the book/movie and Sutler's actions/motives.  However, there are times where it felt a bit convoluted, as though House had constructed things so intricately that the narrative begins to flag in places due to the weight of its many moving parts.

Yet despite these occasional structural flaws, The Kills was an enjoyable novel to read.  There is a suitable amount of action for those who enjoy thriller-type stories, while the characterizations and ancillary social commentaries were for the most part integrated well within these four distinct sections.  One of the better action-oriented books I've read this year.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I literally have only two minutes before I have to leave for work, so I'll edit this post tonight to reflect my take on this.  But for now, presented without comment:

Apologies and Finality

The Things That We Do:  On Mistakes, On Apologies


Words are cheap unless there is a continual effort of repentance here. While these apologies sound good, it'll be a long time for many to forgive her actions. But in reading this, I couldn't help but think of those times that I might have helped enabled this behavior. I did at the time two years ago think her acerbic reviews were a nice, bracing counter to the "cult of niceness," but I did become uncomfortable at seeing the personal attacks, however at the time I was either silent or maybe slightly complicit in the verbal abuse. I regretted and still regret this and that is something I should note before commenting at all on this matter.

 So in reading this past week all of these posts on the RH matter, I saw a lot of hurt and anger on display. Words alone will not heal these griefs. Hopefully those who were friends before this can find it in themselves to reconcile. Those injured relationships and betrayed trusts are the worst casualties of this. So yeah, she has a lot to do to redress all of these hurts. If she'll do this, then things will improve. But if it's just one more way to deflect ultimate responsibility and to leave open a recurrence of this hateful behavior, then all of these words will not just be in vain, but they'll just be one more dagger to the hearts of those willing to trust. Time will tell. This is all I have to say on this, as anything else would risk continuing the arguments I've seen elsewhere over the past week.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Feeling a bit under the weather tonight

Not going to be able to post any reviews tonight, but hopefully when I wake up in the morning this vague nausea will have passed and that I'll have time to write a review of Emily St. John Mandel's National Book Award-shortlisted Station Eleven.  Ideally, I'll try to write one post in the early afternoons and another when I return from work this week, so I can catch up on the backlog of books awaiting some discussion.

Until then, I am at the mercy of the squirrels, as always.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Going to write several short reviews over the next few days

I've fallen behind in my reviewing and there are several books that I read months ago that I haven't yet reviewed.  Since some of my specific impressions have faded over time (and dozens of books, if not 100+, read in the interim), I think I'll write a few 2-3 paragraph reviews in order to provide at least a record of my general, lingering thoughts in advance of the late December Best of 2014 reads.

Just because some of the upcoming reviews will be shorter does not necessarily mean that these are lesser books; the majority I did enjoy in some form or fashion.  It also will make it easier for me to cover some of the Italian and French-language award finalists if I do so.  Also this doesn't mean I won't be writing longer reviews as well, but those will depend upon several factors.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wondering what 2014 releases I've missed out on reading so far

I'm going to be adding to my 2014 Releases/Reviews post this weekend, as I hope to get over 90% of the listed books reviewed (and 100% read) by Christmas, so I can have a good year-end Best of 2014 series of commentaries on the best of these books.  But doubtless I've missed whole swathes of literary genres, many of which almost certainly have produced some excellent books.

Care to suggest works that might be considered among the year's best that I do not have listed in my post?  I do plan on buying some more books next month after I finish catching up on bill payments related to my recent time off work due to a lower back injury.
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